The Sligo Champion - - NEWS -

“AROUND 6000 years ago the first farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties ap­peared in Ire­land,” said Cairns ex­pert Ste­fan Bergh dur­ing his guided tour of the Cairns of Cairns Hill.

He de­scribed how th­ese set­tlers cleared forests, lived in tim­ber houses and kept an­i­mals. Th­ese ne­olithic farm­ers built great mon­u­ments called mega­liths where buri­als took place.

In­ter­est­ingly Ste­fan pointed out that buri­als were just one of many func­tions of th­ese strate­gi­cally placed mon­u­ments. They, he said, were also used as places of rit­ual, where peo­ple gath­ered for var­i­ous cus­toms.

The po­si­tion­ing of th­ese tombs in County Sligo were de­lib­er­ate. “Th­ese sites are meant to be seen,” said Ste­fan, “They are not placed at ran­dom. This site on Cairns Hill is fac­ing west and is meant to be seen from Car­row­more and Knocknarea. Th­ese sites stick out like sore thumbs and they com­pli­ment each other and this was a very con­scious de­ci­sion.

“Like cathe­drals to­day, they were not found ev­ery­where but in cer­tain places. There main pur­pose was not for burial but for other traditions just like a church is not just for buri­als.”

In terms of food, he told the crowd that th­ese early set­tlers were very in­ter­ested in oys­ters and re­mains of shell mid­dens where oys­ter shells were dumped af­ter con­sump­tion still ex­ist along the coast­line in Sligo to­day.

“The first ev­i­dence we have of hu­man ac­tiv­ity dur­ing this age is in Maugher­aboy,” he said.

He de­scribed the Cool­era penin­sula as a rich her­itage landscape with 70 tombs found pre­dom­i­nantly in three dis­tinct clus­ters: On Cairns Hill in the east, in Car­row­more in the cen­tre and on Knocknarea to the west. The great­est quan­tity can be found in Car­row­more where orig­i­nally some 50 were built and this is a well de­vel­oped her­itage site and tourist at­trac­tion in Sligo. Knocknarea dom­i­nated by Queen Maeve’s Cairn is also hugely pop­u­lar on the tourist trail. The hope now is to trans­form Cairns Hill into a sim­i­lar type at­trac­tion.

Crowd gath­ers on the top of Ciarns Hill to hear talk by ex­pert

Pat Ben­son, Hon Sec, Car­raroe and District Re­gen­er­a­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.

A view from the top of the Cairns at Cairns Hill, Car­raroe.

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