The Céide Fields

Ballycastle, Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland

mayo-ireland-ceide-fields

The Céide Fields site was a farming countryside of typical stone-walled fields where herds of cattle once grazed, a countryside of homes scattered through the landscape surrounded by their garden walls.

It has been preserved as it was, undisturbed for fifty centuries, because the plants which grew in this countryside did not fully decay - they just lay there and piled higher and higher through the centuries. These partly decayed plants are the bogs which blanket everything in this North Mayo region.

The simplicity of the fields conceals the fact that here is the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world. As well as that it is also the oldest enclosed landscape in Europe, more than four square miles of ordinary farmland trapped in time by the growth of the bog. The monument consists of a grid of stone-walled fields with the dwellings and megalithic tombs of the earliest farmers, the stone age people of 5,000 years ago. These farmers came originally from mainland Europe and this site would have been home to 50 - 60 families, around 300 people. With the basic implements of the time, these people cleared the site of trees and constructed regular field systems with at least 120km of stone walls. These rectangular fields would almost certainly have been for cattle though some smaller fields have been found where wheat and barley would have been grown.

The main features of the route through the site are the simple stone walls of fields which lie buried under a depth of bog which has been growing for almost 5000 years. The human story in this world of rocks and bog is told at twelve points along the route which follows the boundary of one field.

From an article by Seamus Caulfield

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