Archeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the remains of the first settlers in the south-west, dating back almost 6,000 years old.
The remains of what are thought to be two people, one adult and one adolescent, were discovered following excavations at a neolithic structure near Milltown, Co Kerry.
Analysis of the human remains reveal they were cremated post-mortem but further analysis will reveal if the bones found belong to more than two humans.
County archaeologist with Kerry County Council, Michael Connolly said the find was one of the most significant in the county and the first indication of settlement, where people stayed in the area and started to farm the land.
The discovery was made near the dolmen or portal tomb at Killaclohane in Milltown, the oldest intact structure in the county.
The land owner, Ken O’Neill, had noticed the cap on the dolmen — which dates back to 3,800 BC — appeared to be loose and alerted the council. Other items recovered in the dig include a number of arrowheads, scrapers, and a flint javelin head, along with fragments of neolithic pottery.
Mr Connolly pointed out that although full analysis on the objects had not been completed, they believe they date back to the early neolithic period.
DNA testing will be used to determine how many corpses the human remains are from.
He said the discovery suggests the first human settlers in the South-West were in the Milltown area and people began to farm and develop ties to the land.
The remains found were also likely to have been significant people in this ancient community as they appear to have been the only remains buried near the portal tomb.
“The site itself isn’t a find,” said Mr Connolly. “Because the remains were cremated it’s going to be very hard to determine their sex but two teeth found would suggest we’re talking about an adolescent and an adult but that won’t be certain until analysis of the bones is done.”
He added that it was certain the remains had been cremated post-mortem.
“Portal tombs are the earliest type of megalithic tombs and what this tells us is that very early in the neolithic period when people were beginning to settle and farm, rather than wander around, they settled in the Milltown area.”
He said there may be other tombs in the area, possibly another within a kilometre of the Killaclohane site, indicating a neolithic settlement in the area of Milltown.
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