Student discovers the tooth of Stone Age Ireland on school tour to Carrowkeel Caves

It’s not often a child can boast they made a significant historical find on a school tour, but that’s exactly what Eillie Mai Ryan-Earley did on a recent visit to Carrowkeel Caves in Co Sligo.

Ellie Mai’s discovery of a human tooth from the Stone Age is now on display in the National Museum in Dublin.

A group of third to sixth class children from Ballyfarnon National School in Roscommon were on a tour to Carrowkeel Caves in Sligo, when sixth class pupil Ellie Mai noticed something at the mouth of the entrance to the passage tomb.

“We were on our school tour when Eillie Mai discovered a human tooth outside one of the caves. Our tour was being kindly led by Sam Moore, a lecturer in archaeology at Sligo IT who is living in Knockvicar,” said the principal of Ballyfarnon National School, Lisa Duffy.

“Sam bagged the tooth and subsequently had it mapped before contacting the National Museum on Kildare St in Dublin,” said Ms Duffy.

The tooth was later discovered to have been a human tooth dating back to the Stone Age. The tooth was not heavy enough to carbon date but was sufficiently analysed to classify it as being from between 7,000BC to 2,500BC.

“The museum kindly sent Ellie Mai a book and two letters for her efforts in finding the tooth which has given her a moment of fame”, said Ms Duffy, who said the discovery has led to a surge in interest in the Stone Age among her pupils.

“We were lucky enough to get the trip off Sam to coincide with Science Week. Sam was brilliant with the pupils. He exposed us to something special and the find was significant for him and his team,” she said.

Ms Duffy, who leads a two-teacher school which has 34 pupils, said they went on a subsequent tour of Highwood “and the children were very excited, hoping to make more finds”.

“The children subsequently studied the Battle of Moytura which is based on local history and folklore and it’s great they are making connections with the Stone Age and their own locality.”

Carrowkeel megalithic tombs are designated as a National Monument on a hill in the Bricklieve Mountains. The site has 14 burial mounds dating from 2,500-2,000BC.


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