Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Iraqis in the Ceide Fields

The North Mayo coast line is dramatic, especially on a very wet and windy (Summer) day like the one I chose to visit it last week.
A friend and I took the advice of our elders “what harm will a bit of rain do ya” and ventured to Co Mayo and to the mysterious Ceide Fields.
The Ceide Fields are almost secret, nobody seems to know about them, even the visitor centre looks sort of hidden in the bog , we drove past it at first - the sea cliffs sort of distract your attention!
But in a strange way, that is the whole point of the Ceide fields, for centuries they held a secret – a stone age field and village system – a remnant of domestic farming not too far removed from modern farming.

5,000 year old wall - showing the oldest field system in the world
(c) fifiheavey

It seems that at the same time as the people of the Boyne Valley were plugging away building Newgrange passage tomb, the people who settled in North Mayo (people from Iraq and Iran!) were organising themselves into villages, communities and dividing the farm land equally – essentially domestic farming.
The Ceide Fields have the “most extensive stone age monument in the world.” The Ceide Fields translate into “fields of the flat topped hills” - the sea cliffs. But Ceide goes back further and relates to a gathering of people or a meeting place.

Walkway through the ancient fields which were unearthed at Ceide
(c) fifiheavey
A tour from the visitor centre gives details on the walls, their structure, their purpose, the walls of houses, of animal pens etc. We know that these Iraqis (that is what the guide said) were peaceful people, no weapons were found during excavation, but pottery and seeds from Iraq and Iran were discovered in the soil.
All this, civilization from 5,000 years ago can be exhibited thanks to the bog, which grew and grew and preserved our little known origins.

Tour guide demonstrates how to find the stone walls
(c) fifiheavey

A farmer first discovered these walls while cutting turf in the 1930s but it took his son 40 years later to excavate them and make sense of it all. 

No wonder the European Parliament wants to ban turf cutting in Ireland, it seems we have a lot of history buried “in them there hills.”

The Ceide Fields are well worth a visit (try and pick a nice day) even if you have bad memories of slave labour in the bog during your childhood, or indeed are still recovering from the back breaking work this year. 
The history is titillating and the views sensational.

Oh but don't miss the horror movie they show in the centre about the bog – you have to see and hear it to believe it!

Ceide Fields Visitor Centre, Co Mayo
(c) fifiheavey
The stone ages in North Britain and Ireland

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