A book by archaeologists offers detailed illustrated accounts of 114 significant excavations undertaken in Ireland, revealing a wealth of information about the country's first known settlers, more than 500 generations ago.  According to the archaeologists, the earliest known settlers in County Cork were hunter-gatherers who lived near Fermoy more than 10,100 years ago. The settlement, deemed to be the oldest, was uncovered during the construction of the M8 motorway.

The Irish Examiner reports that NRA project archaeologist Ken Hanley, who edited the book, said a lakeside wooden hunting platform and an antler from a giant elk, which had been made into a tool by humans, were found at the Corrin, Fermoy site.

Evidence of similarly ancient hunter-gatherers was discovered near Ballincollig and Youghal. Houses built by Cork’s first farmers (c.3,900BC) were found near Ballincollig and Fermoy. A Bronze Age settlement was found near Rathcormac. The most significant discovery was the Bronze Age Mitchelstown Face Cup.

“This is the oldest known three-dimensional representation of a person ever discovered in Ireland,” said Hanley. “It was radio carbon-dated to 1,800BC. It is unique. It came as a complete surprise. It was a spectacular find.”

Hanley said: “Two substantial early medieval settlements were discovered at Curraheen, near Bishopstown and at Ballynacarriga on Youghal bypass. Both date to the seventh century AD."

A 13th-century Anglo-Norman moated settlement was discovered at Ballinvinny South, north-east of Glanmire. It was later occupied in the 17th century and held a horde of James II coins.

“These weren’t ordinary coins,” said Hanley. “[James] had no money. Instead of using gold and silver coins he smelted coins from cheaper metals to pay his soldiers.”

These tokens were to be redeemed for real money if he won the war against William of Orange; he didn’t so the coins were worthless.  

All the archaeological finds were made courtesy of the organization's funding in five road projects: Glanmire-Watergrasshill bypass (N8); Rathcormac-Fermoy motorway (M8); Mitchelstown Relief Roads (N8/N73); Ballincollig bypass (N22); and Youghal bypass (N25). Since 1994, the NRA has funded more than 2,000 excavations on national road projects.

*Originally published in 2013