Ceide Fields - Sarah Woodbury

Ceide Fields

The Ceide Fields are located on the west coast of Ireland north of Ballycastle.

Ceide means “flat topped hill fields”. It is the largest Neolithic site in Ireland and preserves the oldest known stone-walled fields in the world, dating to 3500 BC.

This was a farming community where ancient farmers used wooden ploughs with a stone cutting edge for field cultivating. These were drawn by cattle (horses had not been introduced into Ireland at this time). The walls were low enough that they were intended to encompass the fields rather than for defensive purposes. After the fields were abandoned, they were covered over by a bog, preserving the walls, houses, and tombs of the ancient peoples. Archaeological evidence indicates the farmers cleared woodlands dominated by pine and birch to make pasture for grazing livestock.

From Wikipedia: The discovery of the Céide Fields originally began in the 1930s when a schoolteacher, Patrick Caulfield, noticed piles of rocks which were uncovered as he cut away some peat for fuel. Caulfield noted that the rocks must have been placed there by people, because their configuration was clearly unnatural and deliberate. Furthermore, the rocks were positioned below the bog, which meant they were there before the bog developed, implying a very ancient origin.

The unravelling of the true significance of this discovery did not begin for another forty years when Patrick’s son, Seamus, having studied archaeology, began to investigate further. Investigations revealed a complex of fields, houses and megalithic tombs concealed by the growth of blanket bogs over the course of many centuries.

Today, many of the walls have been exposed through excavation, so you can walk in the 5500 year old landscape. Also in evidence are examples of a round house and tomb structures. According to World Heritage, “The Céide Fields are totally authentic in that the stone field walls have quite simply not been disturbed in over 5,000 years. The vast majority are still completely hidden untouched beneath up to 4 metres of blanket peat. The growth of this blanket bog is not only part of the unique environmental history of the site but has served as a very real physical protection of the remains as well as providing unequivocal proof of the antiquity of the site.”

2 Replies to “Ceide Fields”

  1. I was there recently and noticed that many of the stones had flat surfaces unlike the stones in dry stone walls in County Down. Could the builders have worked the stones to make the walls easier to build ?

    1. I think they would have had to work some of them. Many in Wales are slate, which have very flat surfaces because of the way they split.

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