Mountsandel, County Derry

Mountsandel, County Derry

This is the best known place to be inhabited in all of Ireland and worth a look on any tours of Ireland. Its a real hidden gem !

Known in Irish as Dun Da Bheann (‘the fortress of two peaks’) , it is situated about a mile and a quarter South of Coleraine , on the East bank of the river Bann.

People were here more than 8,000 years ago , at one site on a ridge top above the flat river valley , and at another on a narrow ledge over the river itself.

This community was not , however, an isolated one , for there are several indications of contact with other groups further South in the country – groups who have left no remains or , if they did , whose remains have not been found.

The people at Mountsandel lived in small circular huts , about 20 feet in diameter , with saplings and sods or hides for walls and with a hearth in the centre of each hut.

We know little about these Mesolithic inhabitants , what they looked like , what languages they spoke , what religious beliefs they had. Their ancestors had come to into the country , possibly by a thin land-bridge which may still have existed , but more likely by travelling in small boats.

Excavations at Mountsandel have shown that they hunted and ate wild pig , hare and birds , that they fished for salmon and eel , and that they supplemented their diet with hazel-nuts and wild crab-apples.

For cutting they used thin blades about an inch and a half long called microliths , which were chipped from flint and chert; and they also had some axes of ground flint.

Their lifestyle was simple and mundane by comparison with the ancient peoples of Ireland as imagined by the mythologists , but all indications are that they were already  in the process of developing a distinctive Irish culture.