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Beachcombers and River Explorers The Mesolithic Prehistory of Oughterard and Lough Corrib in Co. GalwayOn account of the Bann Flakes (small stone tools) which were found in 1975 and again in 1984 at River Island, where the Owenriff River flows into Lough Corrib, Oughterard can claim a pedigree to be amongst a very small number of places in Ireland where the first settlers to this country came to live and build their homes, almost 7,000 years ago.
The Bann Flake was found by Jim Higgins, now Galway City Heritage Officer, in 1975 where the Owenriff River enters Lough Corrib just outside Oughterard. Jim also found a scraper and a piece of discarded flint in the same location in 1984. This provides us with evidence that there was a Mesolithic fishing community on the shores of the Owenriff or along the banks of Lough Corrib in Oughterard. Evidence for the Mesolithic is very hard to find because of the perishable nature of what they were using.
The Bann Flake from 1975 doesn’t show much evidence of having been ‘rolled’ around in the Lake for a long period of time and may have been dislodged from the banks of the Owenriff River in times of storm and high flooding.
14,000 years ago marked the end of the last Ice Age. The era between the retreat of the ice and the development of farming is called the Mesolithic, or the Middle Stone Age. This phase lasted from 8,000BC to 4,000BC, which is over 40% of our recorded time on this Island.  Ireland at that time was completely different than it is now and everywhere was covered in a thick canopy of trees. The new settlers could move more easily on rivers and lakes, and sought out these places for their refuge. A good supply of water was very important, for drinking purposes and also to attract wild game.
They were the last of the Hunter-Gatherer people, before humans were to become involved in farming (Neolithic) or metal-working (Bronze Age), but they were also very creative and inventive. Because they did not grow any crops, or have the ability to store their produce, they had to become very skilled at hunting and fishing. The main animals at the time in Ireland were the wild pig and hare, along with fowl, and the rivers and seas yielded salmon, trout, eels, oysters and mussels. They always had to be on top of their hunting and fishing game, or they did not eat.
From flints and sharp stones, they made sharp blades, creating tools and knives for cutting, and they were the first humans to create a vital new weapon – the bow and arrow. Long before there was any hint of farming practices in Ireland, they would have been hunting wild boar, also collecting hazelnuts and berries. They would have known their landscape, and developed knowledge of what was available in certain areas at different times of the year.
Where did our early settlers come from? It has been determined over the years that the exit point was possibly Scotland, Wales or the Isle Of Man. Over recent decades the Isle Of Man has emerged as the strongest contender, as the people on the small islands off the coast of the Isle Of Man would have been forced westwards due to the rising sea levels after the last Ice Age. If this is the case, it brings us to another interesting piece of information in relation to our locality. The ancient name for Lough Corrib was Lough Orbsen, called after an expert navigator and merchant trader named Orbsen Mac Alloid, who was commonly called Manannán Mac Lir. Now, the proper name of the Isle Of Man is the Isle Of Manannán, and this opens up some interesting discussions for future years.
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