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Further Evidence of Sea Level Rise Along the Atlantic Coast Uncovered on North Connemara Inter-Tidal Zone

13th September 2020
A drone image of the outline of the drowned prehistoric settlement  identified just west of Clifden by archaeologist Michael Gibbons A drone image of the outline of the drowned prehistoric settlement identified just west of Clifden by archaeologist Michael Gibbons Photo: Damian Ward

Discovery of the remains of a “drowned” prehistoric house in north Connemara may be further evidence of sea-level rise along the Atlantic coast in the last millennium.

As The Sunday Times reports today, parts of a small prehistoric dwelling covered by sea except at low spring tide have been identified by archaeologist Michael Gibbons and engineer Shane Joyce on the coast south-west of Clifden, Co Galway.

The site is in a sheltered “lagoon-like setting” on the tip of the Faul peninsula, at the junction of Clifden and Ardbear bays.

Gibbons said that the structure is similar in size to early Neolithic houses, and it is protected from tidal surges by Oileán Gearr or Islandagar, a small island on its western side.

Gibbons said it was further evidence of a “drowned prehistoric landscape”, which has been researched and dated by NUI Galway palaeoecologists Prof Michael O’Connell and Dr Karen Molloy.

O’Connell and Molloy have estimated that sea levels rose by as much as four metres on the Atlantic coast in later prehistory - as in 1,000 years ago – with Galway Bay being younger than originally estimated.

Prof O’Connell said that it was “quite reasonable” to suggest the structure identified by Gibbons and Joyce may be early Neolithic, given that sea level rise occurred in the late Neolithic period.

O’Connell and Molloy’s work focused on tree stumps, believed to be bog pine, which have been exposed at low tide by storms dating back to 2010, along with pollen analysis of coastal peat deposits.

Gibbons said that a shell midden dating from 4,000 BC on the Errislannan peninsula, just south-west of the Faul location, was also evidence of Neolithic settlement by early farmers.

Read The Sunday Times report here

Published in Coastal Notes
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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