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The Kilgreany Cave

Waterford Geology and Prehistoric Dungarvan

4. The Kilgreany Cave
In 1928 John Kaye Charlesworth, a geologist, suggested that if there were any traces of Palaeolithic man to be found in Ireland, they would be found in the south of the country which was free of ice during the last glaciation. This prompted the Bristol Speleogical Society to come to Ireland in the summer of 1928. Under E.K. Tratman they set out to find a suitable cave in Co Waterford. They picked one at Kilgreany near Cappagh about 5 miles from Dungarvan.

They found evidence of occupation fron Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. A skeleton of a woman (A) was found in Neolithic hearth, below this another hearth was found in which were the remains of animals which would have been alive in this area during the Ice Age-reindeer, brown bear artic lemming and /Irish elk. Near this layer skeleton (B) was found and the fact that it was found with the bones of Ice Age animals led Tratman to believe that he found the first evidence of man in Ireland.

In 1934 H.L.Movius and the Harvard Archaeological Expedition carried out a further excavation qt Kilgreany. Movius noted that in the same layer that skeleton (B) was found there was also pottery, bones etc., from much later periods. So he concluded that skeleton (B) was not in fact the remains of Ireland's oldest man from the Stone Age period but in fact of Neolithic date. More than twenty years after these discoveries the Kilgreany skeletons were submitted for dating to the British Museum. Skeleton (A) was dated to 2630 + 150 B.C. - the Neolithic period. Skeleton (B) was thought to be in fact older than 9,000 B.C. suggesting that it could possibly date from the Stone Age. As well as A and B the remains of twelve other individuals were found.

Animals remains found at Kilgreany :

Ox, sheep, goat, pig, horse, dog, wild boar, red deer, hare, rabbit, badger, otter, fox, wolf, wild cat marten, stoat, fieldmouse, bat, and hedgehog.

Birds included :

Turkey, duck, song thrush, fieldfare, blackbird, redwing, pigeon, heron, crane,peregrine, falcon and the snowy owl.

Bear, lynx and artic lemming were also found. The excavation also gave an insight as to what type of trees featured in the landscrape of the area. They included alder, hawthorn, plum, sloe, cherry,hazel, English ash, apple, pear, rowan, guelder, beam, oak, yew, and holly.

Author: Willie Fraher

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