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Ulster Museum

Early Peoples

The Early Peoples gallery begins with Mesolithic settlers arriving in Ireland (8000 BC). It finishes just before the time of Saint Patrick (400 AD).

Permanent display

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Based upon evidence from excavations at Mount Sandel, near Coleraine, a Mesolithic larder of hunted and gathered foods has been recreated. Simple flint tools from the site are also on display.

During the following Neolithic period, farmers changed the landscape by cutting down trees with stone axes. Those from the Malone Road Hoard are a ‘must see’. They are too large and heavy to chop down trees which suggests their value lay in how they looked. Have a look at the clay pots, a new skill which Neolithic people mastered.

Moving on in time, metal objects appear. These mark the beginning of the Bronze Age. There are four rare gold ‘lunulae’ (neck-rings,) shaped like the crescent moon and a Bronze Age burial which includes a real skeleton!

As the Bronze Age developed, more spectacular items were made. A small case contains two treasures. One is a tiny gold locket (or ‘bulla’) worn around the neck. The other is a ‘torc’ or neck-ring, coiled like a spring. A video explains how these were made and worn.

Around this part of the gallery, many objects reflect a more warlike society. There are swords, spears and a beautiful bronze shield. More surprisingly are two curved musical horns displayed high-up on the back wall of a large case near the entrance to Takabuti, the Egyptian mummy.

The Early Peoples gallery ends with the Iron Age or Celts. There are not as many objects from this time. The small circular ‘Bann disc’, is decorated in an art style typical of this period. It is in a case near the Carrick ‘tankard’ – a wooden cup decorated with a band of metal.

Image: Bronze Age gold torc found at Corrard, County Fermanagh.
Bronze Age gold torc found at Corrard, County Fermanagh.