The economic growth experienced by Ireland in the past twenty years has seen a related growth in our understanding of the early history and archaeology of many areas, particularly in big towns and along the new roadways that streak across the landscape.
In Waterford the first extensive excavations along one of the county’s roads were carried out between 1998 and 2000, before construction of the realignment of the N25 south of the little town of Kilmacthomas. Previous investigations in this area had been limited, and very little was known about the area’s history and archaeology. This book presents the results of the excavations along the 8.5m route way, which revealed that people have lived here for at least 6000 years. A number of settlements are datable to the period 4000–1000 BC, and outdoor cooking and bathing places (fulachta fiadh) were in use c. 2000–1000 BC.
Analysis of the individual sites excavated showed, for example, that c. 2300 BC the farmers at Ahanaglogh chose to grow barley in preference to wheat, while hazelnuts and crabapples were also collected and eaten. They lived in a roundhouse and used the latest style of pots, tall and nicely decorated, known to archaeologists across Europe as Beakers, which were designed to hold special drinks, perhaps made here from the barley.
In the historic period the area seems to have been favoured by travelling smiths for smelting and smithing iron, the ore for which would have been available as bog ore in the nearby uplands; some copper was also smelted, presumably from ores collected downriver at Bunmahon. A corn-drying kiln shows that then, as now, cereals needed to be dried out before grinding. Oats would have been introduced as a crop at this time, and a large quantity was found as grain and chaff at one of the metalworking sites — the oats may have been used as fuel or tinder, evidence of early use of bio-fuels!