Life’s a Beach

Right now I’m in Ireland on the North Antrim coast.

Its a very interesting area. OK, yes I’ve been to the Bushmills distillery to sample the water of life, thats where you take the tour, then get to sample the product afterwards, but thats not what I’m on about. All along the coast there exists evidence human habitation going back quite a long way. You have sand hills that were used seasonally to reap the easier pickings of fish and shellfish from the sea in the summer. But going further back to the stone age, these same sand hills were used as a base for the quarrying of flint from the chalk cliffs.

Remains are usually found after winter storms when the sand has been blow back exposing hard flat areas which comprise the rubbish of the living floors. One specific site at White Rocks beach, east of Portrush, was excavated in 1971. It was proved to date from the Neolithic and had been used until the middle ages. It is a long oval shape running East to West and lies in a hollow formed by the top of one dune rising into the base of the next dune as the system rises from sea level. There are two hearth sites near to each other approximately at the center of the site. A Bronze Age cist burial was discovered about 5 meatres from the larger hearth and was built like a well rather than the usual stone box construction. The crouched remains of one individual was found at the bottom.

When the excavation was finished they left it all to grass over, then a decade or two later, when the powers that be extended the White Rocks beach car park, the turned the site into a picnic area!!! No doubt motivated by the main industry, farming tourists.

So today, when folks pull up, park and go set up their barbecue then proceed to have a picnic, they are totally unaware that they are lighting their fires on prehistoric locations, then eating and drinking within a few feet of the Neolithic burial site. All are totally oblivious and unaware that they are behaving in exactly the same way that people have done on this precise spot for countless thousands of years.

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