New analysis of bear bone pushes back the date of human existence in Ireland by 2500 years.
A bear bone unearthed from an Irish cave has pushed back the timeline of human existence on Ireland by 2500 years.
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The previous evidence of human life in Ireland dates back to 8,000 BC. But the re-analysis of a bear knee bone that was once butchered by humans indicated that humans existed on Ireland some 12,500 years ago – almost 2,500 years earlier than previously thought.
The bear bone was first discovered in 1903 in a cave in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland but was poorly understood initially and remained stored in a cardboard box at the National Museum of Ireland for almost a century.
Recently researchers used the properties of radiocarbon to determine the age of the bone and were stunned to find that the bone is much older than thought. The knee bone which was marked by cuts from a sharp tool indicates that humans were active in the island during the Stone Age or Palaeolithic period, providing earliest known signs of human life in Ireland.
“Archaeologists have been searching for the Irish Palaeolithic since the 19th century, and now, finally, the first piece of the jigsaw has been revealed. This find adds a new chapter to the human history of Ireland.” Marion Dowd, an archeologist at the Institute of Technology Sligo said in a statement.
The finding was not possible without radiocarbon dating, a method which was introduced in 1940s and uses organic material a radioactive isotope of carbon from an object.
A second sample was sent to the University of Oxford to confirm the validity of the initial results. Other experts also confirmed that the cut marks on the bone had been made when the bone was fresh, not years after the death of the bear.
“When a Palaeolithic date was returned, it came as quite a shock,” said Dowd. “Here we had evidence of someone butchering a brown bear carcass and cutting through the knee probably to extract the tendons. Yes, we expected a prehistoric date, but the Palaeolithic result took us completely by surprise.”
The finding is significant and exisiting from zoological point of view and adds a new chapter to human history of Ireland.
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