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During the construction of the new school building at Thornhill College in May, 2000, a neolithic site believed to have contained the homes of Derry's first settlers was discovered. Archaeologists called in to investigate the site unearthed evidence of a New Stone age settlement which was described as of "incredible significance" - possibly the site of Ireland's first farming community.

The site is unique in that it is the remains of a complete settlement, including the remains of several buildings surrounded by a wooden palisade. Many artefacts have also been found during the excavations so far.

The evidence unearthed is allowing archaeologists to build up a very detailed picture of the dwellers' ritual habits, their beliefs and of their day-to day activities. As Paul Logue, a Department of Environment archaeologist stated, "The importance of the site is simply incredible in terms of understanding how people lived in Ireland 6000 years ago".

There is also evidence of possible conflict between the dwellers of the settlement and outsiders. There are strong indications that the surrounding palisade was burnt down at one time and several flint arrowheads have been discovered nearby. A stone axe was also discovered, broken into two pieces - possibly the result of 6,000-year-old temper tantrum, according to Mr Logue. Another implement is thought to have originated in the Lake District in England, possibly indicating that long-distance trading existed at that time.

 

Excavations at Thornhill College

 

By a stroke of luck, it was possible to arrange for the archaeological excavations to continue alongside work on the new school building.

Eventually, many artefacts were unearthed, some of which can be seen in the Tower Museum in Derry. A sculpture which was unveiled in September, 2008 includes a display of some of the unearthed treasures.

Among the items found are the remains of timber-built houses as well as a large number of flint and stone tools and pottery. The size of the settlement suggests that up to 50 people could have lived within it.

   

                                       

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