Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment
What is it?The world’s oldest known field system, a Neolithic landscape of stone walls, houses and tombs that have been preserved beneath a blanket of bog over several square kilometres of Co Mayo. The award-winning visitor centre has audiovisual shows, exhibitions and a tea room.
Why visit?The Céide Fields tells the story of the everyday lives of Neolithic farmers, their cattle-rearing practices, their spiritual beliefs and the way they organised their society. Visitors can go on guided tours along pathways on the bog to see stone-walled fields, animal pens and a domestic enclosure built more than 5,000 years ago.
The visitor centre explains both the archaeology and the ecology of the bogland, with its mosses, sedges, lichens, heathers, flowers and insect-eating sundews. Viewing platforms inside and outside the glass-topped, pyramid-shaped building have great views.
Why now?Next Wednesday at 10.30am the archaeologist Seamus Caulfield, a retired professor of archaeology at University College Dublin, will talk about maths and the Céide Fields as one of hundreds of Maths Week events around the country ( mathsweek.ie).
Caulfield is the son of Patrick Caulfield, the Belderrig teacher whose observation of piles of stones in the bottom of the bog when cutting turf in the 1930s led to research by archaeologists 40 years later.
He will speak about the mathematical principles the Neolithic farmers followed when building the Céide Fields.
“The fields, houses and tombs at the Céide Fields are based on the rectangular form which is similar to the one used today but in contrast to the circular form used in the late Stone Age at sites in the Boyne Valley, Stonehenge and the Orkney Islands,” says Caulfield. “I will also speak about the statistics used in research for pollen counting and radiocarbon dating at the Céide Fields.”
How do I get there?The visitor centre is about 8km west of Ballycastle. The Céide Fields are open daily between Easter and November 4th (or by appointment), from 10am to 6pm between June and September and from 10am to 5pm in the other months. Admission is €4 for adults, €3 for senior citizens, and €2 for children and students; 096-43325, museumsofmayo.com.