The earliest archaeological evidence for settlements in Ireland dates to the Mesolithic period, which began 10,000 years ago. Over the following four millennia, hunter-gatherers made use of many different environments to gather, hunt and fish for food. At the rear of this section, a person is shown fishing at Clowanstown, Co. Meath, where Mesolithic lakeside wooden platforms and fish baskets were uncovered by archaeologists in advance of construction of the M3 motorway (Illustrator: J.G. O’Donoghue; image courtesy of Transport Infrastructure Ireland). You can find out more about Clowanstown by downloading the archaeological excavation report here:, thanks to the Digital Repository of Ireland (


Seeds of Nuphar lutea (L.) Sm. (yellow water-lily) have been recorded at archaeological excavations of Mesolithic sites in Ireland. The seeds are preserved because they were buried in wet conditions (waterlogged) or burnt (charred), which enables fragile plant material to survive for thousands of years. Ethnographic studies of indigenous peoples in North America show how water-lily seeds are prepared for consumption. Capsules are gathered and fermented in water, followed by cleaning of the seed, dehusking, winnowing, parching, grinding and then roasting. The process takes a minimum of two weeks. Alternatively, the seeds can be fried in fat to make a kind of popcorn, used as an insect repellent or used in dyeing.

Early Settlers