Life  in a  Bronze  Age Mine


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Beaker Hut Site, Ross Island Mine Camp

The Bronze Age work camp at Ross Island provides an insight into daily life in an early copper mine. The foundation traces of huts used by the miners have been identified, consisting of circular and sub-rectangular settings of stake-holes where walls once stood. Excavation here revealed animal bones, mostly of cattle and pig with some sheep, discarded by the miners after their meals. A small quantity of worked bone was found, as were flint artifacts including arrowheads and scrapers. Sherds of small pottery vessels used as drinking cups by the miners were also recovered.

The main activity in the settlement was the concentration and smelting of copper ore. The evidence suggests a work camp used intermittently by the miners and supported by larger external settlements. It is not certain whether the operations here were organised on a seasonal basis or involved a longer commitment by full-time miners. The animal bones point to an agricultural base behind this mining, however the location of these parent settlements remains unknown. Several ancient metal finds from Killarney point to a significant Early Bronze Age settlement in the area.