This book brings together a series of ground-breaking studies on human bones and artefacts recovered from Irish caves principally between 1870 and 1990. Until now these assemblages had either been completely neglected or had not been examined with modern techniques. The 15 expert contributions presented here shine a light on the use and perception of caves at different times in the past, from the Early Mesolithic through to post-medieval times. The book opens with osteoarchaeological analyses of human bones from 24 caves, revealing complex and varied funerary practices and rituals. Shell beads and animal tooth pendants provide insight into the status of those whose skeletal remains were placed in caves. Studies on lithics, stone axes and prehistoric pottery highlight the changing roles of caves as places for shelter, occupation, burial and ritual practices during the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age. An examination of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age metalwork contributes to wider evidence of votive deposition at natural places in the landscape. Several chapters focus on the wealth of early medieval and Viking-age activities, drawing on pottery assemblages from caves along the north coast, to ecclesiastical shrine fragments from sites in the south, as well as Viking material from a growing number of caves. These studies will be of interest to osteoarchaeologists; to those who specialise in particular archaeological periods; to museumologists and artefact specialists; to cave archaeologists; and to everyone interested in Ireland’s past.
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