A detailed Queens University Belfast study, Leean Mountain Prehistoric Landscape in Context reports evidence of human impact from 4000 BC, and documents managed forests, cereal cultivation, rock carving, and artefacts such as a Porcellanite Axe and a Bronze Age blade. Location
Megalithic Period 4000 BCE
“The top of the cap of the northern pedestal rock has been most likely carved, possibly to create a striking resemblance to the silhouette of the Carrowkeel/Bricklieve Montains, an important megalithic cemetery which can be seen very well from this location. This stone seen from the cairn gives a striking resemblance of the horizon.”
Pollen analysis of the site suggests a long history of human activity dating back thousands of years to even before the Neolithic period (3500 BCE )
Mesolithic Forests were followed by Neolithic Forest clearance , from Hazel Woodland and Cereal based agriculture
Summary extracts from the study : ” The pollen analysis described above gives a first glimpse at the vegetation and land use history of the uplands in Co. Leitrim and, in fact, nearly the first pollen-based landscape history from northwest Ireland. Little can be said of the Mesolithic landscape, save that it was most probably forested, but the evidence described here is consistent with initial later Neolithic forest clearance, cereal-based agriculture and highly managed landscapes, with good-quality grazed grassland and areas of highly-controlled hazel woodland at altitude on Leean Mountain. Over time, although cereal cultivation continued, the hazel woodland became less prevalent and eventually disappeared, and constant burning to renew the grazing degraded the forage and soil quality, allowing heather to invade.
Bronze Age (2000-500 BCE )
Deforestation, a wetter climate and soil degradation: “By the Bronze Age, cereal cultivation had ended and the environment had further deteriorated, so that the landscape was dominated by sedges (probably cotton grass) and grazing would have been very poor. It is quite possible that precipitation was higher at this time, since cotton grass is tolerant of very wet environments. It is likely, from the presence of the river terraces, that soil erosion occurred at this time, which would be consistent with a picture of heavy grazing pressure and soil degradation.”
A bronze Age dagger was ‘found in a bog at Keelogyboy’ and handed in to the MNI in 1948 . The blade is still sharp and in good condition.
Iron Age ( 500BCE-500 CE)
“In the early Iron Age, it is possible that precipitation levels decreased, as heather requires drier soils than cotton grass. There is still no trace of arable activity, but it is hypothesised from the high magnetic susceptibility and relatively high heather, that grazing occurred, supported by a burning regime to renew palatable shoots.”
” There is as yet no pollen-based evidence for vegetation and land use during the later Iron Age or early Medieval periods. In the later Medieval, the very high counts for heather are consistent with a grazed landscape of heather moorland maintained by systematic burning. The wall systems relating to this episode, for instance at site A3, were thus probably for stock control. This would have been rather different from the modern vegetation, which is grass-based but includes some heather and cotton grass. This probably became established as peat cutting became widespread in the last few centuries.”