It was a sight Banna native Donal Dowling had never previously seen in his 70-plus years walking the famous strand of his home.
The discovery emerged from the sands in the recent stormy tides as a rectangular cutaway in a section of old peat bog, its shape clear evidence of the work of our forebears.
But it wasn’t Donal’s only discovery back there, as the recent tides also brought a small forest of likely ancient tree stumps back into the light of day too; all of it not too far from the skeletons of a couple of shipwrecks protruding from the sands.
“I’ve seen areas of bog back there exposed on the Banna side to the south of the river, but never in that particular place and never in such a way where you can clearly see the signs of human hands at work,” Donal said, referring to the clear rectangular shape of the cutaway.
Donal said the scene emerged after a couple of ‘rough tides’ at the height of the recent storms. “It also exposed so many trees it’s unbelievable. But already the turf is being broken up in the tides and getting washed away,” he explained.
Tralee-based maritime archaeologist Lar Dunne said he hopes to visit the scene and agreed with Donal as to the evidence of human work. “The fact is we have a drowned landscape all along our coast.
“I have ancient deer antlers found from Blennerville to Ventry, with the one in Blennerville being used as a shaft around the era of Christ. There has always been a lot of activity around our coast, where the sea has increased by six metres since the Mesolithic period.”
But the cutaway bog does not necessarily indicate ancient activity.
“While I haven’t seen it, I can say there was a tradition of people cutting turf from beaches in times of hardship in recent centuries.
“That’s of interest because it suggests real hardship because the fire from it would have been very poor. Anything cut in a rectangular shape would have been of human hand indeed.”