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September 18, 2020

Irish History – Guide to the Phases & Dates

When you begin to study Irish History there can be some confusion as to the terminology, particularly around the time periods and the dates of what happened when.

I thought it would be useful to put together a simple guide to the phases and dates that you’ll see mentioned when you study any Irish History.

This information is included in many of our classes at the Irish Pagan School. It forms a basis for a lot of what you’ll learn when you’re studying Irish mythology and lore from the ancient texts.

It’s good to have a clear grounding though, and to this end, I also took some time to put together a downloadable PDF guide. You can get it below (no email or anything is required, I just want you to have it if you need it!)

You may see these dates vary, by the way, as nothing is set in stone. It often depends which archaeologist or historian you’re learning from, and what their specialty is.

That’s ok, just remember this can be a broad strokes sort of area.

Irish History – the Phases and Dates

Archaeologists conventionally subdivide the prehistoric period in Irish History using the first introductions of farming and metalworking as indicators of social/cultural change.

I included the Early Medieval Period because this does, of course, have relevance to our Irish Pagan audience.

This is when the manuscripts and texts began to be recorded in early Irish monasteries, and where a lot of our pre-christian (Pagan) information actually comes from.

  • Early Mesolithic: 7000 – 5500 BCE
  • Late Mesolithic: 5500 – 4000 BCE
  • Neolithic: 4000 – 2400 BCE
  • Early Bronze Age: 2400 – 1500 BCE
  • Middle Bronze Age: 1500 – 1000 BCE
  • Late Bronze Age: 1000 – 600 BCE
  • Iron Age: 600 BCE – 500 CE
  • Early Medieval Ireland: 400/500 – 800 CE

Source: Ronan McHugh, Brian G. Scott – The Prehistoric Archaeology Of County Fermanagh

In case of confusion, the use of BCE and CE here is to replace the outdated BC and AD dating of the Christian worldview.

They stand for ‘Before Common Era’, and ‘Common Era’. This is becoming standard for scholarly works, and I fully support it!

You can learn get more free resources and recommendations in The Beginner’s Guide to Irish Paganism Series.

Download this Guide to Irish History as a FREE PDF

(click the Download Button).

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About the Author

Irish Author, Educator, and Guide to Ireland. Co-Founder of the Irish Pagan School, Eel & Otter Press, and Pagan Life Rites (Ireland).

Lora O'Brien

Join our Tuath (community, tribe) to get Course and Scholarship info, and regular (free) Irish resources on topics such as Mythology, History, Society, Spirituality, Storytelling and Travel directly from Lora O'Brien and the team at the Irish Pagan School.

  • My favorite historical periods are the Paleolithic and Neolithic. My first major was Anthropology. I wish more hominid people had survived, but we have a few of their bones and artifacts. I was lucky enough to see Lucy before her remains were lost in that fire or into some oil baron’s private collection. I felt that seeing her was spiritual. I intend on making pilgrimage to Newgrange some day.

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