This section is from the book "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland", by Jane Francesca Wilde. Also available from Amazon: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland.
With but the rudest means of transit, hordes of the primitive races passed up the banks of the great rivers, the Euphrates, the Nile, the Volga, the Danube, and the Rhone ; while other tribes, in all likelihood more advanced and cultivated, wandered along the coasts, peopling as they went the northern shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
That an early and uncultivated people passed up the Danube in their immigration, and settled for centuries on its banks, when Europe was a tangled wilderness, inhabited by the auroch and the gigantic deer, there can be no manner of doubt ; for they have left memorials of their existence in the unerring and enduring remains of their sepulchres, their tools, and weapons, from the Black Sea to Switzerland and Savoy. In Switzerland this primitive people rested for a considerable period, perhaps for many centuries, forming for themselves those peculiar piled lacustrine habitations on the shores of its picturesque inland waters, known as " Pfaulbauten "-the analogues, and in all probability the types, of the crannoges recently discovered in Ireland and Scotland, to which countries the scattered fragments of that race finally carried this special form of domestic architecture. The lowest strata of implements were deposited beneath the sites of these pfaulbauten j and in some of the more ancient ones the only remains are those of stone, flint, and pottery-the former resembling in a remarkable manner the stone tools and weapons of the primitive Irish.
What the language of this early Helvetian people was, we have no means of ascertaining ; but trlat their exodus was one of haste and compulsion, and probably the result of invasion by a superior and more cultivated race, is almost certain. Driven from their mountain homes, they passed down the banks of the Rhine and the Elbe, and helped to people North-western Europe, forming with those who arrived coastwise the great nation of the Gauls and Belgae. It is not unlikely that this littoral wave of population carried with them the metallurgie arts ; for we find in their tombs and barrows on the coasts of Spain, France, and Brittany, bronze celts identical in shape with some of those discovered in our own country.
Still passing westwards towards the setting sun, some members of this early people stood at length face to face with the white cliffs of Kent. Impelled by curiosity and the thirst for knowledge, man's undeviating enterprize soon sent these hardy people across the narrow' strait that divides Britain from the Continent of Europe, centuries before the ships of Tarshish voyaged from Tyre and Sidon to trade with Britain for the tin of Cornwall, to alloy, harden, and beautify into bronze the copper with which Solomon decorated the temple of Jerusalem.
To the restless Celt the breadth of this new possession was but a slight impediment to his western progress, and once more he looked upon the blue waters of the salt sea, and beyond them, to the green hills of Erin. A plank-a single-piece canoe-formed out of an oak-tree by fire and a sharp stone, or a wicker curragh covered with hides, would soon waft him from Portpatrick to Donaghadee, or even from Anglesea to Howth.
Here, then, the story of our race begins, and the immediate object of this inquiry commences. That man, as he first stood on this island, was in a rude, uncultivated state, without a knowledge of letters or manufactures-^skilled in those arts only by which, as a nomad hunter and fisher, he supported life and ministered to his simple wants-there can be no manner of doubt. Clad in the skins of animals he slew, which were sewn together with their sinews or intestines-his weapons and tools formed of flint, stone, bone, wood or horn-his personal decoration, shells, amber, attractive pebbles collected on the beach, or the teeth of animals strung together in a rude necklace, or bound round the wrists and arms ; and his religion, if any, Pagan, Sun-worship, or Druidism, man first stood, in all probability, on the north-eastern shores of Erin. It may be unpalatable to our national vanity to learn that the early colonists of Ireland did not come here clad in purple and gold direct from Phoenicia, in brazen-prowed triremes, with the mariner's compass and the quadrant ; or stood for the first time upon the shores of Hibernia armed cap-à-pied in glittering armour, as Minerva sprang from the front of Jove ; but it is, nevertheless, indisputably true, that the first people were such as I have described them.
No date can be assigned to the period of the first inhabitation, but as evidence of the primitive condition of the race it is sufficient to state that human bodies clad in deerskin have been discovered in our bogs ; that flint weapons in abundance have been found all over Ireland, but especially in the North, where that peculiar lithological condition chiefly exists ; and that stone tools have been dug up in thousands all over the country, but more particularly from the beds of our rivers, marking the sites of contested fords, which were the scenes of sanguinary conflicts, as on the Shannon and the Bann ; and that all these are referable to a period when the Irish had no knowledge of metals, and could neither spin nor weave.
To Northern archaeologists belongs the credit of that theory which divides the ages of man according to the material evidences of the arts of bygone times, as into those of stone, of copper, gold, and bronze, and of iron and silver. While I have no doubt that, generally speaking, such was the usual progress of development in those particulars, I deny that this division can, as a rule, be applied to Ireland, where undoubtedly each period overlapped the succeeding, so as to mix the one class of implement with another, even as I myself have seen on the great cultivated plain of Tyre harrow-pins formed of flints and sharp stones stuck into the under surface of a broad board ; and on that battle field-