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Dr Ruth Carden said: “From a zoological point of view, this is very exciting, since up to now we have not factored in a possible ‘human-dimension’ when we are studying patterns of colonisation and local extinctions of species to Ireland.

“This paper should generate a lot of discussion within the zoological research world and it’s time to start thinking outside the box…or even dismantling it entirely!

A second sample was sent to the University of Oxford for radiocarbon dating to test the validity of the initial result.

Both dates indicated human butchery of the bear about 12,500 years ago.

Radiocarbon dating of a butchered brown bear bone, which has been stored in a cardboard box at the National Museum of Ireland for almost 100 years, has established that humans were on the island of Ireland some 12,500 years ago – 2,500 earlier than previously believed.

Since the 1970s, the oldest evidence of human occupation on the island of Ireland has been at Mount Sandel in Co. This site has been dated at 8,000 BC, which is in the Mesolithic period, indicating that humans had occupied the island for some 10,000 years.

As a specialist in cave archaeology, Dr Dowd, became interested in the butchered bear patella and, together with Dr Carden, the pair sought funding from the Royal Irish Academy for radiocarbon dating, which was carried out by the Chrono Centre at Queen’s University Belfast.

The discovery was made by Dr Marion Dowd, an archaeologist at IT Sligo, and Dr Ruth Carden, a Research Associate with the National Museum of Ireland.

” Dr Dowd and Dr Carden are now hoping to get funding to carry out further analysis of other material recovered during the 1903 excavations, the cave itself and other potential cave sites around the country.

Professor Vincent Cunnane, President of IT Sligo said: “Academic research is often lauded for helping to shape new concepts and innovations of the future, but this ground-breaking discovery for Irish archaeology highlights the vital role it can play in challenging and deepening our understanding of our heritage and history.” Nigel T.

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