Neolithic man puts major bypass on hold outside Belfast

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Thousands of years ago our Neolithic forebears were hunting wild game with flint arrows in the hills overlooking what is now Ballymena. Now they’re still making their presence felt, delaying a road dualling scheme that was aimed at easing congestion between the town and the M2.

The A26 Ballee Road East to M2 Ballymena bypass dualling scheme was due to be completed by the end of this month. But bad weather and the discovery of rare Neolithic remains have pushed that deadline back to late summer, costing tens of thousands of pounds.

The plan was to dig through a hill and use the material to build embankments elsewhere in the route. But when the topsoil was being stripped away, archaeologists uncovered a series of historical hotspots where more investigations needed to be carried out.

Many of the hotspots found by Archaeological Development Services Ltd during the topsoil stripping were isolated pits which contained burnt bone and Neolithic pottery.

But the big find was a rare Neolithic ring fort unearthed at just the point where the cutting was to be excavated — one of just four found so far in Ireland. This was investigated by 20 archaeologists for eight weeks.

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