Apart from a flint flake from Mell, Co. Louth, believed to have been transported to Ireland by an ice-sheet before 70,000 BC, the earliest Stone Age objects in the collection are of Mesolithic age, dating from around 7000 BC to 4000 BC.
The collection contains mainly stray finds but includes excavated material such as early Mesolithic chert microliths and axes from a settlement at Lough Boora, Co. Offaly and later Mesolithic material from a raised beach at Rockmarshall, Co. Louth.
By around 3700 BC farming replaced the hunting and gathering economy of Mesolithic Ireland and the large number of polished stone axes in the collection from the Neolithic period bears witness to the extensive woodland clearance that began at this time. A major amount of the lithics from all periods held in the collections are derived from private collections amassed in the 19th and early 20th centuries by antiquarians such as William James Knowles, Dr Alexander D’Evelyn, George Kinahan, Rev Leonard Hassé and Seaton Milligan. In the 20th Century an extensive collection was also amassed in the course of his fieldwork by Professor G. F. Mitchell, who also excavated a number of Stone Age sites.
Much of the antiquarian material comes from coastal sandhill locations that yielded a range of objects, including lithics, stones axes and Neolithic pottery. Further Neolithic lithics, stones axes, pottery and personal ornaments have been excavated from burial sites, including finds from a range of megalithic tombs. The excavation of habitation sites has yielded artefacts of a more domestic nature such as saddle querns and bone points together with flint tools such as scrapers, blades, knives and arrowheads.