The Republic of Ireland occupies most of the island of Ireland, off the coast of England and Wales. Its eastern capital, Dublin, is the birthplace of writers including Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, and home of Guinness beer. Nicknamed the “Emerald Isle” for its lush landscape of rolling green hills, it’s dotted with castles and ancient sites, such as massive 12th-century Cahir Castle. Today, Ireland is a country with a bright future. In 2005,“Economist” magazine selected it as the best place in the world to live. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world share that opinion and have moved there in the last decade. But this optimistic outlook was not always the case. Ireland has a long, often bloody and tragic history. Ireland was first settled around the year 8000 BC, when hunter-gatherers came from Great Britain and Europe, possibly by land bridge. They lived by hunting and fishing for about four thousand years. Around 4000 BC they began to farm, and the old hunter-gatherer lifestyle gradually died out. The descendants of these original settlers built burial mounds and impressive monuments such as Ireland’s most famous prehistoric site, Newgrange. Newgrange is a stone tomb dated to sometime before 3000 BC: older than the pyramids in Egypt. Early Irish society was organized into a number of kingdoms, with a rich culture, a learned upper class, and artisans who created elaborate and beautiful metalwork with bronze, iron, and gold.