Category Archives: IRELAND

Viking-Era Child’s Remains Discovered in Dublin

Viking-Era Child’s Remains Discovered in Dublin

RTÉ reports that the remains of a child and an iron buckle or fastener were uncovered in Dubh Linn, a dark tidal pool where the River Poddle enters the River Liffey at the site of Dublin Castle, by a team of researchers led by Alan Hayden of University College Dublin.

The find was made during an excavation near Dublin Castle where in ancient times the River Poddle flowed into the Dubh Linn near the River Liffey.

The skeleton, which was largely intact, was found just at the point before the river entered the pool and is thought to date from the 9th or 10th century.

The skeleton is believed to be that of a 10 to 12-year-old boy

After it was excavated it was discovered to be that of a child aged between 10 and 12 years of age – most likely a boy – and is thought to have been wrapped in a shroud before being thrown into the river.

The body was found with shoulders hunched together and an iron buckle or fastener was found with the body.

Alan Hayden from the UCD School of Archaeology who was leading the dig said the fact that it was not given a proper burial and was dumped in this manner could suggest an act of violence.

Further tests will be carried out to determine the date of death, gender and the ethnic origin of the person.

The dig, which is being carried out on the site of office development on Ship Street beside Dublin Castle, has already discovered that the original Dubh Linn was much larger than originally thought, extending beyond the walls of Dublin Castle.

Now the dig has found that the size of the original Viking settlement or Longphort can be shown to be double the extent previously established.

The archaeologists uncovered banks that would have run along the Poddle and the Dubh Linn with gaps to bring in boats. Inland there would have been a high fortification.

The area of the Longphort in the 10th and 11th centuries would have extended from the present-day Molly Malone statue on Suffolk Street to St Patrick’s Cathedral.

The dig has also established that Vikings continued living at the Dubh Linn even after the more famous Wood Quay settlement was established a kilometre away.

The Poddle was culverted in the 12th century and covered over completed in the 18th century. A 19th century well was found on the site.

Medieval Monastery Excavated in Ireland’s County Meath

Medieval Monastery Excavated in Ireland’s County Meath

The Irish Independent reports that archaeologists led by Geraldine Stout have uncovered pottery; the bones of cows, sheep, cats, and dogs; seeds; nuts; a key; a timber dash-urn with a paddle for churning butter; and a bakery at the site of a thirteenth-century monastery in eastern Ireland.

The new findings were discovered by a team of archaeologists, led by experts Matthew and Geraldine Stout at Beamore in East Month during a four week Covid-19 dig. Armed with two-meter COVID Sticks to ensure social distancing and colour co-ordinated equipment to avoid cross-contamination, the team tried to decipher the size of the monastery by the number of sourdough loaves made each day.

“One loaf equals one monk so the size of the oven might suggest how many came from France to live and work at the monastery,” said Geraldine.

Medieval Monastery Excavated in Ireland’s County Meath
Sourdough bread

“We had to think long and hard if we were even going to do a dig this year in the times that were in it.”

“Everyone was divided into pods for cuttings (sections of excavation) and they stayed with that group for the month. Each cutting had colour coded equipment which was not to be passed around to other groups to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

“I gave everyone what I called the ‘COVID stick’ which was a two-meter yellow-painted stick so they had an idea of the distance they had to stay away from another person.

“We also got a special wash portacabin which I never saw before which enabled us with hot water to wash our hands and there were sanitising stations everywhere.

“But as much as we had reservations at the start, the measures worked and the excavations have given us more questions to come back and answer next year.”

And if the Cistercians ever had to practice social distancing, it wasn’t obvious in their findings which included evidence to suggest a communal toilet and bakery at the self-sufficient site.

Last year, the excavation team discovered ‘significant’ find of a rare French building and medieval pottery which supported a long-held belief that the site was once home to a unique Cistercian monk community from Normandy. 13th-century French jugs, ceramic roof tiles, and even a corn drying kiln and dried peas which proved crop rotation was ongoing in the 13th century were found on the lands outside Drogheda, owned by local historian and author John McCullen.

Unusual features of an existing gatehouse in a field, suggesting a diagonal French buttress were described as ‘very rare, if not unique in Ireland’ according to two of Ireland’s foremost medieval building archaeologists David Sweetman and Con Manning. It is believed that the site was the home of a 13th Century medieval monastic farm associated with the French Cistercian foundation of De Bello Becco (Beaubec)

The excavations which ended in early August were the second of a €50,000 three-year project, funded by FBD Trust and administered through the Kilsharvan Community Council. Author and archaeologist Geraldine Stout has a particular interest in the Cistercians, having worked on a similar site in Bective in Meath and says they were great innovators and farmers.

“We know that Walter de Lacey gave lands to this Abbey in Beaubec before Normandy in 1201, so there would have been about 100 monks living here up until the 16th century,” she said

“De Bello Becco was flourishing in Ireland in 1302 when it had to pay a tithe of 29s 4d to the Diocese of Meath, which placed it in a group of the highest valued churches in Meath.

This year, the jackpot continued and finds included a medieval key, animal bones of cows, sheep, cats, and dog as well as mixed farming produce of peas, beans, oats, wheat, and rye. Fruits including grapes and figs which, the Stouts say, had to have been imported from France and were further evidence of mixed farming.

Medieval Monastery Excavated in Ireland’s County Meath
Pottery, animal bones, seeds, nuts, and more tell a tale of what everyday life was like in medieval times in a monastic settlement in Ireland.

“We also pushed back the dating of human settlement at Beamore with the discovery of a prehistoric ceremonial pit circle and stone tools beneath the medieval monastic farm”

Remnants of a medieval timber dash urn with a paddle that was used to church butter were also found to prove a long-held belief that the Monks were a self-sufficient community.

“In the main residential block, an impressive, communal latrine was found with thirteenth-century detailing and outside the main residential block we found evidence of a water system that supplied the needs of this community for toilets, washing and food preparation.

“We found a cellar in the ruins which suggest it could possibly have been used for toilet facilities as well as a pot that worked like a medieval air freshener,” says Matthew.

Geraldine believes: “There were between 30 and 50 monks living here. The smallest Cistercian settlement had 12 monks minimum and this is a more sizable community, looking at the scale of the building here.

“We know that each monk was given a loaf of bread for his day’s work so if we work out mathematically the size of the oven and how many loaves it could hold, it would suggest how many monks lived here.

“We were lucky to find waterlogged deposits which preserved a lot of timber and seeds for us so we can tell by the flat oats and cereal that the Monks made and ate sourdough bread – so I guess history and trends can repeat themselves,” she laughed.

5,700-year-old Neolithic house discovered by archaeologists in Cork

5,700-year-old Neolithic house discovered by archaeologists in Cork

Archaeologists in North Cork have uncovered the foundations of a 5,700-year-old Neolithic house in addition to evidence of Iron Age smelting and Bronze Age burial sites. 

5,700-year-old Neolithic house discovered by archaeologists in Cork
The incredible discoveries were made following eight excavations in sites across north Cork

The archaeologists excavated a total of eight sites as part of two road realignment projects on the N73 road which links Mallow and Mitchelstown, near the villages of Shanballymore and Kildorrery, and a house dating back to 3700BC was found at one of the sites.

It is believed that the house belonged to some of the very first people to live in the area and found alongside were quantities of grain, pottery, and stone tools dating back to the same period.

At a different site in the townland of Waterdyke, archaeologists found evidence of charcoal pits required in the smelting process to produce iron. The pits date back to between 266AD and 1244AD while further evidence of smelting was also found at Annakiska South. 

There was also evidence of a 17th-century enclosure at Annakiska South as well as clay pipes and glass in addition to evidence of a 17th-century smithy situated on the original road that would have made horseshoes for travelers passing between Mallow and Mitchelstown. 

Clay pipes believed to be from the 17th century were among the fragments unearthed by archaeologists in Cork

The Irish Examiner reports that farming knowledge only arrived in Ireland around 200 years before this house was built, meaning that the settlement is one of the oldest farming settlements on the island of Ireland. 

Archaeologists also discovered evidence of ritual sites dating back to roughly the same period at the settlement. 

They found evidence of stone tools and pottery deliberately buried in holes in the Middle Neolithic era (3500BC to 2900BC) in a form of ritual that may have been associated with human burials.

Middle-neolithic pottery found in a sinkhole in Clenor South possibly left as an offering from the people who believed the natural phenomena were portals to the underworld

The tools and pottery may have been buried as an offering of gifts for the gods of the underworld. 

There was also evidence of a barrow cemetery dating back to the Bronze Age nestled by the banks of a meandering stream and overlooked by a nearby settlement. 

Cork County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), who carried out the excavations and the roadworks, published an “online story map” documenting the archaeologists’ results. 

The online map, created by TII project archaeologist Ken Hanley and Cork County Council resident archaeologist Ed Lynne, also documents previously discovered sites along the route and can be viewed here. 

Possible Bronze Age Burials Unearthed in Ireland

Possible Bronze Age Burials Unearthed in Ireland

At the excavation site of a new community hospital in the Sheil District, Ballyshannon, several finds from the Bronze Period have been discovered.

The Bronze Age urn will undergo further examination

In the course of archaeological research, a large capstone was found last week. It comprises a large flat sandstone boulder complete with rock art in the form of cup marks incised into its upper surface.

Monuments of this kind are classified as Boulder Burials and are thought to date to the Bronze Age 2,500 BC to 500BC.  

The capstone did overlay a small amount of cairn material within a large pit, which was fully investigated but contained no burial.

A number of differing burial sites have been found at the site

The National Monuments Service and National Museum were made aware of the unearthing of the capstone last Monday (August 24) and a team of three archaeologists has been on the sites since carefully examining the area where the capstone was unearthed and a wider area close to it.  

On Friday, August 28 the capstone was carefully removed from the site for further examination and analysis.

Subsequent further archaeological Investigations have uncovered the remains of an inverted urn burial. Urn burials date to the Bronze Age and comprise a large ceramic pot usually highly decorated, and containing cremated remains.

The urn has been removed by the Specialist Conservator and sent for conservation. All the cremated remains recovered from the site will be analyzed by osteoarchaeologist and the results presented in the site excavation report.

The dig is on the site of a new hospital at Ballyshannon

Mr. Shane Campbell, HSE Estates Manager, North West was present at the unearthing and stated “The earth removal work that started last week is part of an overall €21 million euro construction of the new Sheil Community Hospital.  I wish to offer reassurance that work is continuing on site as planned.

The contractor is on-site and continuing with the site clearance, removal of trees, etc and erecting the site Hhoarding, all as planned, the archaeological works will not delay the overall works programme.  

The HSE would like to thank Tamlyn McHugh and Fadó Archaeology for their painstaking work in uncovering these significant historical artifacts and ensuring they are properly conserved.”  

Ancient Irish DNA reveals incredible secrets, including Down Syndrome

Ancient Irish DNA reveals incredible secrets, including Down Syndrome

In the earliest periods of Irish history, archaeologists and geneticists led by those from Trinity have shed new light.

The Poulnabrone portal dolmen in County Clare where the fascinating discovery was made.

The amazing findings of this study include an adult male genome hidden in the heart of the Newgrange passage tomb points to first-degree incest, implying he was among a ruling social elite akin to the similarly inbred Inca god-kings and Egyptian pharaohs.

Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland is world-famous for its annual solar alignment where the winter solstice sunrise illuminates its sacred inner chamber in a golden blast of light. However, little is known about who was interred in the heart of this imposing 200,000 tonnes monument or of the Neolithic society which built it over 5,000 years ago.

The survey of ancient Irish genomes, published in Nature, suggests a man who had been buried in this chamber belonged to a dynastic elite.

The research, led by the team from Trinity, was carried out in collaboration with colleagues from University College London, NUIG, University College Cork, University of Cambridge, Queen’s University Belfast, Sligo Institute of Technology and the National Monuments Service, with support from the National Museum of Ireland and National Museums Northern Ireland.

“I’d never seen anything like it,” said Lara Cassidy, professor at Trinity College Dublin, first author of the paper. “We all inherit two copies of the genome, one from our mother and one from our father; well, this individual’s copies were extremely similar, a tell-tale sign of close inbreeding. In fact, our analyses allowed us to confirm that his parents were first-degree relatives.”

Matings of this type (e.g. brother-sister unions) are a near universal taboo for entwined cultural and biological reasons. The only confirmed social acceptances of first-degree incest are found among the elites – typically within a deified royal family.

By breaking the rules, the elite separates itself from the general population, intensifying hierarchy and legitimising power. Public ritual and extravagant monumental architecture often co-occur with dynastic incest, to achieve the same ends.

“Here the auspicious location of the male skeletal remains is matched by the unprecedented nature of his ancient genome,” said Professor of Population Genetics at Trinity, Dan Bradley. “The prestige of the burial makes this very likely a socially sanctioned union and speaks of a hierarchy so extreme that the only partners worthy of the elite were family members.”

The team also unearthed a web of distant familial relations between this man and other individuals from sites of the passage tomb tradition across the country, including the mega-cemeteries of Carrowmore and Carrowkeel in Co. Sligo.

“It seems what we have here is a powerful extended kin-group, who had access to elite burial sites in many regions of the island for at least half a millennium,” added Cassidy.

Remarkably, a local myth resonates with these results and the Newgrange solar phenomenon. First recorded in the 11th century AD, four millennia after construction, the story tells of a builder-king who restarted the daily solar cycle by sleeping with his sister.

The Middle Irish place name for the neighbouring Dowth passage tomb, Fertae Chuile, is based on this lore and can be translated as “Hill of Sin.”

“Given the world-famous solstice alignments of Brú na Bóinne, the magical solar manipulations in this myth already had scholars questioning how long an oral tradition could survive,” said Ros Ó Maoldúin, an archaeologist on the study. “To now discover a potential prehistoric precedent for the incestuous aspect is extraordinary.”

The genome survey stretched over two millennia and unearthed other unexpected results. Within the oldest known burial structure on the island, Poulnabrone portal tomb, the earliest yet diagnosed case of Down Syndrome was discovered in a male infant who was buried there five and a half thousand years ago.

Poulnabrone tomb, in The Burren, County Clare.

Additionally, the analyses showed that the monument builders were early farmers who migrated to Ireland and replaced the hunter-gatherers who preceded them. However, this replacement was not absolute; a single western Irish individual was found to have an Irish hunter-gatherer in his recent family tree, pointing toward a swamping of the earlier population rather than an extermination.

Genomes from the rare remains of Irish hunter-gatherers themselves showed they were most closely related to the hunter-gatherer populations from Britain (e.g. Cheddar Man) and mainland Europe.

However, unlike British samples, these earliest Irelanders had the genetic imprint of a prolonged island isolation. This fits with what we know about prehistoric sea levels after the Ice Age: Britain maintained a land bridge to the continent long after the retreat of the glaciers, while Ireland was separated by sea and its small early populations must have arrived in primitive boats.

10-Year-Old Boy Finds Centuries-Old Sword in Northern Ireland

10-Year-Old Boy Finds Centuries-Old Sword in Northern Ireland

Fionntan Hughes, Ten years old received a metal detector for his birthday in July. Hughes discovered a centuries-old sword hidden about a foot underground the first time he took it out for a walk, reports Eimear Flanagan for BBC News.

On the banks of the Blackwater River near his home in Northern Ireland, Fionntan, father, and cousin used a metal detector when they found the sword in their third strike.

They dug up the large, mud-covered object, brought it home and washed it off with a garden hose, Fionntan tells Aftenposten Junior. That revealed it was half of a rusted, old sword with an ornate pommel.

“I felt excited,” Fionntan tells BBC Newsline’s Cormac Campbell. “because it was a sword and it was just here, and I didn’t really expect anything too big.”

The sword’s ornate handle is its most identifiable feature, but antique experts Mark and David Hawkins tell BBC News that the sword is difficult to identify from photographs because the rust may be exaggerating its size. But it looks like an English basket-hilted broadsword that was introduced between 1610 to 1640.

It seems to have a plum pudding pommel, which is “typical of the early types,” the Hawkins tells BBC News, but because some designs were used by English officers for more than a century, they suspect this sword is from the late 1600s or early 1700s.

A young boy with a metal detector has made an amazing discovery in Northern Ireland. With the detector, given to him on his birthday, he found an Irish historic sword that could be up to 300 years old.
A young boy with a metal detector has made an amazing discovery in Northern Ireland. With the detector, given to him on his birthday, he found an Irish historic sword that could be up to 300 years old.

Most metal detectorists are not so lucky, but between 1997 and 2016, amateur history fans found about 1 million archaeological discoveries in the United Kingdom alone.

In 1992, a man looking for his lost hammer happened upon a 60-pound hoard of Roman gold and silver artifacts. In 2016, another metal detectorist found a hoard of Viking artifacts.

A 2019 discovery showed evidence of 11th-century tax evasion, and this June, a Welsh man found a lead ingot inscribed with Latin.

The U.K.’s Treasure Act of 1996 requires those who discover caches of buried treasure to report their finds to the local coroner’s office, who will then notify local authorities.

Last year, four men received sentences of between five and ten years in prison because they didn’t report the Viking artifacts they found in 2015, Lateshia Beachum reported for the Washington Post at the time.

After Fionntan and his family realized he had found a sword, his father Paul Hughes notified the National Museums Northern Ireland archaeology curator Greer Ramsey. Ramsey is now in the process of identifying the sword in more detail, as per BBC News.

“The last thing I want is for it to be left rusting away in my garage,” Hughes tells BBC News, adding that he worries the sword is “deteriorating by the day.”

The family hopes to give it to a museum for preservation and eventual display. But the Covid-19 pandemic has made it challenging to hand the sword off to a museum expert, according to Aftenposten Junior.

The riverbank where Fionntan found the sword was dredged in the 1980s, which would have displaced sediment and objects at the bottom of the river, reports BBC Newsline.

Because of that, the family believes there may be more interesting artifacts buried nearby. And Fionntan tells BBC News that he’s looking forward to going metal detecting again.

Extraordinary 1,000-Year-Old Viking Sword Discovered In Cork, Ireland

Extraordinary 1,000-Year-Old Viking Sword Discovered In Cork, Ireland

Among several significant findings that contradict the belief that the Scandinavian invaders were most strongly influential in the cities of Dublin and Waterford, a perfectly preserved wooden Viking sword was uncovered in Cork.

Archaeologists discovered the sword, about a foot long, at the historic site of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery in ‘ the Rebel City ‘

Believed to have been used by female weavers, the 1,000-year-old sword made of wood is heavily designed and has astounded those who found it with its pristine condition. 

Crafted entirely from yew, the hilt of the Viking sword is carved with faces associated with the Ringerike style of Viking art,  a style that dates to the 11th century. 

The sword was unearthed during recent excavations at the South Main Street site and consultant archaeologist Dr. Maurice Hurley said it was one of the several Viking artifacts of “exceptional significance” to be discovered at an excavation that ended last June. 

Other finds included intact ground plans of 19 Viking houses, remnants of central hearths, and bedding material. These finds have convinced archeologists that the influence the Vikings had in Cork city has been underappreciated, that it may be comparable to that in Dublin and Waterford. 

“For a long time there was a belief that the strongest Viking influence was in Dublin and Waterford, but the full spectrum of evidence shows that Cork was in the same cultural sphere and that its development was very similar,” Hurley told RTÉ.

The hilt of the 30cm (12 inches) long Viking weaving tool (BAM Ireland)

“A couple of objects similar to the weaver’s sword have been found in Wood Quay [in Dublin], but nothing of the quality of craftsmanship and preservation of this one. 

“The sword was used probably by women, to hammer threads into place on a loom; the pointed end is for picking up the threads for pattern-making. It’s highly decorated – the Vikings decorated every utilitarian object,” he continued.

The Viking sword was discovered at the building site of a new, 6,000-seat event center in Cork, a project that was put on hold as archaeologists were called in to further explore the discoveries.

Although the archaeological team left the site last June, the developers, BAM Ireland, have not yet given any indication as to when construction will resume. 

A spokesperson for the developers stated they were happy to fund the excavation and to add to the heritage and history of the city. 

Although originally discovered last May, the finds only recently become mainstream knowledge due to a visit to the Cork Public Museum by the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Else Berit Eikeland. 

The Medieval Book That Emerged from a Bog After 1200 Years

The Medieval Book That Emerged from a Bog After 1200 Years

The book that emerged from a bog after 1200 years

This is the remarkable story of a medieval book that spent 1200 years in the mud. Around 800 someones had a Book of Psalms made, a portable copy fitted with a leather satchel.

The book consisted of sixty sheets of parchment that were carefully filled with handwritten words. Somehow the book ended up in a remote bog at Faddan More in north Tipperary, close to the town of Birr, Ireland.

Dropped, perhaps, by the owner? Was he walking and reading at the same time? Did he himself also end up in the bog?

Fast-forward to 2006. Eddie Fogarty, the operator of a turf digger, noticed an object with faint lettering in the bucket of his machine.

Thanks to the conservation properties of turf, many pages of the book were still intact, as was its leather satchel the only surviving specimen from this early period.

Faddan More Psalter, c. 800: when it was found.

There it was again, our Book of Psalms! At this point, it resembled something from an Aliens movie (pic 2), but that changed quickly after it went to the restoration lab.

Faddan More Psalter, c. 800: before the start of restoration

Thanks to the conservation properties of turf, many pages were still intact, as was its leather satchel (pic 3), the only surviving specimen from this early period.

Faddan More Psalter, c. 800: restored cover

Remarkably, among the damaged pages were some that had let go of the words: kept together merely by ink, the words were floating around by themselves – like some sort of medieval Scrabble (pic 4). It’s the most remarkable bookish survival story I know.

Faddan More Psalter, c. 800: words without a page