Incredible 5,500-year-old tomb discovery is ‘find of a lifetime’
It appears as if Meath is in the midst of a golden age of archaeological discovery after the unearthing of a 5,500-year-old megalithic passage tomb at Dowth Hall.
After last week’s incredible discovery of a previously uncharted henge site near Newgrange in Co Meath, another fascinating find nearby is shedding even more insight into ancient Ireland.
According to RTÉ News, a 5,500-year-old megalithic passage tomb has been revealed on the grounds of Dowth Hall, just down the road from the Newgrange monument. It is the most significant find of its type in Ireland in the past 50 years.
So far, two burial chambers have been discovered in what is the western section of the main passage tomb, buried by a massive stone cairn measuring 40 metres in diameter.
A series of six kerbstones have been found around the perimeter of the cairn, one of which is adorned with a number of well-preserved Neolithic carvings and drawings.
The discovery was made as part of a collaboration between the agritech firm Devenish and the University College Dublin School of Archaeology.
Speaking of its importance, Dr Clíodhna Ní Lionáin, who led the Devenish part of the dig, said: “For the archaeologists involved in this discovery, it is truly the find of a lifetime.”
Adding to this, Devenish’s executive chair Owen Brennan compared its decision to choose the site with those made by the tomb’s constructors thousands of years ago.
“From our archaeological research, it seems we made the same decision for the same reasons as a long line of our farming colleagues from the Neolithic, the Bronze Age, medieval and more recent times,” he said.
“The monuments here, created by some of Ireland’s first farmers, capture our imaginations and those of our visitors to the Devenish Lands of Dowth.”
The Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site at the tomb’s location is now a real hotbed of archaeological activity, and with the recent henge discovery made after an intense heatwave, more major digs could be in the works in the region in the years ahead.
1,000-Year-Old lnk Pen Found in Ringfort is Ireland’s Oldest
The British Isles’ oldest-known ink pen has been found during excavations of a Cashel, or stone fort, in County Clare. Archaeologist Michelle Comber of the National University of Ireland, Galway unearthed the 1,000-year-old writing implement from the Caherconnell Cashel.
This 140-foot-wide ringfort was built in the late 10th century and would have been home to wealthy — and, it seems, literate — local rulers until the early 1600s. Other artefacts from the site have shown that the occupants engaged in varied pursuits, from fine craftworking and metalwork to trade, games and music.
Most examples of early literacy in Ireland come from the Church, whose hardworking scribes painstakingly copied all manner of ecclesiastical texts.
Most famous, perhaps, is the Book of Kells — a manuscript created in honour of Christ in 800 AD that is resplendent with elaborate calligraphy and illustrations. However, Dr Comber believes that the individual who used the Caherconnell pen likely did so in order to record more mundane things like family lineages and trades.
Dr Comber told MailOnline that the bone-and-metal Caherconnell pen is the earliest complete example of a composite pen from anywhere within the British Isles.
Earlier in British history, however, the Romans were known to use pens that were made entirely of a copper-alloy, rather than sporting a separate barrel and nib.
In England, several copper-alloy nibs have been found, albeit without the necessary barrel, dating from between the 13th and 16th centuries. On the flip side, a couple of hollow bone pen shafts have been recovered from the London area that data to the 13th–15th centuries.
If, as suspected given their lack of splint point, these were originally used with attached nibs — much like the Caherconnell pen — such have been long lost.
According to Dr Comber, perhaps the most curious part of the discovery is the context from which it appears to have originated, namely in a secular, rather than religious, setting.
‘The Caherconnell Archaeology project has been a hugely rewarding one, with many unexpected and exciting discoveries along the way,’ the archaeologist explained.
‘This find has, however, exceeded all expectations, revealing the tantalising prospect of an advanced secular literacy in 11th-century Ireland.’
The fact that most known evidence of early literacy in Ireland is associated instead with the Church — and no pen of this age or type had previously been found — led Dr Comber to seek confirmation that the artefact could, indeed, have functioned as a writing tool.
Accordingly, she teamed up with experimental archaeologist Adam Parsons of Blueaxe Reproductions to fabricate a replica of the historical implement.
When put through its paces, the duo found that the modern duplicate does work — and its original counterpart would have worked — just perfectly as a dip pen.
Dip pens are those that have no ink reservoir as is characteristic of modern fountain pens and need to be returned to a well frequently to replenish their supply. This in itself set the Caherconnell pen apart, as the more common writing implement in the 11th century would have been the feather quill.
According to expert calligrapher and historian Tim O’Neill, the design of the Caherconnell pen would have lent it well for use on fine work — perhaps even the drawing of fine lines.
‘A metal pen from such an early date is still hard to credit,’ Mr O’Neill said.
‘But the fact that it functions with ink is there to see. It would have worked well for ruling straight lines — to form, for instance, a frame for a page.’
Human Remains Discovered Under 19th-Century Pub in Ireland
The first skeleton was unearthed almost two weeks ago and works have now uncovered the remains of six people, believed to predate the 19th-century building on the site. The skeletal remains of six people have now been found under a partially demolished pub near the medieval heart of Cork city.
Confirmation of the new discoveries on the site of the former Nancy Spain’s pub on Barrack St comes almost two weeks after the discovery of a partial human skeleton during groundworks on the site, which is being cleared for a Cork City Council social housing project.
City archaeologist Ciara Bret, confirmed an archaeological excavation, which has been ongoing since by a licensed archaeological consultant and an osteoarchaeologist, a human bones specialist, in consultation with her and the National Monument Service, has uncovered the remains of six individuals.
“The remains are fragmentary and predate the current 19th-century building on the site,” she said.
“Given that the site is still being archaeologically investigated, it is not possible at this time to definitively date the remains but they are likely to be 18th century or earlier.
“It is important to note that it is only through post-excavation analysis, which will include examination by the osteoarchaeologist and radiocarbon dating of the bones, that a complete understanding of the remains will be achieved.”
The human remains are being fully recorded and will be removed by experts under an archaeological license issued under Section 26 of the National Monuments Act 2004.
Following the completion of the post-excavation analysis, the skeletal remains will be prepared for acquisition by the National Museum of Ireland or will be re-interred at “an appropriate location”.
Ms Brett said because the Barrack Street area forms part of the former suburbs of the medieval city, it is of important historical and archaeological significance, and all groundworks at the site were being archaeologically monitored.
The main contractor, MMD Construction, appointed archaeologist John Cronin and Associates to oversee the groundworks.
An archaeologist was present for the excavation of the ground floor slab but during the final stages of the excavation, there was what Ms Brett described as “a notable change in ground conditions” and it was decided that a hand exploration of the area would be required.
It was during this process that the first skeleton was uncovered.
Following a preliminary visual inspection of the remains in situ by the archaeologist and Garda scenes of crime experts, the bones were deemed a historic find and the Garda investigation was stood down.
The site was then handed back to the builders and the hand exploration continued, leading to the discovery of the other remains nearby.
Nancy Spain’s was once one of Cork’s best-known music venues. Singer-songwriter David Gray played his first Cork gig there in 1992.
The city council plans to build 32 apartments on the site.
‘Extraordinary’ 800-year-old chain mail found in Co Longford
In 1169 AD, Norman invaders arrived in County Wexford, Ireland. Now, a rare and complete, 800-year-old Norman “hauberk” (chainmail vest) has been discovered in County Longford thought to date to when the Normans arrived there in 1172.
The “hauberk” was a coat of upper body armour that was often referred to as a “byrnie.” Made of chain mail, the wearable metal material was much more flexible and lightweight compared with the stiffer and heavier plate armour.
It was an almost perfectly preserved hauberk that was recently discovered in a shed at an undisclosed location in Ireland. According to a report in RTE the ancient armour is currently being held by the local tourist attraction, “ Granard Knights & Conquests,” prior to being exhibited to the public at the National Museum of Ireland.
A Real Ancient Treasure For Heritage Week
The piece of rare, and almost complete, ancient Norman armour, that is soaked with the history of 800 years, was recently found rusting in a garden shed.
The discoverer only realized what he had in his shed after attending a ‘Norman People’ event at Granard Knights & Conquests, as part of National Heritage Week. When the finder went home and recognized the item in his shed was virtually the same as those worn by the actors earlier they came forward and informed Irish antiquary authorities.
Tourism and Education Officer for Granard Knights & Conquests, Deirdre Orme, told RTE that the hauberk is an “absolutely amazing discovery.” Furthermore, General Manager of Granard Knights & Conquests, Mr Bartle D’Arcy, explained that while the artefact was not discovered in Granard, or at Granard Motte, it was dug up from a drain nearby. Now, the National Museum of Ireland has announced that their restorers will preserve the rare piece of Norman armour.
An Origin Story As Grand As The Discovery, Perhaps?
Deirdre Orme of Granard Knights & Conquests said the team were “completely blown away” when the finder presented their team of history lovers with the 800-year-old hauberk. The reason for her excitement was because the whole scenario “completely links into what we’re doing here at the centre – tapping into our Norman history and heritage.”
The hauberk dates back to approximately 1172 AD when the Normans first arrived in Ireland. This is why the archaeologists at the National Museum of Ireland are associating the discovery with the story of Richard De Tuite, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, who in 1199 AD built a timber-frame castle and motte.
Whether or not the armour was indeed linked with the story of Richard De Tuite, or not, Mr D’Arcy said that for the finder to have discovered the almost whole, original Norman hauberk. “is just beyond belief.” And the Norman culture specialist added that the whole discovery was amplified because it coincides with Heritage Week.
Changing The Face Of Ireland Forever
The history of Ireland is greatly composed of stories of ancient invasions. The native Fir Bolg were defeated by the Tuatha De Dannan and they themselves were banished to the mounds to exist only as faeries.
However, none of the mythological invasions was so near-genocidal as were the real-life Norman invasions. For while several waves of giants and semi-divine armies have attacked Ireland in ancient legends, none of them aimed to eradicate Irish culture so much as did the Normans, backed by forces of Rome.
According to the New World Encyclopedia, the Norman invasion of Ireland led to “the eventual entry of the Lordship of Ireland into the Angevin Empire.” This meant the Normans had the blessing of the Pope, which was a way to punish the island’s Christianity that had failed to conform to Rome’s strict rules of worship.
The immediate consequences were the end of the ancient linage of Irish High Kings and all of the timeworn ways of living and dying, and the onset of English rule in Ireland, which continued until 1922.
The Norman hauberk is an artefact from the first days of these cataclysmic changes that would entirely change the destiny of the Emerald Isle.
Irish archaeologists have unearthed a 1,600-year-old wooden pagan idol from a bog in Co Roscommon. The artefact was retrieved from a bog in Gortnacrannagh, around six kilometres from the prehistoric royal site of Rathcroghan.
The idol was made during the Iron Age from a split trunk of an oak tree, with a small human-shaped head at one end and several horizontal notches carved along its body.
Only a dozen such idols have been found in Ireland and at more than two and a half metres, the Gortnacrannagh Idol is the largest to date.
The wooden carving was discovered by a team from the Archaeological Management Solutions (AMS), working in advance of the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge Road Project.
Dr Eve Campbell, director of the AMS excavation site said the idol was carved just over 100 years before St Patrick came to Ireland.
“It is likely to be the image of a pagan deity,” Dr Campbell said.
“Our ancestors saw wetlands as mystical places where they could connect with their gods and the Otherworld.
“The discovery of animal bone alongside a ritual dagger suggests that animal sacrifice was carried out at the site and the idol is likely to have been part of these ceremonies.”
Wooden idols are known from bogs across northern Europe where waterlogged conditions allow for the preservation of ancient wood.
“The lower ends of several figures were also worked to a point suggesting that they may once have stood upright,” said wood specialist, Cathy Moore.
“Their meaning is open to interpretation, but they may have marked special places in the landscape, have represented particular individuals or deities or perhaps have functioned as wooden bog bodies, sacrificed in lieu of humans.”
The Gortnacrannagh Idol is currently at University College Dublin (UCD), where conservator Susannah Kelly is undertaking the three-year process of preserving the artefact.
Once conserved the idol will go on display at the National Museum of Ireland.
A replica of the idol, made by AMS staff in collaboration with members of the UCC Pallasboy Project and the UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture, will go on display at the Rathcroghan Centre in Tulsk, Co Roscommon.
Dr Ros Ó Maoldúin of AMS says the Gortnacrannagh Idol is such “a unique and significant find”, and the replica will “help us understand the idol better and appreciate how it was made.
“It will be possible for people to see this in action at the Craggaunowen Archaeology Park in Co. Clare during the last weekend of August.”
AMS says the discovery will have no impact on the progress of the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge Road Project.
“Road projects such as the N5 provide a significant opportunity for the investigation of our archaeological heritage, said Deirdre McCarthy, a resident archaeologist with Roscommon County Council.
“Gortnacrannagh is an excellent example. Were it not for the road, we would never have known about this extraordinary site.”
Analysis of the artefact and the site it was found in is ongoing.
Irish Farmer Stumbles Onto ‘Untouched’ Ancient Tomb
In Ireland, a farmer discovered an ancient tomb that had been practically undiscovered for thousands of years. An excavator flipped a large stone to expose a secret chamber under it on southwest Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, revealing the burial site.
Inside, local archaeologists found what they believe to be the human bones, along with a smooth oval-shaped stone – all of which could hold clues about pre-historical burial rituals.
They suspect the tomb dates to the Bronze Age, making it between 2,500 and 4,000 years old. But unlike most Bronze Age tombs, it was constructed completely underground—meaning it could be even older.
The tomb was discovered during routine land improvement work, according to RTE, when a large stone was lifted up to reveal a ‘slab-lined chamber’ underneath.
An adjoining sub-chamber was found at what appeared to be the front of the tomb, containing what is presumed to be human bone fragments. A smooth oval-shaped stone was also uncovered, although its purpose is not yet clear.
Archaeologists from the National Monuments Service and the National Museum of Ireland visited the site and believe the tomb likely dates to the Bronze Age, which ran from 2000 to 500BC. But it could be even older given its ‘highly unusual design.
‘Given its location, orientation and the existence of the large slab, your initial thought is this is a Bronze Age tomb,’ archaeologist Mícheál Ó Coileáin told RTE.
‘But the design of this particular tomb is not like any of the other Bronze Age burial sites we have here,’ he added.
‘It’s possible that it’s earlier but it’s very difficult at this early stage to date it.’
Fellow archaeologist Breandán Ó Cíobháin told the outlet the tomb appears ‘completely untouched,’ and its contents remain in their original state.
‘That is very rare,’ Ó Cíobháin said. ‘It is an extremely significant find as the original structure has been preserved and not interfered with, as may have occurred in the case of other uncovered tombs.’
The discovery could prove invaluable to the understanding of prehistoric burial rituals, he said. Bronze Age tombs have been found in southwest Ireland before, particularly in Cork and Kerry.
They’re typically ‘wedge tombs,’ which narrow at one end and protrude above the ground.
‘[But] this one is completely concealed, Ó Coileáin told The Times.
Wedge tombs mostly face the west and southwest, possibly representing ‘celestial or lunar alignments,’ Ó Cíobháin theorized. Because so much of the newly discovered tomb is underground, ‘it is difficult to fully assess the layout,’ he said.
‘It is very well built, and a lot of effort has gone into putting the large capstone over it,’ Ó Coileáin told the Irish Times. ‘It’s not a stone that was just found in the ground. It seems to have some significance.’
The National Monument Service says the tomb is in ‘vulnerable condition’ and is keeping its exact location private to preserve the site for future study.
Known to have been inhabited for at least 6,000 years, Dingle Peninsula has been the site of several archaeological discoveries, including clochán, dry-stone beehive-shaped huts built by the Celts.
Dead bodies of 800 babies found in a septic tank at former Irish home for unwed mothers
The discovery of nearly 800 dead babies in the septic tank of a home run by nuns has set off a round of soul-searching in Ireland and sparked calls for accountability from government and Catholic Church officials.
According to new evidence, 796 children were secretly buried in the sewage tank of a home in Tuam, County Galway, where unmarried pregnant women were sent to give birth in an attempt to preserve the country’s devout Catholic image.
Officials said they were “horrified” at the discovery and said it revealed “a darker past in Ireland,” a country often haunted by its history of abuse within powerful church institutions.
The home was run by nuns from the Bon Secours Sisters congregation between 1925 and 1961. It was one of the “mother and baby” homes across Ireland, similar to the Sean Ross Abbey, in Tipperary, where Philomena Lee gave her child up for adoption in a story that was this year made into the eponymous Oscar-nominated film “Philomena.”
People who lived near the home said they have known about the unmarked mass grave for decades, but a fresh investigation was sparked after research by local historian Catherine Corless purportedly showed that of the hundreds of children who died at the home, only one was buried at a cemetery.
Speaking to the Irish Mail, which first reported her research, she also said that health board records from the 1940s said conditions at the home were dire, with children suffering malnutrition and neglect and dying at a rate four times higher than in the rest of Ireland.
Charlie Flanagan, minister for children and youth affairs, said that there was a “cross-departmental initiative underway” to determine how to react to allegations.
“Many of the revelations are deeply disturbing and a shocking reminder of a darker past in Ireland when our children were not cherished as they should have been,” Flanagan said.
According to the Reuters news agency, Ireland’s Roman Catholic Church told the order of nuns who ran the former home that it must co-operate with any inquiry into the discovery. Tuam’s Archbishop Michael Neary said that the diocese had no part in running the home but urged the Bon Secours Sisters to “act upon their responsibilities in the interests of the common good.”
“I am horrified and saddened to hear of the large number of deceased children involved and this points to a time of great suffering and pain for the little ones and their mothers,” he said.
The Bon Secours congregation did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
The claims came to light after Corless obtained death records for the home and cross-checked them with local cemetery records. Two local boys reportedly unearthed the home’s concrete-covered tank while playing in 1975 and found hundreds of children’s bones inside. The tank has now been surrounded by a housing estate, but an officer from Ireland’s Gardai police force said remains had recently been found after a police survey at the site.
“We do not know what we’re dealing with here yet, it could go back much further,” the officer told NBC News on condition of anonymity. “This is a historical investigation going back to the 1950s.
“We are investigating this matter, the grounds have been surveyed and there is what appears to be human remains discovered. But [the remains] could go back as far as famine times, which is 160 years, we just don’t know yet.”
Police could not confirm if a full excavation of the site was planned.
Ireland’s once-powerful Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of scandals over children’s abuse and neglect in recent years. The Church operated as a quasi-social service in the 20th century and the mother and baby homes were run in a similar fashion to the Magdalene Laundries, where single women who became pregnant were sent away.
“Children went in there so the families could conceal their shame”
While government and church officials were quick to express their shock at reports of Tuam’s high infant mortality rate and allegations of mass burial, the traits were not uncommon for such institutions in Ireland, according to Eoin O’Sullivan, associate professor at Trinity College Dublin.
“Tuam was a former workhouse and conditions were pretty bleak,” said O’Sullivan, co-author of the 2001 book “Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland’s Industrial Schools.”
“Ireland’s first mother and baby home, at Bessborough, in Cork, had an even worse infant mortality rate of around 82 per cent: In the year ending March 31, 1944, 124 children were born or admitted there, and 102 died.”
O’Sullivan added that the practice of mass burial, often with just one headstone marking the site, was not uncommon in many mother and baby homes and psychiatric hospitals at the time.
“Remember that the children went in there so the families could conceal their shame, and the kids were often adopted,” he said. “The nuns were not going around grabbing pregnant women; the women were taken there by their families who knew what conditions were like.
“Why have politicians and the Church reacted with such shock? I’m not sure. I suppose they have to every time something like this comes out connected with religious institutions.”
The discovery of a mass baby grave under a Roman bathhouse in Ashkelon, Israel
In the seaport of Ashkelon, along the coast of the Israeli Mediterranean coast, archaeologist Ross Voss made a bizarre discovery, while exploring one of the sewers of the area, he found a significant amount of bones. At first, the bones were accepted to be chicken bones. Later, it was found that the bones were that of human.
Newborn child bones from the Roman period. With the remaining parts adding up to in excess of 100 children, it was the biggest disclosure of babies remains to date.
Why were these roman babies killed?
As curious as you are, so was the Archaeologist while he found out the bones of the newborns. Voss took the remaining parts to forensic anthropologist Professor Patrician Smith. Smith analyzed the baby remains and established that there was no indication of the chances of survival of the babies longer than a week before being killed.
She used a technique of forensic testing that enabled her to confirm that none of the newborn children was healthy when they died.
During the era of Romans, it was normal for babies to be murdered as a type of birth control. It wasn’t a crime, as babies were seen as being ‘not completely human.
As a rule, a Roman lady who did not need an infant would take part in the act of “exposure” as she would desert the newborn child, either to be found and taken care of by another person or to die.
As per the convictions at the time, it was up to the gods to decide if the newborn child would be saved or not.
According to Roman mythology, the most popular record of close child murder, in which Romulus and Remus, two newborn children of the war god, Mars, were surrendered in the forested areas yet were raised by wolves and later established the city of Rome.
Research showed that the newborn children at Ashkelon did not seem to have been “exposed”. Rather, it shows up they were deliberately murdered. One piece of information into the purpose behind their murder lies in the area of the bodies.
Investigations uncovered that the sewer where the remaining parts were found was straight underneath a previous bathhouse. It is conceivable that the babies were born to prostitutes or workers who worked at the bathhouse. However, this remains a mystery as there is no additional information on this theory.
While Ashkelon bathhouse was not the only place the bodies of the Roman infants were found.
Hambleden(the site of a former Roman villa) mass killing
In 1912, Alfred Heneage Cocks, the guardian of the Buckinghamshire County Museum in England, made a stunning disclosure. While driving an unearthing in Hambleden, Cocks revealed the remains of 103 people.
Of those 103 people, 97 were newborn children, 3 were children, and 3 were adults. While this frightful find delivers inquiries of how and why these babies had been slaughtered, Cocks neglected to conduct any further examination with regards to the roots of the bodies.
Jill Eyers, archaeologist and director of Chiltern Archeology in England, found the remaining in a historical centre file, the bones spent near a century in 35 little boxes intended to hold free cigarettes and shotgun cartridges, each container sufficiently enormous to hold the total skeleton of one baby.
“It was quite heart-rending, really, to open all these little cigarette boxes and find babies inside,” said Eyers.
Then he chose to look into the reason for the mass killing. People believed that the Hambleden site is another area where prostitutes would give birth to an unwanted child that was consequently murdered. The site was not a region of poverty, so an absence of resource couldn’t clarify the mass executing.
There were additionally no recorded diseases in the region at the time that could represent the huge volume of death. People believe that the main sensible clarification is that the site once housed a brothel.
Because of the absence of birth control at that time, there were restricted choices for the who needed to abstain from having a baby or bringing up the child. So, child murder may have been the main decision they trusted they had.
However, the reasons for the death may be any, but the mass graves of newborn child remains are genuinely heartbreaking. The history behind the roman era living is a big mystery. In time, it is trusted that we may discover more responses to precisely how and why these newborns were killed.