Fallen tree reveals medieval skeleton in Ireland

Last May a storm in northwest Ireland blew over a 215-year old tree. It also unearth an unusual find – the skeletal remains of a young man who lived nearly a thousand years ago.

Photo from Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services / Facebook
Photo from Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services / Facebook

Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services announced the results of tests done to the remains on their Facebook page:

When winter storms blew over a 215-year old beech tree outside Collooney, Sligo, a human skeleton was brought up in the root system. The National Monuments Service commissioned SLAS to undertake a rescue excavation and retrieve the badly disturbed remains. The burial was that of a young man (17-20 years old) and preliminary analysis indicates he suffered a violent death during the early medieval period (radiocarbon date: 1030-1200 AD). Several injuries were visible to the ribs and hand, probably inflicted by a knife. He had been given a formal Christian burial, however. As the photos show, the lower leg bones remained in the grave; but the upper part of the body was entangled in the tree roots and raised up into the air. Analysis of the skeletal remains is currently underway.

More details were revealed in an interview with CBC Radio. Archaeologist Marion Dowd, who is the Director of Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services, explained that “the excavation we did was a rescue excavation, so our goal was to go in there and recover the remains before further damaged was caused.”

She added the young man was 5 feet 10 inches in height, which would have been very tall for this period.  It indicates that he may have come from a Gaelic family with relatively good social status. Meanwhile the archaeologists are hoping to do more research in this area, to determine if this was an isolated grave or part of a large graveyard.

The skeletal remains will go the National Museum of Ireland.

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