Storm unearths millennium-old murder mystery

  • 16/09/2015
The upper part of the skeleton was trapped in the tree's roots (Facebook/Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services)
The upper part of the skeleton was trapped in the tree's roots (Facebook/Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services)

By 3 News online staff

A fierce winter storm across Ireland which ripped up an ancient tree also unearthed a human skeleton thought to be around 1000 years old.

The 215-year-old beech tree was toppled during a storm outside Collooney, in County Sligo, this month and with it came a murder mystery.

The upper part of a skeleton, entangled in the root system, was ripped from the earth but the lower body remained in the dirt.

The National Monuments Service commissioned the Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services to undertake an excavation of the site.

"As excavations go, this was certainly an unusual situation," Dr Marion Dowd of the Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services told the Irish Times.

In a Facebook post, the archaeological service says the skeleton belonged to a young man aged around 17 to 20, with preliminary analysis showing he died a violent death during the early medieval period.

Radiocarbon dating estimates the man's time of death to be between 1030-1200AD.

The man was around 177cm tall, which was taller than the average person in the medieval ages, and had a mild spinal joint disease typical of someone involved in physical labour from a young age.

The skeleton showed a number of injuries to the ribs and hand, possibly from a knife, and is thought to have been trying to ward off attackers.

The man was given a formal Christian burial and while historical records show there had been a church and graveyard in the area, there are no surviving remains of it and no other skeletons were found during the excavation.

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