Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a young man who suffered a violent death almost a millennium ago in Collooney, County Sligo.
The teenager had two stab wounds to the chest and one to his left hand, presumably from trying to ward off his attacker.The skeletal remains were found among the roots of a massive beech tree which toppled over after more than 200 years.
The National Monuments Service commissioned a rescue excavation to recover the remains before further damage was caused.
“As excavations go, this was certainly an unusual situation,” said Dr Marion Dowd of Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services and lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology in the School of Science at IT Sligo.
“The upper part of the skeleton was raised into the air trapped within the root system. The lower leg bones, however, remained intact in the ground. Effectively as the tree collapsed, it snapped the skeleton in two.”
Analysis of the bones by osteoarchaeologist Dr Linda Lynch revealed the remains were those of a 17-20 year old man. He was over 5ft 10in in height making him taller than the average medieval person. Mild spinal joint disease suggests he was involved in physical labour from a young age.
Radiocarbon dates indicate the young man died in the 11th or 12th century, between 1030 and 1200 AD.
He was given a Christian burial. While historical records state the presence of a church and graveyard in the area, no above-ground trace survives and no other skeletons were encountered during the excavations.
“This burial gives us an insight into the life and tragic death of a young man in medieval Sligo,” Dr Dowd said.
The leg bones of the medieval skeletal remains found near Collooney in County Sligo. Picture taken by Thorsten Kahler.