3,000-year-old remains of a baby have been found during inaugural archaeological works at a Meath site reputed to be the birthplace of Halloween.
The remains were found at the base of a 1.5 metre ditch at Tlachtga, near Athboy.
It’s believed the fully intact skeleton is of a baby between seven and 10 months old, but it is not thought the child was the victim of any human sacrifice on the ritualistic site.
The remains will now be taken to the School of Archaeology at University College Dublin for further examination.
Describing it as “an exciting find,” lead archaeologist on the site Dr Stephen Davis said: “We may never know what caused the death of the child. The skeleton probably dates back 3,000 years and was found on the bedrock at the base of a 1.5m ditch.”
The remains were found during a three-week excavation on Tlachtga — most commonly held to have been the first site to celebrate the feast of Samhain — Halloween.
Surveys carried out using airborne laser and geophysical techniques have already revealed the area to have been a “key ritual site,” according to Dr Davis.
He said: “The surveys clearly reveal that the site has several different phases of monumental enclosures and we believe them to be associated with festivals and rituals dating back as far as 1000 BC.
“It’s a very important site which was likely to have been a ritual assembly place. “It’s one of only three sites of its status in Ireland; the others being Tara and Rathcroghan in Co Roscommon.”
He added: “Tlachtga is also one of the sites known as the four corners of the old province of Meath, the others being Uisneach, Tara and Teltown.”
Tlachtga — now known locally as the Hill of Ward, got its name from the daughter of the Druid, Mug Ruith, who is said to have died on the hill after giving birth to triplets and whose remains, according to legend, are buried under the hill.
The latest excavations have also unearthed evidence of much burning, which could have been ritual fires or evidence of glass making, Dr Davis has surmised.
Local historian and tour guide Joe Conlon was present at the site and says he was part of a druid circle which said prayers at the area before the remains were transferred.
“It was reputed to be the site used to summon the priests, the augurs and druids of Ireland to assemble on Samhain eve to consume the sacrifices that were offered to their pagan gods.” It was decreed that all fires within the kingdom on that night were to be kindled from the Fire of Tlachtga, under the penalty of fine.”
Funding for the present digs has been provided by the Office of Public Works, Meath County Council, the Heritage Council and the Royal Irish Academy.
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