Storm reveals 1,000-year-old murder in Sligo

The tree under which a skeleton was found

Recent storms have revealed a gruesome surprise in Sligo — the body of a teenager thought to have met a violent death 1,000 years ago.

When a 215-year-old beech tree was ripped up during high winds in Collooney recently, the top half of a young man’s skeleton was found tangled in its roots. The lower half remained in the ground.

Storm reveals 1,000-year-old murder in Sligo

Photo: Thorsten Kahlert

Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services, an independent archaeological consultancy established in 2015, was commissioned to undertake a rescue excavation on the site by the National Monuments Service.

The archaeology company retrieved the remains and began analysing the burial and body.

Storm reveals 1,000-year-old murder in Sligo

Photo: Thorsten Kahlert

“The burial was that of a young man and preliminary analysis indicates he suffered a violent death during the early medieval period,” archaeologist Marion Dowd wrote on the group’s Facebook page.

The remains are those of a young man, aged 17 to 20. Radiocarbon dating suggests he died between 1030 and 1200.

Storm reveals 1,000-year-old murder in Sligo

Photo: Thorsten Kahlert

The young man is thought to have died in violent circumstances. Several injuries are visible on the ribs and hand. These are believed to have been caused by knife wounds, and the hand injuries appear to have been defensive. The body of the young man had received a formal Christian burial.

Storm reveals 1,000-year-old murder in Sligo

Photo: Thorsten Kahlert

The burial predates the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169, so his death is likely to have been the result of a local conflict or personal dispute.

No other skeletons were discovered during the excavation, although 19th century records reveal the presence of a church and graveyard. No above-ground evidence of these remain.


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