medieval body tree

An ancient Irish tree toppled over in a storm to reveal an even more ancient burial…

When this 215 year old beech tree in the Irish town of Collooney blew over in a storm, it must have been very sad for local treelovers. It must also have been a complete shock; because there, entangled in the upturned roots, was a human skeleton.

[Read more: Archaeologists Need You to Help Bring This Ancient Forest Back to Life]

Yes, most archaeological discoveries do feel pretty dramatic, but even so there’s not many who could start a story with “it was a dark and stormy night, and with a thunderous crash his skeleton was wrenched from the earth…”

It’s not just the dramatic revelation that makes this story interesting; preliminary analysis carried out by archaeologists are fascinating too; the skeleton belonged to a young man in his early twenties, who seems to have died violently.

medieval body tree 2

His bones contained several injuries which had been inflicted by a sharp blade, possibly a sword or knife, but archaeologists are unsure whether these wounds were related to an ancient battle or a personal dispute.

“No other burials are known from the area but historical records do indicate a possible graveyard and church in the vicinity,” archaeologist Marion Dowd told Irish Archaeology.

However, he does seem to have been given a Christian burial, as the body was subsequently buried in a shallow east-west oriented grave.

While the tree itself was 215 years old, the body was even older; radiocarbon analysis indicates that his death occurred about 1,000 years ago, between 1030 and 1200 AD. Clearly, the tree was not planted intentionally as part of the burial then.

Found this fascinating? Then find out more about plans to bring an ancient forest back to life.

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Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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