When she got the call, she assumed it was just another conspiracy theorist looking for attention. You had a lot to do with people like that.
But when she got to the scene and peered under the twisted roots of the huge fallen tree, she found that the caller wasn’t insane. She was just relieved that she got there on time.
The coastal town of Collooney, Ireland, had seen some worrying storms. The winds were so strong that homes were in serious danger as people were nervously protected indoors.
When the pouring weather finally calmed down, residents slowly emerged to assess the damage ̵
Large trees had fallen victim to the storm winds and now lay with their long, twisted roots on the ground.
The Collooney residents who lived on the coast were no strangers to the devastating weather, and cutting down trees was the order of the day. But it was months before they realized what a very special uprooted tree had been discovered.
Struggling with the aftermath of a devastating storm, Collooney residents focused on repairing roofs and clearing streets devastated by the 100 mph wind and heavy rain.
The felled beech was certainly a sight to behold, but more because of its enormous size than because of what was yet to be discovered lurked beneath it. Until a dog walker came a little too close.
It was a dog walker who had come to examine the 215-year-old tree that had long since faded as a hot topic in town. And his pooch was particularly interested in the bottom of the trunk base.
After taking a closer look at what caught the animal’s attention, the owner’s eyes widened to see exactly what the dog was licking. He took out his cell phone and immediately called the police.
Beeches are not actually native to Ireland, so a tree of this size was a rarity. The fact that it was on its side at all was interesting enough that no one could have imagined what the dog would sniff out of its roots.
“During the excavation,” said Dr. Marion Dowd, who was called in to investigate, “this was certainly an unusual situation.”
Team of specialists
When they saw what was under the huge trunk, the city authorities had no choice but to call in the experts.
Marion and her team of archaeologists arrived in County Sligo thinking this was likely another overzealous local historian who believed they had discovered the find of the century. What the scientists at Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services (SLAS) found under the tree was a real cause for concern.
Since beeches didn’t come to Ireland until the early 19th century, it is unlikely that whoever planted the natural behemoth in the city had any idea what they were growing the tree on – let alone keeping something of great historical interest.
Marion immediately took samples for examination. But the team was so busy digging what was there that it didn’t occur to them that there could be more. “There may be others in the area, we have no idea,” she said.
The skeleton they found was that of a young man between the ages of 17 and 20. It was 5 ‘, 10’ ‘and probably handcrafted based on the wear and tear on its joints.
Marion was grateful that she had reached the construction site before the dog got away with the precious bones, which had been divided in two: the top half stayed in the roots and the bottom half in the ground. But the expert was still struggling to find out the source of the wounds on the body.
The unknown man had two stab wounds in the chest and one in his left hand. It was clear that he had been attacked with a knife while trying to escape from his attacker.
The remains had been buried. For Marion there were only two possible explanations for what had happened to him.
The mystery is being solved
Anyone who planted this tree in the early 19th century must have had no idea what was underneath, argued the scientists. But it was the actions of the planter or planters that ultimately made it possible to discover this little piece of history over 200 years later.
However, the archaeological magic did not stop there. Judging by the fact that the man was “placed in a grave in an east-west position with his hands folded over the pelvic region,” the scientists received another lead.
Having just started her own private company, Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services, Marion couldn’t have asked for a more bizarre maiden project.
“The upper part of the skeleton was lifted into the air trapped in the root system. However, the lower leg bones remained intact in the soil. When the tree collapsed, it broke the skeleton in two, ”said Marion. The bones still on the grave were in a very good condition.
Marion said the remains gave a glimpse of how difficult life was more than 900 years ago. “This is the early Middle Ages and we know that there was a variety of conflicts and violence during that time,” she said.
“We can assume that it comes from agriculture and is one of the local settlements in the region. After his death, we know that his family or congregation would have recovered the body and given him some form of Christian burial, and 800 years later someone quite accidentally planted a beech tree in that spot. “
Archaeologists used carbon dating to calculate how old the remains were. Carbon-14 – a radioactive isotope of carbon – allows scientists to determine the age of organic material because it decays at a known rate.
When the results came back, the archaeologists were amazed. How long has he been under that tree?
Radiocarbon dating revealed that the medieval man who was hidden under the tree died almost 1,000 years ago, sometime between 1030 and 1200.
He was either attacked by a personal enemy or had fought in battle before being buried in Christianity. In fact, it used to be a church, so archaeologists may find more clues if they investigate the area further. And the readers of the original message had their own theories about the mystery.
One reader commented: “17-25 years old would be considered young for our time, but wouldn’t it have been considered middle-aged 1000 years ago? Life expectancy couldn’t have been much more than 40 years back then ?! He may have been killed defending his church from Norse attackers? “
Another reader, however, quickly argued: “I’ve read that child mortality makes the average life expectancy heavily skewed and unrealistic. After childhood, most healthy people did not live much shorter than we did. It was only with the advent of better nutrition, health care, and dental care in the 20th century that we began to live significantly longer. A 17-year-old was a child then as it is today. “
And another reader of the original story on Irish archeology had an increasingly strange claim that the cause of the man’s death was far more sinister.
“According to the rumor mill, the victim was fined for having a copy of ‘Ulysses’,” wrote a man named Tony. But Marion believes her research has only just begun …
Just the beginning?
“There may be other burials in the area, we have no idea,” she said.
“There were no signs of a cemetery, but there are historical records that there is a church and possibly a cemetery in the area,” Marion said in an interview. “We haven’t found any signs of this, so our work as such has ended, but this could lead to a major research project down the line.”
Another strange detail
“We don’t know if he was killed in battle or if this was a personal dispute,” Marion said, noting that the body was originally buried in a Christian manner, with the head facing west. “His family or community must have buried him,” she added.
Another aspect of the excavation is unusual – the size of the young man. “He’s 5-foot-10,” said Dowd. “That’s pretty big for early medieval society.”
rest in peace
The tree-dwelling medieval man’s fall has been closed for the time being, and his remains find their final resting place in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
While this is certainly an impressive find – and quite a different one from what archaeologists like Marion are used to – would you like to come across something like this while walking the dog?