Ireland Farmer Accidentally Discovers a Tomb Dating Back to The Bronze Age

One Irish farmer got more than he bargained for last month during some routine maintenance on his property on Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.

During the process of some land reclamation, the farmer stumbled upon what appeared to be an archeological site and contacted a local expert who later confirmed the finding to be a tomb.

Following the report on April 13, the local archeologist reached out to Dr. Bernard Gilhooly, curator of the Irish Antiquities Division of the National Museum of Ireland, to report the discovery.

"Both the farmer and archaeologist were contacted the same day to discuss the discovery, and to arrange a joint inspection by the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) and the National Monuments Service (NMS)," Gilhooly told Newsweek in an email.

"Staff of the National Museum recovered all exposed artifacts, which included human remains and an interesting worked stone," he said, referring to a later site visit by a larger team.

Some findings included a small amount of burnt and unburnt human bone from what appears to be the floor of the grave, as discovered by NMI. An osteoarchaeologist will further examine the remains to determine age, sex, numbers of individuals, any evidence of trauma or any other feature which might aid in determining the cause of death.

In conjunction with this, Gilhooly says that radiocarbon dating of the remains may also assist in better understanding the tomb itself.

Gilhooly, who is an expert in archaeological licensing, prehistoric collections and in particular Mesolithic and Neolithic collections and stone axeheads, informed Newsweek that at this very early stage, their primary concern is ensuring the protection of the structure and associated remains.

"The tomb is located on a slope whose surface is covered in loose stone," he said. "As such, it is important to ensure there is no damage to the structure from stones sliding into its chamber or the supporting stones (orthostats) which form its walls."

In the coming days, NMS plans to involve a "suitably qualified conservation engineer to decide the best way to protect the structure."

"The structure has tentatively been identified as a Bronze Age cist," Gilhooly said.

And if, after the radiocarbon dating, it is affirmatively dated to the Bronze Age, Gilhooly estimates that this may place it at about "2000-1800BC, at a time associated with the introduction of bronzeworking to Ireland."

The discovered tomb has a "different morphology" compared to the usual rectangular one, he adds, but it is not unheard of. Throughout Ireland and the Dingle Peninsula, a large number of Early Bronze Age cists have been discovered over the years but this is apparently one of "unusual form."

A potentially significant find is a stone object, a "non-local water-rolled elongated pebble with probable use-wear evidence near one end," according to Gilhooly.

This newly discovered tomb has a large antechamber off the main chamber and large flagstones on the base of the structure, meaning Gilhooly sees possibilities of additional remains being buried underneath.

The statutory responsibility for archaeological objects found in Ireland lies with NMI, while the responsibility for archaeological monuments goes with NMS, noted Gilhooly.

Talking about the discovery and the work of the archeological team, Gilhooly said, "Each newly-found grave and its contents allows us to create a clearer picture of what life was like in prehistoric Ireland, both on a local scale and on a broader national level."

The identity of the farmer and the exact site of his find have not yet been revealed.

Ireland farmers unearths a Bronze Age tomb
A passage to Four Knocks megalithic chamber tomb, these passage graves are over 5000 years old are decorated with abstract art and bear the first depiction of a human face found in prehistoric art in Ireland, County Meath, photo circa 1990. RDImages/Epics/GETTY