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Ballyshannon: 'Bronze Age' urn found at hospital site

image copyrightFadó Archaeology
image captionThe Bronze Age urn will undergo further examination

An ancient cremation urn containing human remains has been found by archaeologists surveying the site of a new hospital in the Republic of Ireland.

It was discovered in Ballyshannon in County Donegal and is believed to be around 4,000 years old.

The suspected Bronze Age urn has now been removed for further examination.

Archaeologists say it is among a number of discoveries made on the Donegal site.

"It's really nice to find, it seems to be in pretty good condition and it's actually upturned, so it's an inverted urn," Tamlyn McHugh of Fadó Archaeology , the site's excavation director, told BBC Radio Foyle.

Its discovery prompted the on-site team to call in a more specialised and expert conservator.

"She lifted the whole thing in one block. We haven't had the opportunity to look at the pot because she has taken it back to the laboratory to do a little mini excavation of it in the laboratory setting," Ms McHugh said.

image copyrightFadó Archaeology
image captionA number of differing burial sites have been found at the site

She added: "We are really excited to see what this one looks like. Usually these are highly decorative".

Excavation at the site has further uncovered evidence of a number of burial sites including a large flat stone boulder complete with rock art, thought to date to around 2500BC to 500BC.

There is evidence in Ballyshannon of three differing types of Bronze Age burial, Ms McHugh said.

She said it was an era that saw practices move towards singular burials.

"We've got the pit burials - the cremated remains and charcoal in very shallow pits - at least 12 of these, what we call a flat cemetery.

"Then we have the ring ditch, the urn was in that, and then we have the boulder burial. It is really interesting that we have all three together".

Radio-carbon dating will now allow archaeologists to "see a sequence, and see what came first, what came last, and get an idea of which burial practices came before the other," she added.

image copyrightFadó Archaeology
image captionThe dig is on the site of a new hospital at Ballyshannon

The archaeological work is part of the €21m construction of the new Sheil Community Hospital in the Donegal town.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said the the cremated remains recovered from the site will now be analysed by an osteoarchaeologist .

"The HSE would like to thank Tamlyn McHugh and Fadó Archaeology for their painstaking work in uncovering these significant historical artefacts and ensuring they are properly conserved," Shane Campbell of the HSE added.

Related Topics

  • Archaeology
  • Republic of Ireland