|11 September 1999
4,000-year-old grave uncovered in Northern Ireland
Archaeologists exploring a site in Northern Ireland have uncovered a 4,000-year-old grave as well as ancient artefacts. The grave was discovered during an excavation in the ruins of Newtownstewart Castle in County Tyrone by the government sponsored archaeological team. It was found beneath the concrete floor of a shop which up until recently stood at the front of the castle.
Excavation director Ruairi O'Baoill was surprised to make the discovery. We were expecting to uncover evidence about life here some 400 years ago, not about death 4,000 years ago, he said.
The ashes of what archaeologists believe were two people were discovered in the grave, described by the experts as a "cist". Cist graves are described as small square pits which are lined with stone slabs and covered by a capstone. The charred remains, divided into two chambers, were piled beside ceramic pots. It is thought that the remains are that of a husband and wife.
The preservation is outstanding given the fact that they have been in the ground for more than four-and-a-half thousand years. The food bowls in particular are in amazing condition. They would have been placed in the chambers to provide the deceased with a farewell meal before they passed into the afterlife. explained O'Baoill, who added We will be able to tell not only the age and sex of the individuals, but possibly their dietary habits.
The archaeological team believe more graves could be found nearby. One possibility we have to consider is that this cist may not be alone, said Mr O'Baoill. As well as being a fine Plantation building, Newtownstewart Castle may also become known as the site of a Bronze Age cemetery.
Sources: BBC News, Belfast Telegraph (17 August 99)
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