Ancient skeletal remains date back to biblical times

BELLAGHY, Ireland (KFOR/Storyful) – When skeletal remains were first found in Northern Ireland, police did not know whether the bones were from a recent death or maybe from a few years prior, but no one was expecting to hear the remains were actually between 2,000 and 2,500 years-old.

Once experts realized the age of the remains, which also included a kidney that somehow never disintegrated, the October 2023 discovery in a bog in Bellaghy turned into a full archaeological dig, complete with ground-penetrating sonar.

“Whilst little is known so far about the individual’s cause of death, unlike some other ‘bog bodies,’ the individual’s skeleton was well preserved and also had the presence of partial skin, fingernails of the left hand, toenails and possibly a kidney,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland stated in a press release.

Forensic experts believe the bones belonged to a teenage male between the ages of 13 and 17, who could have been murdered during a conflict.

According to Storyful, “The Sunday World reported in November that members of the families of ‘The Disappeared’ – people killed and secretly buried by paramilitaries during the conflict in Northern Ireland – were in contact with police in relation to the discovery.”

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Because the remains were well-preserved, carbon dating was able to be implemented, determining the age of the bones.

Detective Inspector Nikki Deehan said, “This is the first time radiocarbon dating has been used on a bog body in Northern Ireland, and the only one to still exist, making this a truly unique archaeological discovery for Northern Ireland.”

The team said the teenager’s remains were discovered about three feet below ground level, and were located near the home of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, who authored several poems about bog bodies.

“Seamus Heaney, when he was writing his series of poems inspired by bog bodies, probably never expected such a find on his own doorstep,” said John Joe O’Boyle, Chief Executive of Forest Service Northern Ireland.

O’Boyle also said the remains were transferred to National Museums NI for further examination and preservation.

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