Skeleton Of Boy Thought To Be 2,500 Years Old Found In Derry

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An ancient body, believed to be up to 2,500 years old, has been found in Derry.

The body was found by archaeologists working within the PSNI, who were first alerted to human remains being found on the peatland surface in Bellaghy last October.

A tibia and fibula were first discovered during the excavations, as well as humerus, ulna, and radius bone relating to a lower left leg, and arm respectively.

The bones of a lower left arm and left femur were found 5 metres south of the surface remains. Following further examination of the area between the main body and the surface, fingernails, finger bones, part of the left femur and breastbone were also found. 

“On initial examination, we couldn’t be sure if the remains were ancient or the result of a more recent death", Detective Inspector Nikki Deehan said. “Therefore, we proceeded to excavate the body with full forensic considerations in a sensitive and professional manner". 

“This approach also ensures any DNA evidence could be secured for any potential criminal investigation. Ultimately this wasn’t the case in this instance".

A post-mortem examination was also carried out by a certified forensic anthropologist, who determined that the body was a male, possibly aged between 13 and 17.

While there is little known so far regarding a time of death, unlike other "bog bodies" discovered, this body was very well preserved, with the presence of partial skin, left hand fingernails, and a possible kidney.

"no indications"

The radiocarbon was carried out by the 14Chrono Centre, which is part of Queen's University, Belfast. 

“To ensure the highest possible standards in forensic recovery of human remains were maintained, we conducted two phases of high-resolution ground-penetrating radar survey at the site. The results showed no indications of further human remains", Dr Allistair Rufell of the university said. 

“The remains were discovered at approximately one metre below the current land surface, which matches the radiocarbon estimates", Dr Rufell added. “In addition, they were amongst a cluster of fossil tree remains suggesting the body may have died or been buried in a copse or stand of trees, or washed in". 

Referring to Derry poet Seamus Heaney, the Chief Executive of Northern Ireland's Forest Service, John Joe O'Boyle also added, “Forest Service recognises the significance of this very exciting find".

“This ancient bog body was discovered on land owned by the department and we are now working with National Museums NI to transfer it to them so that they can continue with further examination and preservation of the remains". 

“I hope, in due course, the find will help us all understand better something of our very early history. Seamus Heaney, when he was writing his series of poems inspired by bog bodies, probably never expected such a find on his own doorstep". 


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