Archaeologists have unearthed a Bronze Age cremation urn at the site of a planned hospital in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland. The urn was found in a small ring ditch on land that has been previously used for community gardens. It dates to approximately 4,000 years ago.
Because the urn and the cinerary remains it contains are extremely fragile, specialist conservator Susannah Kelly was enlisted to remove it for cleaning and stabilization in laboratory conditions. Still caked in soil in situ, the urn was wrapped in plastic wrap and an outer layer of resin bandages so it could be removed whole without risking the loss of any material.
The urn has been taken Dublin where Ms Kelly will conserve it.
An osteoarchaeologist will examine the cremated remains to try to find out more about the person or persons whose remains are in the urn.
[Excavation director] Tamlyn McHugh said the dig was a great opportunity find out more about our history and highlights the importance of having archaeologists work on sites like this ahead of a development.
In this case, they found a number of different kinds of burial types from the Bronze Age, she said.
At least three different kinds of burials typical of the Bronze Age were found at this site: cremation in urns, inhumation and a flat cemetery, which are pits filled with charcoal and bone.
The cremated remains contain several larger fragments of bone that will hopefully give osteoarchaeologists the opportunity to determine whether the deceased was an adult or child, or even if the urn contained the remains of more than one person.
All archaeological remains and materials have been removed and construction of the hospital will go ahead as planned. The find site of the urn will return to its former use as allotment gardens.