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Nearly 1,000-Year-Old Human Skeleton Unearthed After a Winter Storm Uproots Tree in Ireland

After a winter storm uprooted a 215-year-old beech tree in the town of Collooney, Sligo County, Ireland, earlier this year, a startling discovery was made.

The remains of a human skeleton, which experts say date back to the medieval period, were found entangled in the roots of the tree and still partially buried in the dirt.

According to a press release from the archaeological consultancy handling the recovery, Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services, analysis by an osteoarchaeologist indicated that the remains were those of a 17- to 20-year-old male. Radiocarbon dating put the time period of his death between the years 1030 and 1200 A.D. Further analysis revealed that the victim suffered a violent death, with stab wounds identified on the chest and left hand.

Dr. Marion Dowd, an archaeologist with the organization, described this excavation as an "unusual situation." Photos of the burial site showed part of the skeleton still in the ground, while the rest was stuck in the roots of the tree.

"The upper part of the skeleton was raised into the air trapped within the root system," she said. "The lower leg bones, however, remained intact in the ground. Effectively as the tree collapsed, it snapped the skeleton in two."

Historical records indicated that a possible graveyard and church were in the vicinity, but no other skeletal remains were uncovered during the excavation processes.

The young boy was given a Christian burial and was "almost certainly" from a local Gaelic family, but whether he died in battle or as a result of a local dispute is unknown, according to Dowd.

"This burial gives us an insight into the life and tragic death of a young man in medieval Sligo," Dowd said.

While it's unclear how strong winds were during this particular storm, for winter storms in this part of Ireland, it's not unusual to see severe wind gusts of 55 to 60 mph or greater, AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews said.

This type of winter storm, which features lots of wind and rain, is similar to the winter storms along the Pacific Northwest and the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska, Andrews added.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne at Kevin.Byrne@accuweather.com, follow him on Twitter at @Accu_Kevin. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.