A farmer in Ireland came across an ancient grave that had been virtually untouched for thousands of years.
The cemetery was uncovered on the Dingle Peninsula in southwest Ireland when a digger toppled a large stone to reveal a hidden chamber beneath it.
Inside, local archaeologists found what they believe are human bones, along with a smooth oval-shaped stone – all of which may contain clues to prehistoric burial rites.
They suspect the tomb dates back to the Bronze Age, making it between 2,500 and 4,000 years old.
But unlike most Bronze Age tombs, it was built entirely underground, meaning it could be even older.
A farmer in the southwest of Ireland moved a large stone on his land and discovered this ancient grave beneath it. The site included an under chamber near the front of the tomb as well as a smooth elongated stone and believed to be human bones
The grave was discovered during routine land improvement works, said RTE, when a large stone was lifted to reveal a ‘plate-lined room’ beneath it.
An adjacent lower chamber was found on what appeared to be the front of the tomb, containing what are believed to be human bone fragments.
A smooth oval-shaped stone was also uncovered, although its purpose is not yet clear.
Archaeologists from the National Monuments Service and the National Museum of Ireland visited the site and believe the tomb likely dates back to the Bronze Age, which ran from 2000 to 500 BC.
Bronze Age tombs have been found in the region before, but almost all of them stick out of the ground. The New Discovery ‘is completely hidden, suggesting it may be even older
But it could be even older given its ‘highly unusual’ design.
“Given the location, orientation, and existence of the Great Slab, your first thought is that this is a Bronze Age tomb,” archaeologist Mícheál Ó Coileáin told RTE.
“But the design of this particular tomb is not like all the other Bronze Age burial grounds we have here,” he added.
“It may be earlier, but at this early stage it is very difficult to date.”
Fellow archaeologist Breandán Ó Cíobháin told the outlet that the tomb appears ‘completely untouched’ and that the contents remain in their original state.
“That is very rare,” said Ó Cíobháin. “It is an extremely important find, as the original structure has been preserved and undisturbed, as may have happened in the case of other uncovered graves.”
The tomb was discovered on farmland on the Dingle Peninsula in southwest Ireland, which has been inhabited for 6,000 years. The exact location is kept private in order to preserve the site for future research
The discovery could be invaluable to understanding prehistoric burial rituals, he said.
Bronze Age tombs have been found in the south west of Ireland, particularly in Cork and Kerry.
They are usually ‘wedge tombs’, which are narrow at one end and protrude above the ground.
‘[But] it is completely hidden, Ó Coileáin told The Times.
Wedge tombs usually face west and southwest and may represent “celestial or lunar alignments,” theorized Ó Cíobháin.
Because so much of the newly discovered tomb is underground, “it is difficult to fully assess the layout,” he said.
“It is very well built and a lot of effort has gone into the placement of the large capstone,” Ó Coileáin told the Irish Times. ‘It is not a stone that has just been found in the ground. It seems to have meaning. ‘
The National Monument Service says the grave is in “ fragile condition, ” keeping the exact location private in order to preserve the site for future investigation.
The Dingle Peninsula, known to have been inhabited for at least 6,000 years, is the site of several archaeological finds, including clochán, beehive-shaped huts built by the Celts.