Unveiling fresh insights into the ancient Irish people's lifeways and burial practices, a study led by Dr. Jonny Geber from the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago, New Zealand, sheds light on a 5000-year-old Passage Tomb Complex at Carrowkeel in County Sligo. Published in Bioarchaeology International, this project applies modern techniques to human remains excavated over a century ago.
The Carrowkeel site, despite being one of Europe's most remarkable Neolithic ritual landscapes, remains relatively obscure. Dr. Geber and his team analyzed bones from seven passage tombs, revealing both unburnt and cremated human remains from around 40 individuals. The findings, highlighting evidence of dismemberment in unburnt bones, add layers of complexity to our understanding of Stone Age burial practices.
“We found indications of cut marks caused by stone tools at the site of tendon and ligament attachments around the major joints,” explains Dr. Geber. The evidence suggests a sophisticated burial rite involving the “deconstruction” of the body, where the dead were processed through methods like cremation and dismemberment. This ritualistic approach aimed to guide the souls of the deceased to the next phases of existence.
The study underscores Carrowkeel's significance as a pivotal site in Neolithic Irish society, fostering interaction and spiritual connections with ancestors. Dr. Geber suggests that Neolithic Irish communities might have shared beliefs and ideologies regarding the treatment of the dead with neighboring regions beyond the Irish Sea, highlighting the cultural interconnectedness of ancient societies.
Source: University of Otago