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The remains found preserved in the bogland PSNI
bog standard

Bog body discovered in Derry believed to be over 2,000 years old

The individual was possibly a male aged between 13 and 17 years old when he died.

REMAINS OF A body from over 2,000 years ago have been discovered in a bog in Bellaghy, Co Derry.

An excavation has determined that the partially-preserved body was likely of a male aged between 13 and 17. 

The investigation first uncovered a tibia and fibula and a humerus, as well as an ulna and radius bone of a lower left leg and right arm respectively.

Further excavation revealed more bones in the area belonging to the same individual, including a lower left arm and a left femur, which were protruding from the ground.

Finger bones and fingernails were also found.

The PSNI said that a post mortem was carried out by a forensic anthropologist, determining that the individual was possibly a male who died in his teens.

Whilst little is known so far about his cause of death, unlike some other ‘bog bodies’ the individual’s skeleton was well preserved and also had the presence of partial skin, toenails and possibly a kidney.

For the first time in Northern Ireland, radiocarbon dating was used to estimate how long the body was there for.

It is believed that the time of death was between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago, or around 500BC.

Image 1 - excavation Excavators in Bellaghy

Dr Alastair Ruffell of Queen’s University, Belfast said: “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.

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

The remains were discovered on land owned by the Forest Service.

John Joe O’Boyle, its chief executive, remarked on Seamus Heaney’s work about bog bodies, saying the writer likely never would have expected such a discovery on his doorstep.

“It certainly adds an important chapter to the historical and cultural significance of this hinterland and archaeological discoveries of bog bodies across Europe,” O’Boyle said.

This excavation is one of many investigations carried out by the dedicated Body Recovery Team within the PSNI.

The dedicated unit is led by an officer experienced in field archaeology, and staffed with officers trained in the fundamental skills of forensic archaeology and bone identification.

The PSNI said that the National Museums of Northern Ireland, as the organisation with statutory responsibilities for acquiring and preserving archaeological finds from the past, has been engaged to ensure the proper care of the remains.

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