Rare historical artefacts found in clean-up at old graveyard

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      Paul Clerkin

      Rare historical artefacts found in clean-up at old graveyard

      A ROUTINE clean-up of a country graveyard has unexpectedly turned up a dozen archaeological stone artefacts dating back more than 1,000 years.

      Experts say they are astonished by the fact that the major discovery, centering on monastic sculptures, should have come to light entirely by accident rather than through planned excavation.

      The chance find includes complete crosses, several feet in height, together with the remains of much larger ones.

      All are sculptured with Christian depictions and sometimes geometric motifs.

      The find was made in the village of Nobber in Co Meath, a county rich in historical associations dating back 4,000 years. Archaeologists are excited by the discovery while local politicians envisage it as the basis for a new tourist attraction.

      The old graveyard, next to the remains of a church and monastery, was neglected and overgrown and took several years of voluntary work by local people to clear.

      Beneath the dense undergrowth they found the stone artefacts.

      Nobber is already known as the birthplace of Turlough O’Carolan, the blind harper and composer known as the last of the Irish bards.

      Various archaeological activities have been going on around the village and its surroundings but the graveyard itself was not a target for the experts.

      Archaeologist Prof George Eogan said: “I am originally from Nobber, so when local people spotted these features I was involved right away. Initially, I was sceptical and then it expanded in a big way. It’s quite astonishing to have discovered a dozen pieces of sculpture while tidying up a graveyard. They’re in pretty good condition.

      “The importance of the site is that this array of early sculpture indicates it must have been a significant place, a key place. It’s a spectacular discovery, and totally unexpected,” Prof Eogan said.

      Some of the pieces have been temporarily removed for security reasons. The question of how to put the discovery on secure display is under debate.

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