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Archaeologists uncover Iron Age wooden pagan idol in Irish bog

Archaeologists uncover Iron Age 8ft wooden statue of a pagan deity in an Irish bog near the prehistoric royal site of Rathcroghan

  • An 8-foot tall wooden sculpture created during the Iron Age has been discovered in a bog in Ireland 
  • It was found in Gortnacrannagh, 3.7 miles from the prehistoric royal site of Rathcroghan in County Roscommon
  • Experts found it while excavating the site prior to a road construction project
  • The statue was made from a split oak tree and has a ‘small human-shaped head’ at one end and horizontal notches along the body 
  • Experts also uncovered animal bones and a ritual dagger at the site  

An eight-foot tall, wooden sculpture that was created during the Iron Age some 1,600 years ago has been discovered in a bog in Ireland, officials said.

The pagan idol was found in Gortnacrannagh, Ireland six kilometers (3.7mi) from the prehistoric royal site of Rathcroghan, Roscommon County Council said in a Facebook post.

An 8-foot tall wooden sculpture created during the Iron Age has been discovered in a bog in Ireland

It was discovered by researchers at the Archaeological Management Solutions (AMS) who were excavating the site prior to a road construction project.

The statue was made from a split oak tree and has a ‘small human-shaped head’ at one end, with horizontal notches going along the body.

The statue was made from a split oak tree and has a 'small human-shaped head' at one end and horizontal notches along the body. Experts also uncovered animal bones and a ritual dagger at the site

The statue was made from a split oak tree and has a ‘small human-shaped head’ at one end and horizontal notches along the body. Experts also uncovered animal bones and a ritual dagger at the site 

Experts found it while excavating the site prior to a road construction project

Experts found it while excavating the site prior to a road construction project

‘The Gortnacrannagh Idol was carved just over 100 years before St Patrick came to Ireland; it is likely to be the image of a pagan deity,’ AMS archaeologist Dr Eve Campbell, who directed the excavation, said in the post.

‘Our ancestors saw wetlands as mystical places where they could connect with their gods and the Otherworld.’ 

In addition to the wooden sculpture, animal bones and a ritual dagger were discovered at the site.

This ‘suggests that animal sacrifice was carried out at the site and the idol is likely to have been part of these ceremonies,’ Dr Campbell added.

The statue was discovered at a bog less than four miles from Rathcroghan, where several other Iron Age structures have ben found, including a cave that was believed to be the gateway to the Otherworld, according to Smithsonian Magazine. 

The area is also believed to be the palace of the warrior Queen Medb, who according to legend, ruled the majority of Ireland. 

It was found in Gortnacrannagh, Ireland, 3.7 miles from the prehistoric royal site of Rathcroghan

It was found in Gortnacrannagh, Ireland, 3.7 miles from the prehistoric royal site of Rathcroghan

Eleven similar idols have been found in Ireland, but this one is the largest found to date.

‘The lower ends of several figures were also worked to a point suggesting that they may once have stood upright,’ wood specialist Cathy Moore added in the statement.

‘Their meaning is open to interpretation, but they may have marked special places in the landscape, have represented particular individuals or deities or perhaps have functioned as wooden bog bodies, sacrificed in lieu of humans.’

The statue is currently at the University College Dublin where it is being preserved in a three-year process.

Once the preservation process is finished, it will be displayed at the National Museum of Ireland.

A replica will be displayed at the Rathcroghan Centre in Tulsk, Co Roscommon. 

Wooden artifacts are routinely unearthed in bogs – including a wooden statue found in 2018 in Russia – due to the wet conditions allowing for the preservation of the ancient wood.

Other objects in recent memory, have been discovered in bogs, including a 2,000 year-old leather shoe. 

The famous Tollund Man, a naturally mummified corpse, was found in a bog on the Jutland peninsula in Denmark in 1950. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk