Hurricane Ophelia Unearthed an Ancient Skeleton in Ireland

Jim Campbell Photography
Jim Campbell Photography

In the wake of Hurricane Ophelia, pedestrians strolling along the storm-battered coast in County Wexford, Ireland, stumbled across a rare find: an ancient skeleton with intact teeth and skin parts, which may date back to the country's Iron Age (between 500 BCE and 400 CE).

As the Irish Mirror reports, the remains were buried on the shore in Kilmore Quay, a tiny coastal fishing village, and unearthed by wind and pounding waves. Locals discovered the bones on Tuesday, October 17, shortly after Ophelia—the strongest eastern Atlantic hurricane on record—passed over Ireland.

Photographer Jim Campbell arrived on scene the day after the skeleton was found. He managed to capture a few pictures of the bones.

"I got a call from one of my contacts about a body found in Kilmore Quay early on Wednesday morning," Campbell tells Mental Floss. "At first I thought it was a person lost during Hurricane Ophelia, but on arrival I was told that it was an ancient skeleton."

"It was later in the afternoon when the archaeologist was almost finished her examination that I was allowed to take my photographs," he adds. "I was literally given two minutes, as the skeleton had to be taken to Dublin."

skeleton in ireland unearthed by hurricane ophelia
A closer look at the skeleton.
Jim Campbell Photography

The skull and intact teeth of an ancient skeleton unearthed in Ireland by Hurricane Ophelia.
The skeleton's skull and intact teeth.
Jim Campbell Photography

Estimates peg the skeleton—which was found in a coastal area evocatively called Forlorn Point—as being between 1500 and 2500 years old, according to The Irish Post. Forensic pathologists and anthropologists were called to examine the bones, which are now in the custody of the National Museum of Ireland.

Maeve Sikora, the National Museum's keeper of Irish antiquities, tells Mental Floss that they plan to conduct further research on the skeleton, which was "found buried in an extended, supine position with the head to the southwest," she says. "There may have been a cist structure [a small coffin or burial box] enclosing it, but this was very damaged by the storms, which exposed the skeleton in the first place."

Locals say they weren't aware of a burial ground near Forlorn Point, and are now curious if even more human remains lay beneath the soil. Just two years ago, another old skeleton was discovered in a nearby bay, they point out.

"Kilmore Quay has always been hit with various storms and high winds," Campbell adds—so if an ancient burial ground does indeed exist, there's a good chance that nature will lend a helping hand in its excavation.

[h/t The Independent]

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Explore Two of Pompeii’s Excavated Homes in This Virtual Tour

A photo of the Pompeii ruins from November 2019.
A photo of the Pompeii ruins from November 2019.
Ivan Romano/Getty Images

It’s been nearly 2000 years since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius decimated Pompeii in 79 C.E., and archaeologists are still uncovering secrets about life in the ancient Roman city. As Smithsonian reports, they’ve recently excavated two homes in Regio V, a 54-acre area just north of the Pompeii Archaeological Park—and you can see the findings for yourself in a virtual tour published by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

The 7.5-minute video comprises drone footage of the houses and surrounding ruins, along with commentary by park director Massimo Osanna that explains what exactly you’re looking at and what types of people once lived there. Osanna’s commentary is in Italian, but you can read the English translation here.

The homes, both modest private residences that probably housed middle-class families, border the Vicolo dei Balconi, or “Alley of the Balconies.” The first is fittingly named “House With the Garden” because excavators discovered that one of its larger rooms was, in fact, a garden. Excavators pinpointed the outlines of flowerbeds and even made casts of plant roots, which paleobotanists will use to try to identify what grew there. In addition to the garden and vibrant paintings that feature classic ancient deities like Venus, Adonis, and Hercules, “House With the Garden” also preserved the remains of its occupants: 11 victims, mostly women and children, who likely took shelter within the home while the men searched for a means of escape.

Across the street is “House of Orion,” named for two mosaics that depict the story of Orion, a huntsman in Greek mythology whom the gods transformed into the constellation that bears his name today.

“The owner of the house must have been greatly attracted to this myth, considering it features in two different rooms in which two different scenes of the myth are depicted,” Osanna says. “It is a small house which has proved to be an extraordinary treasure chest of art."

To see what Pompeian houses would’ve looked like before Mount Vesuvius had its fiery fit, check out this 3D reconstruction.

[h/t Smithsonian]