Historic human remains to be identified in Limerick

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Some of remains found by council workers in Nicholas Street in the city last week are expected to be identified in terms of their age this week. Picture Liam Burke/Press 22
HUMAN remains discovered during construction work on Nicholas Street last week will be officially examined by archaelogists this week, after permission is granted from the State.

HUMAN remains discovered during construction work on Nicholas Street last week will be officially examined by archaelogists this week, after permission is granted from the State.

The remains, including three skulls and various other body parts, are believed to date back to the 13th century.

They were found by council workers who were clearing a site by the historic Widow Alms houses to allow for a new access route from the walkway along the river up to the redeveloped King John’s Castle.

Mary Hayes, administrative officer with Limerick City Council, said it was anticipated before the works commenced that something of significance could be discovered given the history of the area, and as a graveyard was also in existence here some centuries ago.

“The archaeologist anticipates that they should have permission from the State this Tuesday, and works [on site] could resume hopefully later in the week. They should be able to officially confirm this week what period they date from,” she told the Limerick Chronicle.

Aegis Archaeology, a private company based on Nicholas Street, had been supervising the dig, in case any historical finds were discovered. Linda Lynch, a freelance osteo-archaeologist from Glin, Co Limerick, who specialises in examining human bones, was drafted in to help determine the age of the remains.

“There is a medieval church on maps in the area dating back to the 13th century and it’s thought there was a graveyard attached. We’ll have to radio carbon test the bones to try and get an age on them,” Ms Lynch explained.

“The human bones were discovered in a disarticulated state and there were a lot of butchered animal bones too. We found leg bones, arm bones, which have been disturbed through the years.”

The archeological team on site contacted the Gardai, National Museum of Ireland, and the National Monument Service as per protocol.

The bones were discovered adjacent to the front doors of the former Widow Alms Houses built for impoverished widows in 1691. The dwellings were originally built to house the widows of soldiers from the nearby King John’s Castle and renovated by the city council in 1993.

The removal of the wall had caused controversy amongst locals, who believed that an important part of local heritage had been destroyed without any consultation. However the National Monument section in the Department of the Environment advised that it was not the original wall, and was reassembled at a much later stage, possibly in the 1970s.