'Prehistoric' antler hammerhead and human skeleton unearthed in Burren


A leading archaeologist has described the discovery of what is a likely “prehistoric” antler hammerhead at a Burren cave as hugely exciting.

Dr Marion Dowd of IT Sligo said a 10-day excavation at a small cave on Moneen Mountain outside Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, also produced the “poignant” discovery of a skeleton of a teenager thought to have sought shelter in the cave.

Carbon dating found the skeletal bones date from the 16th or 17th century.

The skull of the skeleton and the antler hammerhead were discovered by cavers last June, prompting the National Museum Service to fund the excavation led by Dr Dowd last August.

She presented the results last night in the Burren village of Tubber at a Burrenbeo talk and said the cave was used in the Bronze Age or 3,000 years ago and again at the end of the medieval period.

Dr Dowd said “the discovery of the fabulous antler hammerhead is hugely exciting. I can’t find any other parallels in Irish archaeology.”

The antler came from a red deer stag aged over 6½ years old. She said the hammerhead “is likely to be prehistoric” but tests have yet to be completed to confirm the date.

Dr Dowd said DNA tests are required to determine the sex of the teenager. “The bones show . . . the skeleton is somewhere between 350 and 500 years old.”