Jan Bartek - AncientPages.com - Archaeologists in Ireland have retrieved a curious 1,600-year-old wooden Pagan idol from a bog in Gortnacrannagh, a few kilometers northeast of the prehistoric royal site of Rathcroghan.
The Iron Age idol was made from a split trunk of an Oak tree. It is unknown in whose image the idol was created but a small human-shaped head at one end and several horizontal notches carved along its body are still visible.
Gortnacrannagh Idol was made during the Iron Age from a split trunk of an oak tree, with a small human-shaped head at one end and several horizontal notches carved along its body. Credit: Archaeological Management Solutions (AMS)
“Only a dozen such idols have been found in Ireland and at more than two and a half meters, the Gortnacrannagh Idol is the largest to date,” the Irish Examiner reports.
“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,” archaeological Management Solutions (AMS) archaeologist Dr Eve Campbell, who directed the excavation of the site, said.
“The Gortnacrannagh Idol is currently in University College Dublin, where conservator Susannah Kelly is undertaking a three-year process to preserve the ancient object. Once conserved, the idol will be given into the care of the National Museum of Ireland,” TheJournal.ie reports.
“The lower ends of several figures were also worked to a point suggesting that they may once have stood upright, wood specialist. 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,” Cathy Moore explained.
Though the Gortnacrannagh Idol is considered a rare archaeological discovery in Ireland, it is still common to find similar wood idols in other parts of Europe.
One of the most famous wooden Pagan idols is the Shigir Idol, which was found in the Ural Mountains in 1890. The Shigir Idol is thought to be 11,000 years old - making it the oldest wooden sculpture in the world.
The Shigir Idol. Credit: Vyacheslav Bukharov - CC BY-SA 4.0
Depicting a man with mysterious symbols inscribed on him - which scientists believe could be an ancient, encrypted code - the statue is 1,500 years older than previously thought.
It would seem people continued to create wooden statues made in the image of Pagan gods for thousands of years.
Scientists think the Irish Gortnacrannagh Idol played an important role in Pagan ceremonies.
Wood Specialist, Cathy Moore inspecting the Gortnacrannagh Idol. Only a dozen such idols have been found in Ireland and at more than two and a half meters, the Gortnacrannagh Idol is the largest to date. Credit: The Irish Examiner
“The discovery of animal bone alongside a ritual dagger suggests that animal sacrifice was carried out at the site and the idol is likely to have been part of these ceremonies, Dr. Eve Campbell said.
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Because the unearthed Gortnacrannagh Idol is so unique and significant find, scientists have decided to make a replica to help us understand the idol better and appreciate how it was made. It will be possible for people to see this in action at the Craggaunowen Archaeology Park in Co Clare during the last weekend of August.”
The replica idol will be made by AMS staff in collaboration with members of the UCC Pallasboy Project and the UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture.
Written by Jan Bartek - AncientPages.com Staff Writer