|The ancient book was
found by a construction worker, who was removing peat with a
backhoe. (AP-National Museum of Ireland)|
|By Associated Press July
|Irish archaeologists Tuesday
heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a
construction worker while driving the shovel of his backhoe
into a bog. |
The approximately 20-page book has been
dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts
expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an
Irish early medieval document in two centuries.
is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the
National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in
refrigeration. Researchers will conduct years of painstaking
analysis before putting the book on public display.
"There's two sets of odds that make this discovery
really way out," Wallace said. "First of all, it's unlikely
that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at
all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was
destroyed is incalculably more amazing."
He said an
engineer was digging up bogland last week to create commercial
potting soil somewhere in Ireland's midlands when "just beyond
the bucket of his bulldozer, he spotted something." Wallace
would not specify where the book was found because a team of
archaeologists is still exploring the site.
of the bog has had dealings with us in past and is very much
in favor of archaeological discovery and reporting it,"
Crucially, he said, the bog owner
covered up the book with damp soil. Had it been left exposed
overnight, he said, "it could have dried out and just
vanished, blown away."
The book was found open to a
page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83,
in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to
wipe out the name of Israel. [Hear Psalm 83 in
Wallace said several experts
spent Tuesday analyzing only that page -- the number of
letters on each line, lines on each page, size of page -- and
the book's binding and cover, which he described as "leather
velum, very thick wallet in appearance."
It could take
months of study, he said, just to identify the safest way to
pry open the pages without damaging or destroying them. He
ruled out the use of X-rays to investigate without moving the
Ireland already has several other holy books
from the early medieval period, including the ornately
illustrated Book of Kells, which has been on display at
Trinity College in Dublin since the 19th century.
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