- LAMBAY ISLAND, CO. DUBLIN, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: LAMBAY ISLAND, CO. DUBLIN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR DU009-001009 Licence number: E1061

Author: RAGHNALL Ă“ FLOINN

Site type: Late medieval graves, c. AD 1200–1600, and post-medieval graves, AD 1600–1800

ITM: E 730633m, N 750830m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.491242, -6.031365

Introduction
In August 1989 human remains were found exposed in the face of the shoreline on a raised beach at Lambay Island, Co. Dublin. Lord Revelstoke, the landowner, reported the discovery, and sent the remains to the NMI. The bones were found approximately 0.3m below ground level and the remains of the lower limbs of the extended burials were still visible in the section, aligned northwest/south-east. No investigation took place at that time. A second discovery of an inhumation was made in 1991. This burial was located c. 300m north-east of the 1989 burials. As this was in danger of being eroded, it was excavated in July of that year by Raghnall Ó Floinn, assisted by Stella Cherry. This burial was initially thought to be a crouched inhumation but upon excavation was found to be extended. This report is based on Ó Floinn’s account of the site. All of the human remains found on Lambay have been analysed by Laureen Buckley.

Location (Fig. 5.2)
The site was in the townland of Lambay Island, off the coast of County Dublin.6 It was situated on the western side of the island, close to the White House, south of the harbour and below the 15m contour.


Fig. 5.2—Location map, Lambay Island, Co. Dublin.

Description of site
Excavation revealed an articulated extended burial of a young adult male (1991:37) in a supine position, lying south-east/north-west with the head to the north-west. The grave appears to have been unlined (Fig. 5.3). The upper torso, top ends of the arm bones and the skull were missing. The lumbar and four of the thoracic vertebrae were in situ. The body did not lie quite straight but was twisted slightly to the right above the waist. The right elbow was bent at right angles, with the hand resting on the second and third lumbar vertebrae—the finger bones being found beside and underneath the spine. The left arm lay parallel to the trunk. The fist was clenched with the thumb extended. Of the nine vertebrae, only the bottom three were intact; the upper surface of the rest had decayed. The ribs of the right side were well preserved; the rib of the second lumbar vertebra overlay the end of the right radius. The arch of the left pelvis was damaged. All the bones of the lower limbs were intact; the feet were together, with the left foot lying over the right—the metatarsals and phalanges of the left foot overlying those of the right (Pl. 98). The metatarsals and phalanges of both feet were bent upwards, i.e. the foot bones had not fallen forwards, as is often the case.

In the area of the lower stomach a large piece of mortar and many snail shells were found, and some pieces of a coal-like substance were also noted. Some pieces of struck and pebble flint (Fig. 5.4) occurred throughout the soil above and around the burial.The overall length of the remains was 1.48m.7

Comment
A sample of the bone was submitted for radiocarbon dating and yielded a date of 310±40 BP,


Fig. 5.3—Plan and section of grave, Lambay Island, Co. Dublin.


Fig. 5.4—Flints, Lambay Island, Co. Dublin.

which corresponds to the period 1470–1665.8 The discovery of other disarticulated human bone at this site indicates that it was probably a cemetery.

HUMAN REMAINS
LAUREEN BUCKLEY

This report deals with all human remains collected from Lambay Island, including the remains collected in 1989 (1991:34–36). The burial excavated by Ó Floinn is registered as 1991:37. All other human remains reported on here were disarticulated.

Skeleton 1991:34: young adult, male
This consisted of a skull and cervical vertebrae only. It was mainly the back of the skull that survived, with most of the squamous occipital, most of the left parietal and the posterior half of the right parietal bone present. Both temporal bones were almost complete but there were only small fragments of the left side of the frontal bone, sphenoid and zygomatic bones present. The maxilla and mandible were present but were incomplete. The upper four cervical vertebrae were complete and the right side of the neural arch of the fifth cervical vertebra was also present.

Age and sex
The mastoid process and the roots of the zygomatic arches were of the male type, so this individual was probably a male. The epiphyses at the vertebral bodies were not fused and the basio-sphenoidal symphysis was unfused, so he was probably a young adult. The third molars were not erupted so it is probable that he was under 21 years at the time of death.

Skeletal pathology
There was a depressed fracture on the right side of the parietal bone just at the lambdoid suture, about 4cm to the right of the sagittal suture. The outer bone of the skull was slightly depressed, with some cracking of the cortex around it. On the internal surface there was a slight degree of evulsion of the bone and some of the inner table was missing. There was also a slight degree of cracking of the inner table near lambda. The lesion was 1.7cm in diameter and must have occurred as a result of a blow from a blunt instrument. The blow would certainly have caused unconsciousness but, although the lack of healing suggests that it occurred around the time of death, since the rest of the skeleton is not present it cannot be said with certainty that this was the cause of death.

Dentition

Dental development: the crowns of the lower third molars were present in the mandible and were just erupting. The upper third molars were almost erupted.

Abrasion: there was a slight chip out of the buccal surface of the enamel of the upper right canine, 13, that had occurred during life.

Attrition: there was a slight degree of attrition on the upper incisors and canines, with slightly heavier wear on the lower incisors and canines. There was a slight degree of polishing of the upper premolars and first molars and no wear on the other teeth.

Calculus: there were slight deposits on the buccal and lingual surfaces of the upper left premolars and first and second molars, the mesial surfaces of the upper right premolars and the buccal surfaces of the right first and second molars. In the mandible, deposits were light on the lingual surfaces of the canines, premolars and first and second molars, apart from the left first molar and right first premolar, where deposits were considerable, and the canines, which had moderate deposits.

Hypoplasia: linear enamel hypoplasia was present on the enamel of all the incisors and canines, the upper premolars, the lower right first premolar and lower left first molar. The individual had suffered nutritional stress or acute illness continuously during early childhood.

1991:35
This consisted of disarticulated bone collected from the beach and contained a minimum of three individuals: at least one young adult, one adolescent and one older juvenile. There may, however, have been another adult present.

Skeleton 1: young adult
This consisted of the upper half of an individual only. The skull fragments were mixed up and are described separately below, but there were seven cervical vertebrae and one lumbar vertebra that definitely belonged to this individual. The ten thoracic vertebrae that were present could have belonged to this skeleton or to skeleton 2. There were six left and six right ribs but again these could have belonged to skeleton 2. The left and the right scapulae were present and almost complete, the left clavicle was complete, and the lateral half and medial third of the right clavicle were also present. Both humeri were complete and the proximal two-thirds of the left radius and ulna were also present. An almost complete left third metacarpal and the shaft of one other metacarpal was present but again these may belong to skeleton 2.

Epiphyseal fusion
The epiphyses at the heads of the humeri were just fused and the epiphyseal line was still clearly visible. The medial epiphysis of the clavicle was unfused. The epiphyses of the body of the vertebrae were unfused. Age: 16–20 years.

Skeletal pathology
Schmorl’s nodes were visible on the superior surfaces of the lower four thoracic vertebrae and the lumbar vertebra.

Skeleton 2: adolescent
This also consisted of bones from the upper half of a skeleton only. A fragmented first cervical vertebra, complete second cervical and five lower cervical vertebrae were present from the vertebral column. The left scapula was almost complete and the medial half of the left clavicle was present. There was also part of the lateral end of the right clavicle. The distal two-thirds of the left humerus was present and the right humerus was almost complete apart from the distal end, which was missing. The left ulna was missing its distal end and the distal two-thirds of the left radius was also present. Part of the right ischium was present and it appeared to be unfused to the acetabulum.

Epiphyseal fusion
The epiphyses at the glenoid fossa of the scapula were partially fused but the coracoid process and acromion were unfused. The medial epiphysis of the clavicle was unfused. Only the medial epicondyle was unfused at the distal humerus, and the epiphysis at the proximal humerus was also unfused. The epiphyses at the proximal ulna and the distal radius were unfused. The individual was probably aged 14–16 years.

Skeleton 3
This consisted of the proximal end of a left humerus and part of a shaft from an adult humerus. These fragments may be from the same bone. The proximal epiphysis was fused but there was no indication of degenerative joint disease.

Two cervical vertebrae with unfused epiphyses were also present.

1991:35, skull fragments
There were a number of skull fragments, including fragments from at least one left side of a frontal bone and two right sides of frontal bone. One left orbit and two right orbits were also present, with the left and one of the right orbits from the same individual. There was at least one left parietal, one right parietal and one squamous occipital bone present. Two basilar occipital bones were present and there was one left temporal and two right temporal bones. There was also one left and two right greater wings of sphenoid, two left and two right zygomatic bones, one right nasal bone and two left and two right sides of maxillae. Fragments from a left and a right side of a mandible were present. The skulls were totally fragmented but it seems apparent that there were two skulls present. One of the basilar occipital bones was fused to the sphenoid bone and one was not. Therefore it seems clear that at least one adult was present.

Maxilla 1

Attrition: there was moderate wear on the right first molar and slight wear on the right second molar. The premolars only had some enamel polishing and there was no wear on the left second molar.

Calculus: mild deposits were present on the buccal surface of the right first molar only.

Caries: there was a small cavity on the mesial/occlusal edge of the right first molar, 16.

Abscess: there appeared to be an abscess beginning to form on the lingual root of 26. The socket was enlarged and there seemed to be a slight degree of periostitis on the internal surface of the maxilla. The abscess extended into the mesial root socket of the adjacent second molar, 27. There was also a large external abscess on the right side of the maxilla at the root of the second premolar, 15.

Periodontal disease: there was a slight degree of alveolar recession around the roots of theright molars.

Hypoplasia: linear enamel hypoplasia was noted on the upper right first premolar.

Maxilla 2

Attrition: there was no wear on any teeth except the first molars, where attrition was moderate.

Calculus: there were light deposits on the lingual surfaces of all the teeth on the right side of the maxilla. Deposits were also light on the buccal surfaces of the right first premolar and third molar and the left first and second molars. There were moderate deposits on the buccal surfaces of the right first and second molars and the lingual surface of the left second molar.

Hypoplasia: linear enamel hypoplasia was noted on the upper left second premolar.

Mandible 1

Attrition: there was no wear on any teeth except the first molar, where attrition was light.

Calculus: deposits were moderate on the lingual and buccal surfaces of the canine and first premolar and the first molar. There were light deposits on the buccal surface of the second Molar.

1991:36
This sample consisted of skull fragments only. They were exposed on the back section near the excavated inhumation.

Skull 1
This skull consisted of most of the left and right sides of the squamous part of the frontal bone, most of both parietal bones and a small fragment of the left side of the occipital bone. Also present were a left temporal bone and a complete mandible, although these may not necessarily belong to this skull.

Age and sex
No orbits or supraorbital ridges were present so it was not possible to estimate the sex of this individual. The sutures were very open and therefore it may have been a young adult.

Pathology
There was a slight distortion of the frontal bone, with the crista frontalis deviated sharply to the right side.

Skull 2
This consisted of most of the right parietal bone, the anterior part and fragments from the posterior part of the left parietal bone and the superior part of the squamous frontal bone. The skull appeared to be from an adult but was very decayed.

Skull 3
This consisted of most of the right parietal bone, including the posterior part and the most lateral part around the squamous suture. Part of the coronal suture was visible and there was a small fragment of the right side of the frontal bone near this suture. One fragment of left parietal bone was also present. Fragments from three mandibles were present.

Mandible 1
This mandible was complete and in good condition. It appeared to be from a male individual.

Dentition

Attrition: there was moderate wear on the incisors, canines and first molars and light wear on the other teeth.

Calculus: there were light deposits on the buccal surface of the left canine and moderate deposits on the buccal surfaces of the left first molar. The lingual surface of the left first molar and buccal, lingual and distal surfaces of the left second molar had considerable deposits of calculus.

Caries: there was a small cavity on the distal/lingual quadrant of the right second molar and a moderate cavity on the distal/lingual quadrant of the adjacent first molar.

Periodontal disease: there was a slight degree of alveolar recession around the roots of the left molars.

Hypoplasia: linear enamel hypoplasia was present on the canines, left lateral incisor and right first premolar.

Mandible 2
This consisted of the right side of the bone only, although the ramus was missing. The third molar was present in the jaw but was not erupted. The individual was probably aged 15–18 years.

Dentition

Attrition: there was a slight amount of wear on the incisors and first molar and no wear on the other teeth.

Calculus: there were light deposits on the buccal surfaces of all teeth and on the lingual surfaces of the molars.

Hypoplasia: linear enamel hypoplasia was present on the lateral incisor, canine, first premolar and second molar.

Mandible 3
This consisted of most of the left side of the mandible, with part of the anterior part also. It appeared to be from a male individual.

Dentition

Attrition: there was moderate wear on the first and second molars and light wear on the other teeth.

Calculus: deposits were light on the buccal surface of the third molar only.

1991:37: young adult, male, 176cm
This was the skeleton excavated by Raghnall Ă“ Floinn. It was lying in a supine extended position, aligned north-west/south-east, and was complete from the shoulder down. The bone was in an excellent state of preservation. The skull, all the cervical and upper two thoracic vertebrae were missing. The middle thoracic vertebrae were complete but only the neural arches of the lower thoracic and first two lumbar vertebrae were present. The lower three lumbar vertebrae were complete. Ten ribs from the left side and nine from the right survived. Part of the manubrium and most of the body of the sternum were also present.

The right scapula was virtually complete but only the lateral border remained from the left scapula. Only the medial third of the right clavicle was present and the left clavicle was missing. All the arm bones were present and complete. All the carpals, metacarpals and phalanges except for one distal phalanx remained from the left hand, but only the right scaphoid, lunate, triquetral and trapezoid remained from the right hand.

A small part near the rim was missing from the left ilium, but the right ilium and both ischia and pubes from the pelvis were complete, and the sacrum was also complete. All the leg bones were complete and all the tarsal and metatarsal bones from the feet were complete. There were five proximal phalanges from each foot, three middle phalanges from the left foot and two from the right, and three left distal and one right distal phalanges. Four sesamoid bones were also present.

Age and sex
The sciatic notch was wide but all the features of the pubic bones, ventral arc, sub-pubic concavity, sub-pubic angle and ischiopubic ridge were of the male type. The diameters of the heads of the femurs and humeri and the femoral bicondylar width were also within the male range. The epiphyseal line was still clearly visible at the proximal humerus and the distal radius and ulna as well as the iliac crest. The body of the first sacral vertebra was not fused to the second sacral vertebra and the second sacral vertebra was not completely fused to the third sacral vertebra. Epiphyses for the centra are unfused in the thoracic region but just fused in the lumbar vertebrae. Some of the epiphyses for the heads of the ribs were unfused. From the state of epiphyseal fusion it can be said that this is a young adult aged 17–25 years but probably between 20 and 25 years. Stature was estimated using the lengths of the femur and fibula.

Skeletal pathology
There were facets for lumbar ribs on the first lumbar vertebra. These can cause discomfort in the lower back area and are usually more common in females than males. There was some slight degeneration of some posterior joints of the vertebral column, with mild lipping on the superior articular surfaces of the second lumbar and on all the articular surfaces of the fourth lumbar vertebrae. It is usual but not unknown for joint disease to be present in the spines of relatively young individuals. There was an erosive lesion on the inferior surface of the fourth lumbar vertebral body near the posterior margin. It appears to be a Schmorl’s node that has forced into the neural cavity. Part of the posterior face of the centrum looks like it has burst open. This must have been caused by severe stress on the spine during adolescence and is likely to have caused severe pain

1991:38
This sample came from the fill above skeleton 1991:37 but is not associated with it. One lumbar vertebra body with Schmorl’s nodes on the inferior and superior surfaces was present, as well as an incomplete body from a twelfth thoracic vertebra also with Schmorl’s nodes on the inferior and superior surfaces. The fragmented proximal end of a radius was also present.

Summary and conclusions
Although only one skeleton was excavated, the remains of several others were collected from the beach and from the exposed section of the excavation. It is probable that one of the skulls collected belongs to the excavated skeleton. In order to determine the minimum number of individuals present, it is best to summarise the number of bones found.

Summary of bones found on Lambay Island
● 1991:34—Skull and cervical vertebrae, young adult male, complete dentition.
● 1991:35—Upper half of a young adult, no skull; upper half of an adolescent, no skull; left arm from an adult; one adult skull, complete maxilla; complete maxilla from a young adult; partial skull possibly from young adult/adolescent; left side of mandible, ?young adult/adolescent.
● 1991:36—Skull, possibly young adult; adult skull; adult skull; one complete male mandible, possible match for maxilla 1 in 1991:35; right side of mandible from adolescent; left side of mandible from adult male.
● 1991:37—Excavated skeleton, skull and neck vertebrae missing. It is possible that skull 1991:34 belongs to this skeleton.

In total, therefore, based on the number of skulls, six individuals are present: the complete young adult male, an unsexed young adult, three adults, two of which are probably male, and one adolescent.
The most interesting skeletons were excavated skeleton 1991:37 and skull 1991:34. The skull belong to a young adult male who had probably died as a result of a blow to the back of the head that caused a depressed skull fracture.

Individual 1991:37 had suffered from nutritional deficiency and acute illness continuously throughout childhood. He had also taken on some heavy manual labour during childhood or adolescence that had caused a herniation of an intervertebral disc, pushing some of the vertebral body into the spinal canal. This probably caused a great deal of pain, since bone was pressing on the spinal cord. Even without this injury he would have suffered discomfort in the lower back as he had a pair of lumbar ribs. It is normally only the thoracic vertebrae that have ribs. Any additional bone or growth in the body can cause pain as it can press on a nerve. There were other vertebrae found from other skeletons with evidence of Schmorl’s nodes. One of the adult skeletons had cavities and abscesses on his teeth but most teeth were in good condition with little wear or calculus deposits, although most individuals showed evidence of childhood illness.

6. Parish of Portraine, barony of Nethercross. SMR DU009-001009-. IGR 330710 250807.
7. The length of the femora was 45cm; the length of the fibulae 38cm; the length of the radii 24cm; the length of ulnae 26cm.
8. GrA-24349.