Graverobbers have removed ancient human remains from a recently discovered burial site in the Republic of Ireland.
Yesterday, the assistant curator of Donegal County Museum made an emotional appeal for the return of the bones, which vanished from the newly discovered site at the weekend.
Caroline Carr uncovered the ancient bones, believed to be those of a child, during a site inspection of a quarry in Lunniagh, Gweedore, on Friday.
But when a team of archaeologists from the National Museum arrived at the site on Monday to begin excavation, the skeletal remains had disappeared.
"This is shocking and macabre. I cannot think of any other incident ever in Ireland where this has happened.
"These remains are of no monetary value. They are somebody's ancestors and we are appealing for their return," said an emotional Ms Carr yesterday.
The museum was alerted to the seaside quarry after the discovery of an adult skeleton in a load of sand that had originated at the quarry last week.
Although tests are ongoing, it is believed that these remains could be thousands of years old.
Days later, Ms Carr, who was investigating the quarry on behalf of the National Museum, found evidence of several archaeological sites, before noticing bone fragments in a bank of sand.
"I turned around to get my camera and the sand started shifting and bones started appearing in front of me.
"They were photographed, GPS'd, witnessed by gardai and left in situ but when a team of archaeologists arrived at the site on Monday, they had been deliberately removed," she said.
From her initial observation, Ms Carr said that the remains appeared to be those of a child or young adult.
"We want to see who they were. They could be DNA tested so we could find out if they were connected to the other skeleton, what age the person was and how they died. The bottom line is we just want them back. They are a huge part of the local heritage," she said.
She added that the site was likely to contain further skeletons.
"We are expecting more skeletons will appear. There is a number of sites in that area that had never been found before," she said.
She urged whoever had the bones to hand them into the Donegal County Museum or to a local community group.
"All we want is the bones. They are somebody's ancestor," she said.
It emerged yesterday that the quarry is situated in an area designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
Source Irish Independent