Pieces of a medieval board game and 1,000-year-old combs are among rare artefacts uncovered during an archaeological dig that is set to rewrite the history books.
Experts have hailed the finds in Co Fermanagh as internationally significant, claiming they shed new light on life in medieval Ireland and its connection with the wider world.
Iron, bronze and bone ornaments have been discovered at the crannog just outside Enniskillen, along with the chess-like pieces believed to have been part of the game. Parts of log boats, leather shoes, knives, decorated dress pins, wooden vessels and a bowl with a cross carved on its base were also unearthed during the six-month dig.
The style and design of the antler and bone combs suggest influences from northern Europe and indicate that the Fermanagh settlement had international links 1,000 years ago.
The Drumclay Crannog, which is an artificial island built in a lake, is the first of its type to be excavated in the north of Ireland since 1870. Archaeologists believe people may have lived there from 600 AD to 1600 AD, and it was probably the home of a noble family, with perhaps four or five houses inhabited at any time. Parents, grandparents, children and servants would all have stayed on the crannog.
The artefacts uncovered so far date back to 900 AD but there are still a number of layers of settlement yet to be excavated.
Stormont Environment Minister Alex Attwood visited the site on Thursday and announced plans for an open day this Saturday to allow the public to tour the crannog and talk to the archaeologists.
"On my two visits to date, I have found the site, the dig, and the archaeology beyond my imagination, enormously exciting and changing my view of our history and Irish life," he said.
"This is the first substantial scientific excavation of a crannog in Northern Ireland. What has been found has the potential not only to be internationally important but ultimately to lead to a reassessment of life in Ulster in early Christian and medieval times."
The Drumclay Crannog open day will comprise a series of talks that will take place at the Fermanagh County Museum, followed by a guided tour of the archaeological site. Access to the site for this tour can only be obtained via an official coach. Booking is advisable on 028 6632 5000.