Derry dig team working in Bishop Street given more time to go back 4,000 years
The archaeological dig that uncovered 13 skeletal remains from the early 17th century in Londonderry has now revealed evidence of life in the area 4,000 years ago.
New finds from the early Bronze Age mean the area has been settled for thousands of years more than previously thought.
The first artefact discovered was a flint tool known as a scraper, which would have been used to clean and prepare animal hides.
Decorated pottery, part of a large urn possibly from a burial, has also been unearthed from what is now the earliest local archaeological evidence.
The Bishop Street dig which began three weeks ago has now been extended for a further two weeks. But once this time is up, the site – adjacent to the historic city walls and St Augustine's Church – will revert to a car park.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan was one of dozens of people who visited the site yesterday, describing the finds as fantastic.
"The archaeologists are this week now discovering evidence of the settlement created by Sir Henry Docwra in 1600, which predates the Walled City of 1613 onwards," he said.
"This dig has moved the date of the earliest occupation within the area of the Walled City back thousands of years.
"I have asked the team to stay on for another two weeks and I would like to take this opportunity to thank DRD Minister Danny Kennedy for granting the extension to this dig and his department's Roads Service for their kind co-operation in allowing us access to the dig site."
The fieldwork has already uncovered human burials from the 17th century which appear to represent just one phase of burial and may be early settlers interred close to a medieval church.
One man was a pipe smoker because there is a groove worn in his upper front teeth from clenching a pipe.
In addition to the extension the minister also announced that the dig will be open to the public on Saturday.
Mr Durkan added: "At present we are discussing the best way forward for reburial of the remains once the dig and post-excavation studies are complete."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development, which owns the car park, said: "DRD will continue to work with the various Government agencies involved and other stakeholders."
"The first find is of a flint tool known as a scraper, which would have been used to clean and prepare animal hides in the production of clothes or other goods. A piece of decorated pottery has also been recovered and it would have been part of a large urn, possibly from a burial. Both the finds date to the Early Bronze Age some 4,000 years ago."
– Environment Minister Mark H Durkan