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[BKARTS] Medieval psalter found in bog


Medieval book of psalms unearthed

First millennium manuscript, open to Psalm 83, found in Irish mud 

Tuesday, July 25, 2006; Posted: 6:28 p.m. EDT (22:28 GMT) 

 DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- 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.

"This 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

"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.

"The owner of the bog has had dealings with us in past and is very much in
favor of archaeological discovery and reporting it," Wallace said.

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.

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 pages.

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