The book had been lost, or perhaps placed, in the bog over a millennia ago and represented the first book of this age ever to be found preserved in such a context anywhere in the world. Since the discovery the book, now named the Faddan More Psalter, has been conserved by the National Museum of Ireland and will go on display in the museum in 2011.
While the book is, on its own, one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries in Europe in the last decade, it held one more spectacular secret. In the final stages of its conservation fragments of papyrus, a type of reed paper probably originating in Egypt, were found in its leather binding. Speculation about the connections between early Irish traditions of ascetic monasticism and those of the Coptic Church in Egypt has been around for many years and this discovery adds solid evidence for contact between the two regions in the eight century.
TREASURE FROM THE BOG
Tuesday September 7th at 10:15pm on RTÉ One
On July 20th 2006, a remarkable archaeological find was uncovered in a remote bog at Faddan More, in north Tipperary, close to the town of Birr. Local man Eddie Fogarty was cutting peat with a mechanical digger when he spotted something unusual that looked “like some sort of book”. It would be heralded by Dr. Pat Wallace, Director of Ireland’s National Museum as “the most important day in the history of the Museum since 1868 when the Ardagh Chalice came in.”
The find - which has become known as the Faddan More Psalter - was a fragmented illuminated vellum manuscript encased in an unusual leather binding, a book of psalms dating back to the late Eighth century. This unprecedented find, the first manuscript to be found in a water-logged state in a bog, posed unique and profound difficulties for the Conservation Department at the National Museum.
At the time, Dr. Wallace went on to comment that “it is not so much the fragments themselves, but what they represent, that is of such staggering importance. In my wildest hopes, I could only have dreamed of a discovery as fragile and rare as this. It testifies to the incredible richness of the Early Christian civilisation of this island and to the greatness of ancient Ireland.”
Over the last four years, Crossing The Line Films has had exclusive access to the National Museum’s team as they embarked upon this dramatic and pain-staking journey of recovery and discovery. The documentary follows leading Irish book conservator John Gillis as he set about preserving and conserving this unique find.
As the process reached its conclusion, fragments of papyrus were dramatically discovered in the lining of the Egyptian-style leather binding. This potentially represents the first tangible connection between early Irish Christianity and the Middle Eastern Coptic Church. It is a finding that asks many questions and has confounded some of the accepted theories about the history of early Christianity in Ireland.
The documentary also travels across Europe and to the deserts of Egypt as they tried to uncover the story behind this perplexing and mysterious discovery.
The Fadden More Psalter will go on display in the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Kildare Street in June 2011.
For more information please contact:
RTE – Sinead Harrington, RTÉ TV Press and Publicity Office, 01-208-2787 087-6669311, firstname.lastname@example.org