ROAD workers have uncovered a row of ancient skeletal remains which are believed to date back to the 17th Century. They were found near Terryland Castle in Galway earlier this month.
The remains may be those of family members of the Earl of Clanricarde or of Cromwellian or Williamite soldiers who died in battle. Further forensic tests will now be carried out.
Jim Higgins, heritage officer with Galway City Council, said the find was hugely significant and compared it to the recent discovery of King Richard III's skeleton under a car park in Leicester, England.
"With Richard III, we had a fair idea that it was there," he said, "but with this case we have a lot more skeletons, which will give us a lot more information. It's a fantastic find.
"They (the skeletons) are in a row, it looks as if they have been buried very deliberately. There are three definite skeletons and then a scatter of bones. I'd imagine there are more to be found."
Archaeologists are now probing three possible explanations.
One is that the remains belong to British soldiers from the Williamite battle in 1691, which had recorded casualties in the area. A small skirmish between Irish forces and Cromwellian troops in 1651 is also being considered.
Another possibility is that they belong to the family of the Earl of Clanricarde.
The remains were found 75 metres from Terryland Castle, where the earl used to spend time praying in a small chapel near the castle.
Workers made the discovery two weeks ago and the archaeologist on site called in the National Museum and National Monument Service.
The remains will be examined on site next week before being removed to a laboratory for more detailed testing.
"The first thing we'll be looking for will be buckshot marks or injuries. The great fascination is always how did they die?" added Mr Higgins.