A fascinating piece of history was unveiled at the Irish National Heritage Park last week - a 4,000 year old, fossilised tree that was recovered from a Kerry bog over 30 years ago.
The Witness Tree, a Scots Pine, was discovered in 1986 by the late Michael Carroll, who found it while searching for bog oak to indulge his interests in 'found art'. Realising that this was a significant find, Mr Carroll sent a sample of the log to the US where radiocarbon dating revealed its astonishing age.
At the ceremony in the park, which was attended by Mr Carroll's son and daughter, David Carroll and Elizabeth (Quigley), Maura Bell of the Heritage Park welcomed everyone and expressed her delight that the tree was the first new exhibit to be unveiled at the park this year. The tree is situated in the Bronze Age section of the park.
David Carroll recounted his childhood and the events surrounding the discovery and recovery of the tree, saying that it was one thing that the whole family remembered.
He explained that the tree had been found in a bog, there was no access to cranes so, instead, eight men were enlisted to help recover the log. It was subsequently transported to the family's home place in Dublin where bringing it into the back garden resulted in the destruction of his mother's flowerbeds!
He said his father was always telling them that there was art in everything, remarking that while it would have been nice for the Witness Tree to have found a home during his father's lifetime, he was sure that he was smiling at the fact that his passion for art was still bringing the family together.
Another of Mr Carroll's artworks, an owl made from found materials, was also installed in the park and his family were thrilled to see it, perched in a tree, overlooking the new exhibit.
David and Elizabeth then planted a new Scots Pine tree, near the Witness Tree. The park hopes to plant further trees, creating a grove, and also to use the site as a planting area for commemorations.
Park Manager Chris Hayes remarked: 'The idea is that these trees will be the new 'witnesses', almost like guardians of the old tree.'
He explained that the tree was part of a dense wooded area of Kerry almost 4,000 years ago, adding the this type of tree thrived on lands where the oak, which is often associated with images of ancient Ireland, struggled. It was subsequently a victim of catastrophic climate change - as Ireland grew warmer and wetter, the tree would have been slowly smothered and sucked into the bog.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Hayes said that while many places installed such exhibits vertically, they had taken the decision to place it horizontally to show that the tree had died and fallen. He thanked the family for their donation, both of the tree and for a financial contribution that would be of great benefit to the park.