Medieval Christian Book Discovered in Ireland Bog

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"The tannic acid in the bog is a natural preservative for skin and leather," said Douglas Edwards, a biblical archaeologist at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

Early Christianity in Ireland

Christianity is considered to have arrived in Ireland around the fourth or fifth century A.D. with St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

(See a country profile with Ireland facts, maps, videos, and more.)

By the sixth century Christianity was well established, and many monasteries had sprung up across Ireland.

"The most likely source of this manuscript is probably from one of the monasteries and could be associated with someone who lost it or had it taken from him or her," Edwards, of Puget Sound, said.

He also notes that the book dates to the early medieval period known as the Dark Ages, when Europe was in turmoil and many religious manuscripts were destroyed.

But books in Ireland fared better than most during this time, as this find testifies.

"Irish monks preserved a lot of ancient manuscripts up until around 1200 A.D.," Edwards said.

Book of Kells

The book is now being stored in refrigeration at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

So far experts have been concentrating on studying the page that was left exposed.

Next they have to identify the safest way to turn the pages without damaging or destroying them. It may be many months before scholars get to see a new page.

From what scholars have managed to read so far they believe it is an early Christian Psalter written on vellum, a parchment made from animal skin. The book was bound in leather.

Edwards says it was possible that the book was made in Ireland, but it is just as likely that it came from abroad.

"Irish monks were celebrated for their ability to create wonderful illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, and they produced innumerable and diverse types of works," he said.

Once the manuscript has been conserved, it will be displayed in the early Christian gallery of the National Museum of Ireland.

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