Herbivores Become Irish Archeologists

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The sheep are helping to reveal centuries-old headstones. (Templebreedy Save Our Steeple)

Grazing Goats and Sheep Help Uncover Historic Headstones in Ireland

by Livia Gershon/Smithsonianmag.com

Uncovering graves buried by centuries of plant growth is hard work—for humans, at least. For sheep, it’s actually a tasty task. That’s why volunteers at a church in Ireland have brought in the herbivores to help with historical conservation work.

As BBC News reports, the sheep are clearing an overgrown graveyard by St. Matthew’s Church in the Cork County parish of Templebreedy.

“They are helping to bring a forgotten history back to the fore,” Cork County Councilor Audrey Buckley tells BBC News.

The Templebreedy Save Our Steeple committee, which aims to preserve the historic site and connect it to the local community today, is spearheading efforts to recover the graves. St. Matthew’s was built in 1788 and has since fallen into ruin. A different church stood at the site before St. Matthew’s, and the grounds’ earliest grave dates back to 1711.

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