Fionnachtain Sratha Oighir
|Abandoned||c. 2800 BC|
The Sraheer find (Irish: Fionnachtain Sratha Oighir) was a major archaeological find in northwest Maltropia, in the Sraheer valley of western Moygay. The initial discovery of some flint pieces prompted excavations through layers of permafrost that covered a prehistoric settlement, making it one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Maltropian history.
The find was uncovered in August 1972, following a dry winter and warm summer that melted the relatively thin snow. A local landowner reported the discovery of a collection of flint axe- and arrowheads in the upper valley, which is generally snowbound throughout the year, to the provincial archaeology board. The chief archaeologist of Moygay, Traolach Ó Chaoinleain, contracted the archaeology department of Benpike College to assist in uncovering the find once his initial surveys proved that it was more than just stray flint pieces.
Before the onset of winter, the archaeological team covered their site with a large canvas tent, hoping to prevent it from being reburied. Work continued throughout the winter, as they continued to find flints, bone utensils and bits of hewn timber. By January 1973, Ó Chaoinleain believed they had found the site of a third millennium BC hut; some among his team theorised that it could be Maltropia's earliest agricultural location.
In the summer of 1973, private security was contracted to protect the site, which had grown to spread across three hectares of land, with over twenty individual excavations worked by teams from five institutions. The deepest excavations had cut through six metres of permafrost and were continuing to find artefacts associated with a late Mesolithic culture. Timbers and potsherds were found to be increasingly fragmented as the depth increased, and, taking this in consideration with the wide spread of the site, the archaeologists concluded the settlement (which they now believed to have included at least four huts) had been destroyed by an avalanche.
Work continued until Christmas and was scheduled to resume after Epiphany. In the new year, however, legal troubles began as the reporting landowner claimed ownership over the find. The team won the right to continue excavating in July 1974, but ownership of the discovery remained in dispute. A bill entered the lower house in September of that year to transfer ownership of all archaeological finds to the state on behalf of the Maltropian public, but Benpike College bought the site outright in November after concerns surfaced over ex post facto law.
The most substantial finds were uncovered in 1976, including a piece of Argalic pottery and a whalebone flute which indicated that the site's inhabitants had trading links with the coast and eastern Maltropia. Several newspapers incorrectly reported that the dig had revealed "stale whale meat" and that this had been eaten by an undergraduate student working on the site, who subsequently became ill. This story was debunked by the archaeological supervisors, although it survives in circulation on paper and online.