4000 Year-Old Irish bog body is the oldest, probably suffered a violent death

Photos via the BBC, both of Cashel Man.  The photo to the right is a CT scan of the remains to the left.

Photos via the BBC, both of Cashel Man. The photo to the right is a CT scan of the remains to the left.

According to the BBC, “Cashel Man” is the mummified remains of a man who died a brutal death.  The remains were discovered by a peat-cutter in the Cashel bog in Ireland’s County Laois in 2011.  New research from the National Museum of Ireland suggests that the remains are 4,000 years old, which makes it the oldest “bog body” discovered, predating King Tut by about 500 years.  I’m reading different coverage on this.  The BBC has the most recent story and says it’s the “world’s oldest.”  Earlier reporting says Cashel Man is “Europe’s oldest bog body with skin in tact” (Discovery News and LiveScience).

Cashel Man was a young adult male, who was killed and placed in the bog in a flexed position around 2,000 BC.  About the time of his death, his arm was cut, and he was repeatedly stabbed in the back.  Because they didn’t recover his head and chest, researchers cannot conclusively say what killed him.

Eamonn (Ned) Kelly, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, argues that Cashel Man was a king who fell victim to human sacrifice.   Kelly says that ancient Irish kings were held personally responsible for any natural disasters, dead crops or cattle, and could be sacrificed to the goddess and replaced-this had to be the hardest to recruit for.  As evidence of this, Kelly points to the fact that Cashel Man was young (between 25 and 40 years old), and his body was found in a bog that formed a tribal boundary, near a hill where he would have been crowned.

Kelly claims this fits a pattern found in two other bodies, Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man, both on display at the National Museum of Ireland.  Clonycavan Man died between 392 and 201BC, and suffered injuries to his skull and nose.   Like Cashel Man, he was found by peat cutter, so his arms, hands, lower abdomen, and legs are missing.  Old Croghan Man died between 392 and 201BC.  This bog body has defensive wounds to his upper arm, has stabbed wounds in the chest and neck, was decapitated and cut in half.   Due to this overkill researchers are missing most of his body, only his arms and chest were recovered.  Kelly says both men had their nipples cut as part of the ritual sacrifice because sucking a king’s nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland.  If the nipples were cut or removed, then he couldn’t rule.Wouldn’t bowing be easier?  Kissing a ring?

There are a couple of issues with Kelly’s theory.  First Cashal Man predates Clonyvacan Man and Old Croghan Man by 1500 years, and was likely part of a different culture.  Cashel Man dates to the Bronze Age, while the latter two were part of the Celtic culture in Ireland, which emerged in the Iron Age around 500 BC.  Also Cashel Man is missing his chest and nipples, so researchers don’t know if he suffered similar nipple wounds to Clonyvacan Man and Old Croghan Man.

Read more at:


Irish Central

You can also see a slideshow of the remains here.

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