National Museum Of Ireland: Bog Bodies

17 Sep

Chelsea Gadbois

It’s surreal to walk into a place where everything inside of it (excluding other museum goers) has existed long before even your great grandparents were born. It’s easy to walk around a Museum and look at the artifacts and not really take in the extent of their significance; until you step back and actually think about what you’re seeing. 

 And then all of a sudden you realize that the embroidered cape that you’re looking at was worn by an actual priest, many many years ago.

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Or that the golden dress fasteners were once worn by girls just like myself. 

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 History is a concept that, admittedly, in the past I’ve taken for granted. But walking through a museum and seeing thousands of years old historical artifacts right in front of my eyes made it much more thought provoking. 

What captured my attention the most at the museum were the bodies of men who died thousands of years ago and were perfectly preserved inside muddy wetlands that are found throughout Ireland called bogs. The men, coined bog bodies were found in Oldcroghan, County Offaly and the other in Clonycavan, County Meath, dating back, respectively to approximately 400 and 200 BC. (National Museum of Ireland)

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Ireland is home to many of the worlds bogs, and they have been an integral aspect of Ireland’s history. Because of its biochemical composition there is very little oxygen in a bog, so bacteria is unable to grow, and things can be almost perfectly preserved- including human bodies. (NatureWorks)

No longer was I looking at an accessory or garment worn by a person a thousand years ago, but an actual human a thousand years old. It’s tough to describe the experience of seeing a body of a human being that has been preserved due to a natural process that seems straight out of a science fiction movie. On one body you could still see the hair on the man’s chin. 

 It is believed that the men may have been victims of sacrificial rituals- possibly as kings who who failed in their kingship and were sacrificed as a consequence. (Burke-Kennedy) There is also a theory that the men in the exhibit were sacrificed to the gods of fertility in order to ensure a fruitful harvest. (Dublinks) 

Human History is vast, almost too huge to wrap your mind around; it’s something that, I at least, didn’t spend much time thinking about until going to the museum and being reminded of what a small portion of history I occupy, and that someday this time period will be history too. 

Bibliography

 Burke-Kennedy, E. (2013, August 2). Laois ‘bog body’ said to be world’s oldest – The Irish Times. Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/laois-bog-body-said-to-be-world-s-oldest-1.1483171

 Bog Bodies go on display at National Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.dublinks.com/index.cfm/loc/6/pt/0/spid/D784A12C-F80A-AB57-B49B044CAD575D77.htm

 National Museum of Ireland (n.d.). Exhibition Details-Kingship and Sacrifice. Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/list/exhibition-details-kingshipsacrifice.aspx

 NatureWorks (n.d.). Bogs, Fens and Pocosins. Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/nwep7f.htm

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