The first exhibit I looked at when we went to the National Museum was the Kingship & Sacrifice exhibit. In this exhibit there are four bodies dating back to the Early Iron Age that were found in bogs at various points throughout the years. One common thread to each discovery was that it occurred during peat cutting in the bogs. The bodies are preserved to varying degrees. Some were deteriorated upon discovery, others deteriorated as time passed, but the organs in some are excellently preserved.
The most interesting – and disturbing – of these bodies is the Oldcroghan Man. The remains were discovered in May 2003. The remains consist only of the torso. The head and lower body were severed either as part of the attack that killed him, or after. The body was dated to around 362 to 175 BC. The man is believed to have been over 25 years old when he died. The location of the body was at the border of two territories: Tuath Cruachain and Tuath na Cille.
It is believed that the Oldcroghan Man was in a position of high status in the society he lived in. His torso was well preserved by the bog so researchers could tell that his hands had not been exposed to heavy manual labor during his lifetime. The Oldcroghan Man was not the only body believed to belong to a high status individual discovered in the bogs. One injury suggests that the attacker(s) may have felt threatened by this man’s position in society. An ancient Irish tradition to exhibit submission was sucking a king’s nipples. However, the nipples of the Oldcroghan Man were cut off his body. He would have been unable to participate and therefore would not have been able to be a king. Much of the injuries to the Oldcroghan Man were probably meant to be symbolic as much as lethal.
When I went on a tour to Glendalough, the tour guide mentioned discoveries in the bogs. He told the group that the bogs were not a good place to hide bodies, because it allowed for movement, so whatever was buried in the bogs would not necessarily remain in the same location. However, regarding the bodies displayed in the National Museum, the bogs at least allowed for decent preservation so we can learn more about the past.