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Cashel Man

Mummified remains found in bog are world’s oldest

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The remains of a young man found in a Laois bog in Ireland have been dated back 4,000 years, making it the world’s oldest ‘bog body’ ever recovered in the world. The chemical composition of bogs can preserve human bodies for thousands of years. So far, archaeologists have found more than 100 ancient mummies in Irish bogs but few as well-preserved and none as old as this one.

The mummified remains were discovered two years ago on Bord na Móna land in County Laois by a worker operating a milling machine and researchers have now been able to date the body back to 2000 BC, nearly 700 years earlier that the famed Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Scientists had initially thought the body dated from the Iron Age period (500 BC – 400 AD) as a number of other mummies had been recovered from Irish bogs from that time period. However, they were astonished to find that the remains were nearly two millennia older, predating the earliest bog body discovered in Ireland which dates to around 1300 BC.

The dating was carried out through radiocarbon tests on the body, the peat on which the body was lying, and a wooden stake found with the body, which all confirmed that the young man had lived in the early Bronze Age, around 2,000 BC, making it one of the most significant finds in Ireland in recent times.

It is believed that “Cashel man”, as he has been called, met a violent death in some sort of ritual sacrifice as an analysis on his remains revealed that his arm was broken by a blow and there were deep cuts to his back which appear to have been inflicted by a blade. The body was found in a crouched position and covered by peat and was placed in proximity to an inauguration site, all of which point the individual being the victim of a ritual sacrifice.

“It seems to be same type of ritual that we’ve observed in later Iron Age finds. What’s surprising here is that it’s so much earlier,” said Eamonn Kelly, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland.

Because of the lack of calluses on the hands and the well-groomed fingernails observed in other finds, though not this one as the hands were not recoverable, Mr Kelly suggests the victims belonged to the elite and may even have been kings that failed in their kingship and were sacrificed as a consequence.

The discovery promises to open a new chapter in the archaeological record of Bronze Age burial in Ireland.

Top image: Cashel Man. Credit: Ossory, Laois, and Leinster

By Joanna Gillan



Justbod's picture

The bog bodies really fascinate me, offering as they do, a very intimate window into a frozen moment of time. I recently watched an interesting documentary on Cashel Man. Although there are still many mysteries surrounding the bog bodies I'm sure there will be many more discoveries in the future shedding new light on a very evocative subject.

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature:



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Joanna Gillan's picture


Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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