The oldest fleshed body ever found in Europe

Bog body, pre-conservation, Cashel Bog, Co. Laois, 2011:259

Like a gritty detective drama, a peat harvester going about his daily job in County Laois discovered a body deep in the heart of Cashel Bog. However, rather than police being called to the scene it was archaeologists who were summoned to examine the body.

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Bog body, pre-conservation, Cashel Bog, Co. Laois, 2011:259

Compressed for centuries by the overlying peat, the remains of this body had been preserved since the Early Bronze Age. He was christened ‘Cashel Man’, though the name ought perhaps to include the title of king as his burial on an ancient regional border suggests he had royal beginnings.

With an axe-struck back, shattered spine and a broken arm, research reveals a very brutal death for Cashel Man. Believed to have been a sacrifice due to poor harvests, the king may have been deemed responsible. A ritual more commonly associated with the Iron Age, this young man would eventually become Europe’s oldest fleshed body ever to be found.

Bog body, pre-conservation, Cashel Bog, Co. Laois, 2011:259

Photos ©National Museum of Ireland

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Words by Flora Hackett