This is one of Ireland's Bog Bodies...thought to be about 2,000 years old...his hair gelled and carefully arranged, when he was first discovered in a peat bog the Guards were called in because his remains were so well preserved it was thought he was a 'modern' man. Bog Bodies are usually found in the Northern Hemisphere...especially in countries such as Denmark and Ireland where the conditions of the bogs...low oxygen and high acidity...mean the skin, hair and nails are kept beautifully preserved. This man has his hair styled...using a hair gel not found in Ireland. This photograph does him no justice...he is much more 'impressive' if that is the right word to use...the ginger tone of his hair is down to the time his remains laid in the bog...not actually his original colour. So why were these people placed in bogs with their arms broken...nooses around their necks sometimes...gaping wounds in the back of their skulls...why did they have manicured nails and hands which showed no signs of labour...and why were they carefully placed at the perimeters of apparently tribal lands...
Thoughts about their demise have changed since the advent of modern methods...it's possible now to know what their last meal was for instance...often a mixture of grains, milk and honey...a sort of extragravant porridge. And not a food which the rest of their people would have eaten...so was it drugged with potent herbs in order to make them less likely to resist their death?
Time was it was thought they must have been outcasts or criminals...now it is thought they were probably chiefs or kings who were earmarked for sacrifice to the gods from birth...another point of view is that they were high-born in their tribes and somehow displeased the gods or allowed plague or pestilence to wreak havoc on their people or their farm animals.
I tend to think we simply don't know for absolute certainity...there may well come a time when research and technology allow us more of an insight into just why these people from so long ago ended their days buried in a peat bog.
Most bodies are found by turf cutters...but it is unfortunate that turf cutting is only rarely carried out by hand nowadays...now it's done with huge machines which churn up the bog surface and it's only due to the operators sharp eyes that bodies or parts of bodies are found...cutting turf by hand is confined to elderly men who have been cutting that way for decades...they are those mostly likely to find an entire body simply because they are slow and careful and using a hand held slan. Those bodies displayed in the musuem in Dublin are outstanding...enclosed in glass cases in small individual rooms...cared for and hugely respected as the very real people they once were. It is a quite incredible experience to stand in front of them and wonder about their lives. Those people of the past give us tantilising glimpses of the times they lived in....where did the man with hair gel in his styled hair buy it? If it certainly wasn't Irish then what traveller did he meet up with who had some for sale...how did the man with carefully trimmed nails and neat cuticles keep his hands so pristine...did his wife do his nails for him...were his hands a symbol of his status...
Thanks to modern methods we know much...but for all we know there is still a huge gap in our knowledge.