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Jason Phelan, Abbeyleix who found the prehistoric human remains pictured with Eamonn Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum at the Bord Na M—na Cashel Bog outside Portlaoise. Photo by: Alf Harvey

4,000-year-old ‘bog body’ found with skin intact due to perfect preservation

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Jason Phelan, Abbeyleix who found the prehistoric human remains pictured with Eamonn Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum at the Bord Na M—na Cashel Bog outside Portlaoise. Photo by: Alf Harvey

“Cashel Man”, the “bog body” found in a County Laois bog was so perfectly preserved by Ireland’s bog peat that his skin is intact.

Archaeologists believe that this “bog body” is the oldest found in  Europe. The cool, waterlogged conditions in Northern Europe’s wetlands, known in Ireland as bogs, create the perfect preserve. The bog peat is low in oxygen and highly acidic. However most bodies found are skeletons and usually around 2,000 years old, according to LifeScience.

The Laois resident who found the body notified the National Museum of Ireland who conducted a formal excavation of the site. Their findings have been published in the “Ossory, Laois, and Leinster” journal.

Eamonn Kelly, an archaeologist at the National Museum and lead excavator of the project, wrote “All that was visible to start with was a pair of legs below the knees, and a torso.

“The body appeared to be naked. Later, it was possible to work out that the torso had been damaged by the milling machine, which also removed the head, neck and left arm.”

The team carbon dated the body and the soil beneath the body to confirm that it is 4,000 years old. A CT (computed tomography) scan of the body found that the young man’s arm and spine were broken multiple times. They also found cuts along the man’s back that look like ax wounds. The also found axes that could have been the weapons used close by.

The experts believe he was killed in a ritual sacrifice. This kind of sacrifice was known to take place in later eras but not in the Early Bronze Age, 2000 BC.

Kelly wrote, “All the indications are that the human remains from Cashel Bog tell of the fate of a young king who, through folly or misadventure, was deemed to have failed to appease the goddess on whose benevolence his people depended, and who paid the ultimate price.”

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