“Strange things happen in the bog.”

Recent focus may have been on the time of the Vikings, but before they arrived there were others.. And, as Blather.net points out, they left behind a few examples who have slowly emerged from ancient Europe’s bogs. September’s National Geographic has a short but interesting article on what we think we know about them.. and some images too.From the article

Eamonn Kelly, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, thinks similar scenes of sacrifice may have played out in his country’s ancient kingdoms. Three months after Clonycavan Man came to light, another ancient body fell from the bucket of a backhoe digging in a bog 25 miles away. This man had once stood almost six feet four inches tall, but only his trunk and arms remained. Arm wounds suggested he had tried to fend off a knife before he was fatally stabbed in the heart.

Then his body had been oddly mutilated—his nipples apparently cut, his upper arms pierced and small wreaths (withies) of twisted hazel threaded through the holes. Encircling one biceps was an armband of braided leather with a bronze amulet incised with Celtic designs. Like Clonycavan Man’s hair pomade, made with resin that archaeologists concluded must have been imported from the south of France, these were costly marks of status.

Another clue linked this new body, called Oldcroghan Man, to some 40 other Irish bog bodies including Clonycavan Man: All were buried on borders between ancient Irish kingdoms. Together with the costly ornaments, Kelly says, the locations suggest tales of royal sacrifice. In ancient times, he explains, Irish kings symbolically married the fertility goddess; famine meant the goddess had turned against the king and had to be mollified. Kelly believes the bog bodies represented the most splendid of offerings: high-ranking hostages taken to force rebellious lords into obedience, pretenders to the throne, or even the failed kings themselves. Each injury they suffered honored a different aspect of the goddess—fertility, sovereignty, and war. “It’s controlled violence,” Kelly says. “They are giving the goddess her due.”

[Supernaturalists, eh? – Ed]

The article continues

Science can’t prove Kelly’s scenario. Other researchers say, for example, that the bog rather than the killers might be responsible for the damage to Oldcroghan Man’s nipples; his waterlogged body was as fragile as wet cardboard. And even if Kelly is right about the royal status of Irish bog bodies, people on the Continent had a different culture—Germanic rather than Celtic—chiefs instead of kings, and, almost certainly, other rites of sacrifice.

Bodies still lying undiscovered in the bogs of northern Europe will yield more clues about how and why the bog people met their ends. But new finds are likely to be rare and often damaged when they are ripped from the earth by peat cutters and backhoes.

Lynnerup, who has applied the most powerful science available to the secrets of Grauballe Man and who can call up three-dimensional images of the body’s bones and muscles and tendons on his computer, doesn’t mind the lingering mysteries. “Strange things happen in the bog. There will always be some ambiguity.” Lynnerup smiles. “I sort of like the idea that there’s just some stuff we’ll really never know.”

Although.. the comparison with “people on the Continent” reminds me that, as has been noted previously, there is no Celtic section in the National Museum of Ireland.

But we do have some of those treasures from our prehistory at the National Musem of Ireland.. – more on those treasures from the BBC’s Timewatch.