[Image from RTÉ report] Prehistoric human remains found partially buried in a leather bag in a bog near Portlaoise, County Laois, by Bord na Móna workers yesterday are believed to be the over 2,000 year-old body of a sacrificial victim, possibly a young woman. Here’s a 2007 National Geographic article on Iron Age Europe’s bog bodies. And from today’s Irish Times report
Mr [Eamonn] Kelly [keeper at the National Museum’s Irish antiquities division] said the body would initially have been buried at a considerable depth.
The body, which is estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, was found in a leather bag. It was discovered in the Cul na Móna Bog near Portlaoise.
Conditions including highly acidic water, low temperature and a lack of oxygen combine to preserve bog bodies. In the process skin is severely tanned, giving it a leathery appearance.
Mr Kelly attributed significance to the location of the body.
“We can’t tell if it is Iron Age, but it has been found on an ancient tribal boundary, a characteristic of other finds of Iron Age date,” he said.
He said burying bodies on tribal boundaries was “an observed practice” during the Iron Age and this body did seem to fit to that description, though it was too early to be certain.
A second Irish Times report adds
The museum said the find was one of very few bog bodies discovered in situ, which meant not only the remains but its intact environment could be studied.
Speaking at the site, Ned Kelly, keeper at the museum’s Irish antiquities division, said there had been over 100 bog bodies found in Ireland, but many were not well preserved and some were just parts of bodies removed from their sites and found inside milling machines.
“At present we can see a pair of legs, which are quite well preserved, probably the best preserved part of the body,” he said. “On preliminary examination we can be reasonably certain that it is a late prehistoric bog body.”
He said at this stage he did not know the precise age or gender of the individual, but the body could be that of a young woman.
“This was probably a ritual deposition of a human sacrifice.”
The body is estimated to be over 2,000 years old. It appears the torso and head, which were in a leather bag, did not survive. The legs, however, were not enclosed by the bag and were preserved by chemicals in the peat.
The body will be removed to the National Museum of Ireland for further investigation and preservation. The museum has two other Iron Age bog bodies, found in Ireland in 2003, on exhibition.
As we know, “Strange things happen in the bog.”