Northern Ireland

Unravelling mystery of County Meath bog body

Bones in peat Image copyright National Museum of Ireland
Image caption Bones recovered from a bog are being studied at the National Museum of Ireland's research base in Dublin.

A body discovered in the Republic of Ireland may date back thousands of years, according to experts.

Adult lower leg bones were found recently by utility workers in Rossan bog, County Meath.

"We found other remains in this bog in 2012 which dated back to between 700-400 BC," said Maeve Sikora from the National Museum of Ireland.

"This one we don't have a date for yet, we'll need to carry out further analysis and carbon dating.

"We wouldn't be surprised if it was a similar age.

"A lot of these bodies date back to a few centuries before Christ."

Cashel man

Other ancient bodies have been discovered in similar bogs in Ireland where the chemical make-up can preserve human bodies for thousands of years.

Cashel Man, thought to be 4,000 years old, was found by a bog worker in Cashel bog in County Laois in 2011.

Compressed by the peat that has preserved his remains, he looks like a squashed, dark leather holdall.

Apart, that is, from one forlorn arm that stretches out and upward and tells us something of the deliberate and extremely violent death that he suffered 500 years before Egyptian boy pharoaoh Tutankhamen was born.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that he is the earliest bog body with intact skin known anywhere in the world.

In the past 10 years, there have been two other significant finds, in varying states of decay in Counties Meath and Offaly.

Slow excavation

Both Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man, who were discovered in 2003, were violently killed but the preservative powers of the bog have allowed science to piece together their stories.

The bodies, which have been dated to more than 2,000 ago, probably belong to the victims of a ritual sacrifice.

In common with other bog bodies, they show signs of having been tortured before their deaths.

This latest discovery is being studied at the National Museum of Ireland's research base in Collins Barracks, Dublin.

"We took out a block of peat from the bog," said Ms Sikora. "It will be excavated very slowly and the specialists, who've been working on other bodies, should hopefully discover if this was a man or a woman".

In the future this latest discovery is likely to join the other bodies in an exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland.

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