The Cashel Man discovered in Ireland in 2011 may have been crowned king 4,000 years ago, but later killed as a sacrifice when calamity hit his community. He was found in Cashel bog in CountyLaois within sight of a hill where kings were inaugurated, but had suffered violent injuries: his back was broken in two places and had been cut, plus he had a broken arm. His body was accompanied by wooden stakes, suggesting ritual sacrifice.
The early Bronze Age remains are being investigated at the National Museum of Ireland by the Keeper of Irish Antiquities, Eamonn Kelly, who said: “When an Irish king is inaugurated, he is inaugurated in a wedding to the goddess of the land. It is his role to ensure through his marriage to the goddess that the cattle will be protected from plague and the people will be protected from disease. If these calamities should occur, the king will be held personally responsible. He will be replaced, he will pay the price, he will be sacrificed.”
This was not an uncommon fate for Irish kings – and the evidence is in their nipples. Two other bog bodies, also thought to be ancient kings, had their nipples deliberately removed because those with mutilated bodies could not continue in power. Unfortunately, the evidence in the case of the Cashel Man has been lost because his chest was destroyed by farm machinery when he was discovered. The damage also removed evidence of the exact cause of death.
Radiocarbon dating of Cashel Man suggests that he is the earliest bog body with intact skin known anywhere in the world (some 1,500 years older than the other major finds). The amazing preservation of his remains are due to the anaerobic environment of the bog which denies oxygen to the bacteria which break down body tissue and suspends decomposition. This can yield a wealth of information on diet, living conditions and background of the bodies, however, it also destroys their DNA in the process – making the tracing of any modern descendants nigh on impossible.