Murdered "Bog Men" Found With Hair Gel, Manicured Nails

James Owen in London
for National Geographic News
January 17, 2006

Male grooming has an ancient history in Ireland, if the savagely murdered bodies of two ancient "bog men" are anything to go by.

One shows the first known example of Iron Age hair gel (see photo), experts say. The other wore manicured nails and stood 6 feet 6 inches (198 centimeters) tall.

Discovered in peat bogs in central Ireland, the well-preserved human remains were unveiled this month in Dublin.

Researchers say the men were probably wealthy, well-connected individuals. Living well over 2,000 years ago, both were tortured and killed while in their early 20s, possibly as ritual sacrifices.

The bodies were uncovered by accident in 2003 at separate commercial peat workings just 25 miles (40 kilometers) apart.

Peat wetlands in northwest Europe are well-known for their bog bodies. The wetlands provide cold, acidic, oxygen-free conditions, which prevent decay and mummify human flesh.

The two new Irish bog men were named after the places where they were found: Croghan Hill and Clonycavan.

Oldcroghan man was preserved so perfectly that his discovery sparked a police murder investigation before archaeologists were called in.

Radiocarbon dating showed that he lived between 362 B.C and 175 B.C., while Clonycavan man dates from 392 B.C. to 201 B.C.

A team lead by researchers at the National Museum of Ireland studied the two bodies. The scientists say the fingerprint whorls of Oldcroghan man are as clear as any living person's.

"He had very well manicured nails, and his fingertips and hands were indicative of somebody who didn't carry out any manual labor. So we presume he came from the upper echelons of society," said Isabella Mulhall, the museum's Bog Bodies Project coordinator.

"He had no scars on his body, either—just the equivalent of two small paper cuts to one of his hands," she added.

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