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Bog Bodies at the National Museum by Ann Treacy
July 11, 2011, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Dublin

Bog bodies are always one of my favorite creepy but cool activities. We’ve seen them before – but they never get old. (That’s kind of a pun since one of the things about the bodies is that they are perfectly preserved in the bogs.) We got a great tour of the bog bodies, which was new to us. The tour starts with a glimpse at random things they have found in the bogs – like clothing and butter. We learned that a lot of the bog bodies are almost 2000 years old.

My favorite story – and I’m clearly paraphrasing although will directly quote one line – – is of the bog body that was probably a kingly sacrifice. The idea was that the bog man would have been dressed up and married to a horse – “though it was a symbolic marriage only” and after the wedding the horse would have been eaten and the king killed and chucked into the bog. It’s kind of amazing that they can do so much research on the bodies. It’s kind of amazing to think of the clues that would have left them with that story. And most of all amazing that the guide felt she had to say that the marriage was symbolic only – and that I was the only one who seemed to think that was really funny.

Anyways – no flash allowed in the museum. So I took the pictures I could but they’re not great – although the bog body hand was pretty good. For comparison I had Aine pose her hand with the bog hand.

4 Comments so far
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Ann, surely you know this, one of Heaney’s finest poems.

The Grauballe Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

Comment by Rich Broderick

I nearly did my MA dissertationette on Heaney! Bog bodies and place names – that always hooks me.

Comment by Ann Treacy

“Creepy” really doesn’t do this justice. And I think the “symbolic marriage” is very funny … just imagine if it wasn’t symbolic!

Your family does very interesting and unique things on vacation. My childhood memories of the Mitchell Corn Palace really don’t compare.


Comment by Jan Hepola

Mitchell Corn Palace could be next!

Comment by Ann Treacy

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