20 October 2012

The importance of the King's nipples

Seven years ago, not far from Dublin in the town of Clonycavan, County Meath, and near Croghan Hill, County Offaly, two bog bodies were found within three months of each other. Clonycavan Man had been severed in half by a peat-cutting machine, but scientists from Archaeological Development Services, who were hired by the peat company, were able to recover his body from the torso up. His skull had been split open, likely by a stone ax, and the bridge of his nose was also struck, probably with the same weapon...

Examining the details of both men’s lives and deaths has led Kelly to suggest a new way of looking at the meaning of eight well-preserved Irish bog bodies. “I believe these men were failed kings or failed candidates for kingship who were killed and placed in bogs that formed important tribal boundaries. Both Clonycavan and Old Croghan men’s nipples were pinched and cut. “Sucking a king’s nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland,” says Kelly. “Cutting them would have made him incapable of kingship.”
More details at Archaeology (May/June 2010).   That particular issue has seven additional articles about bog bodies.


  1. You are really on a roll of "things I wouldn't know about if you didn't blog them." :)

  2. I second Timothy, great postings this week.

  3. Seen them at the National History Museum in Dublin. They found out a lot of things about them from the well preserved bodies. The smaller one you have in the image had some kind of resin in his hair, maybe a styling or holding gel of the day. You can still see stubble on his face, some of the bodies also had straw piercing their wrists. In one side, out the other.
    The other body found around the same time "old croghan man" at this one was only a torso with arms, they estimated he was roughly 6"6, and you can still see his finger prints.
    I had heard about the nipple mutilation, but didn't hear it was connected to kingship, or possible failed kingship attempts from these unlucky fellows. Interesting

  4. “Sucking a king’s nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland”

    I guess one of the few instances when it really sucked being an ancient Irish king was having male subjects pledge allegiance... although failing at kigship was a lot worse.


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