Irish Iron Age bog body “Clonycavan Man” wore exotic hair gel

Irish Iron Age bog body “Clonycavan Man” wore exotic hair gel.
Clonycavan Man, an Iron Age bog body from Co. Meath wearing imported hair gel, is on display in the National Museum of Ireland (pic: © Mark Healey, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0; edited IHN).

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“Clonycavan Man”, the well-preserved 2,300-year-old bog body from Co. Meath, wore imported hair gel, which signifies his elite status.

The Iron Age bog body known as “Clonycavan Man”, found in a bog in Co. Meath, is wearing hair gel imported all the way from France or Spain.

The styling product consists of a blend of vegetable plant oil and a resin. Analysis revealed that the resin originated from a species of pine tree not native to Ireland but rather unique to the regions of Southern France and Spain. This exotic gel helped to keep Clonycavan Man’s very fine hair swept back and up in an unusual raised style on the top of his head. The use of this imported beauty product indicates the wealth and elite status of this man in his 20s.

In addition to the hair gel, fragments of a hair tie were also recovered. This served the purpose of securing the hair in place and had been wrapped around the hair. Clonycavan Man stood at a height of just five feet two inches, but his choice of hairstyle raises the possibility that it was born out of a desire to appear taller.

>>> RELATED: 2,000-year-old Bellaghy bog body discovered during excavations in Derry

The remains of Clonycavan Man exhibit evidence of severe trauma, including three potentially lethal blows to the head from an axe or another type of sharp implement. The skull was split open at the back and front, while there’s also a large laceration on the nose extending under his right eye. These marks indicate that he met a violent end.

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Furthermore, the individual was disembowelled, and his nipples are missing, potentially due to mutilation, although decomposition could also explain their absence. The context of the deposition of the body in a bog has led to speculation that Clonycavan Man may have been a victim of ritual human sacrifice.

Scientific analysis of his hair reveals a diet rich in vegetables and proteins, implying that he probably died during the summer months when fresh vegetables were readily available.

The exceptionally well-preserved remains were discovered in 2003 during peat-cutting operations. However, only the head and torso were recovered; the forearms, hands and lower body are all missing. Radiocarbon dating places the body between 392 BC and 201 BC, making it roughly 2,300 years old. The specific environment of the bog, characterized by waterlogged conditions, acidity, cool temperatures and low oxygen levels, prevented the body’s decay and caused the human flesh to mummify, thereby preserving the remains.

Clonycavan Man is on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

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