Dublin patron saint's heart stolen from Christ Church Cathedral

From the BBC:

The dean of Christ Church Cathedral and the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough, the Rev Dermot Dunne, said he was “devastated” by the theft of the 12th Century relic.

"It has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father, St Laurence O’Toole," he added.

This is what’s left of a man in his early twenties who lived in Ireland sometime between 362 and 175 B.C. He’s just a partial torso and arms, and from the span of the arms they know that he stood about 6 feet 6 inches: exceptionally tall for that time. (I’ll say. That’s exceptionally tall for today.)
He’s known as Old Croghan Man, and he was found in 2003 near Croghan Hill, north of Daingean in Ireland’s County Offaly. Like all bog bodies, his real identity is unknown, but researchers have posited that he was a man of high status. His hands were well manicured, his last meal was wheat and buttermilk (possibly a ritual meal), and in the months leading up to his death he ate lots of meat. He wore a braided leather band and copper amulet around one bicep.
Despite the comfortable life suggested by nice nails and meaty diet, Old Croghan Man did not die a nice death. From Archaeology: 

He had a defensive wound on his upper left arm where he may have tried to protect himself, and had been bound by a hazel branches (withies) threaded through holes in his upper arms, stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated, and cut in half. 

I recently watched an episode of Nova from 2006 (The Perfect Corpse), which featured Old Croghan Man and Clonycavan Man, a bog body from around the same time period who was found near Dublin, also in 2003. 
Eamonn P. Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland (where the bodies now reside) has some interesting theories about a number of Irish bog bodies, including these two. From Archaeology:

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.”

Image source: Photograph by Mark Healy, via Wikipedia.

This is what’s left of a man in his early twenties who lived in Ireland sometime between 362 and 175 B.C. He’s just a partial torso and arms, and from the span of the arms they know that he stood about 6 feet 6 inches: exceptionally tall for that time. (I’ll say. That’s exceptionally tall for today.)

He’s known as Old Croghan Man, and he was found in 2003 near Croghan Hill, north of Daingean in Ireland’s County Offaly. Like all bog bodies, his real identity is unknown, but researchers have posited that he was a man of high status. His hands were well manicured, his last meal was wheat and buttermilk (possibly a ritual meal), and in the months leading up to his death he ate lots of meat. He wore a braided leather band and copper amulet around one bicep.

Despite the comfortable life suggested by nice nails and meaty diet, Old Croghan Man did not die a nice death. From Archaeology

He had a defensive wound on his upper left arm where he may have tried to protect himself, and had been bound by a hazel branches (withies) threaded through holes in his upper arms, stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated, and cut in half. 

I recently watched an episode of Nova from 2006 (The Perfect Corpse), which featured Old Croghan Man and Clonycavan Man, a bog body from around the same time period who was found near Dublin, also in 2003. 

Eamonn P. Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland (where the bodies now reside) has some interesting theories about a number of Irish bog bodies, including these two. From Archaeology:

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.”

Image source: Photograph by Mark Healy, via Wikipedia.

Gratuitous personal sidenote: I went to graduate school to study Celtic languages and literatures. My focus was on modern and medieval Welsh, but I also had to study the languages from the other side of the Irish Sea. I studied Old Irish for a few years. Old Irish was an incredibly complex (at least, to a native English speaker) and fascinating language, just as its descendant, modern Irish, is today. Since they date from the 7th to 9th centuries, these skeletons may have spoken that language. Before they were skeletons.
The entire blog post (click the image to get to it) is fascinating. Particularly:

The tradition of weighting down or otherwise defiling corpses (as with nails through the temple and stakes through the heart) seems to be a long one in Europe, born out of a fear of the dead that was related to the rise of Christianity, the lack of understanding of germ theory, and the increase in epidemic diseases.

There weren’t, for example, vampires in Rome. The Romans actually had ongoing relationships with the dead, running pipes from the ground to the grave below in order to offer them food and drink and celebrating them at least once a year in the Parentalia.  The Judeo-Christian idea that the dead should go into the ground and stay there means that deviations from this practice - as hair and nails seemed to grow after death, for example - probably caused a lot of general freaking out.  But the simple introduction of monotheism may also have caused cultural stress, particularly in 7th century England, when kings were converting to Christianity and people were no longer sure what to believe.


I’ve gotta go watch the documentary on YouTube now. Laters!
xmorbidcuriosityx:

Archaeology of the Undead

Lots of press has been given in the past week to two late 7th to early 9th century burials found at the site of Kilteasheen in Ireland. According to the news reports and the documentary (which won’t air in the U.S. until 2012, but which you can see on YouTube… for now), archaeologists excavating at the site from 2005-2009 uncovered over 130 graves.  Two of them - both males - were buried with stones in their mouths, and one of the men also had a large stone on top of his torso.  Aside from a 2008 report of a 4,000-year-old burial, these two early 8th century Irish burials seem to be the oldest evidence of what may be the practice of preventing “revenants” (zombies, vampires, and other undead people) from returning to the land of the living.

Check out this excellent blog post by Kristina Killgrove about archaeological ‘revenants’ and be sure to watch the documentary about the ‘vampire’ burials in Ireland - now available on Youtube!

Gratuitous personal sidenote: I went to graduate school to study Celtic languages and literatures. My focus was on modern and medieval Welsh, but I also had to study the languages from the other side of the Irish Sea. I studied Old Irish for a few years. Old Irish was an incredibly complex (at least, to a native English speaker) and fascinating language, just as its descendant, modern Irish, is today. Since they date from the 7th to 9th centuries, these skeletons may have spoken that language. Before they were skeletons.

The entire blog post (click the image to get to it) is fascinating. Particularly:

The tradition of weighting down or otherwise defiling corpses (as with nails through the temple and stakes through the heart) seems to be a long one in Europe, born out of a fear of the dead that was related to the rise of Christianity, the lack of understanding of germ theory, and the increase in epidemic diseases.

There weren’t, for example, vampires in Rome. The Romans actually had ongoing relationships with the dead, running pipes from the ground to the grave below in order to offer them food and drink and celebrating them at least once a year in the Parentalia.  The Judeo-Christian idea that the dead should go into the ground and stay there means that deviations from this practice - as hair and nails seemed to grow after death, for example - probably caused a lot of general freaking out.  But the simple introduction of monotheism may also have caused cultural stress, particularly in 7th century England, when kings were converting to Christianity and people were no longer sure what to believe.

I’ve gotta go watch the documentary on YouTube now. Laters!

xmorbidcuriosityx:

Archaeology of the Undead

Lots of press has been given in the past week to two late 7th to early 9th century burials found at the site of Kilteasheen in Ireland. According to the news reports and the documentary (which won’t air in the U.S. until 2012, but which you can see on YouTube… for now), archaeologists excavating at the site from 2005-2009 uncovered over 130 graves.  Two of them - both males - were buried with stones in their mouths, and one of the men also had a large stone on top of his torso.  Aside from a 2008 report of a 4,000-year-old burial, these two early 8th century Irish burials seem to be the oldest evidence of what may be the practice of preventing “revenants” (zombies, vampires, and other undead people) from returning to the land of the living.

Check out this excellent blog post by Kristina Killgrove about archaeological ‘revenants’ and be sure to watch the documentary about the ‘vampire’ burials in Ireland - now available on Youtube!

I was just scrolling through my dashboard, and I realized that Morbid Curiosity posted about the patron saint of genital disease, too! From the BBC article:

It is unclear exactly how his head may have ended up in Ireland.
Auctioneer Damien Matthews, who is selling the macabre item on Sunday, said that the family think an ancestor brought it back from the grand tour of Europe in the 18th century.
The grand tour was an educational rite of passage for wealthy Europeans from the 17th until the 19th century, intended to provide insight into the great cultural symbols of Europe.
The head sat for many years in the family hall in County Louth, but was recently uncovered in an outhouse.
Mr Matthews said that although he couldn’t be certain it was the head of a saint: “It’s certainly ancient, and it’s certainly the head of somebody.”

xmorbidcuriosityx:

For sale: one severed head of patron saint of genital disease…

The severed head of a man said to be the patron saint of genital disease will go on auction in County Meath on Sunday.
The skull is allegedly that of St Vitalis of Assisi, an Italian Benedictine monk from the 14th century.

I was just scrolling through my dashboard, and I realized that Morbid Curiosity posted about the patron saint of genital disease, too! From the BBC article:

It is unclear exactly how his head may have ended up in Ireland.

Auctioneer Damien Matthews, who is selling the macabre item on Sunday, said that the family think an ancestor brought it back from the grand tour of Europe in the 18th century.

The grand tour was an educational rite of passage for wealthy Europeans from the 17th until the 19th century, intended to provide insight into the great cultural symbols of Europe.

The head sat for many years in the family hall in County Louth, but was recently uncovered in an outhouse.

Mr Matthews said that although he couldn’t be certain it was the head of a saint: “It’s certainly ancient, and it’s certainly the head of somebody.”

xmorbidcuriosityx:

For sale: one severed head of patron saint of genital disease…

The severed head of a man said to be the patron saint of genital disease will go on auction in County Meath on Sunday.

The skull is allegedly that of St Vitalis of Assisi, an Italian Benedictine monk from the 14th century.

Skeletons, mummies, bog bodies, exhumations. The dead, and what happens to them.

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