Brylcreem Boy from the Bog; His Gelled Hair Could Grace the Head of Any Sports Star, but This Man Who Died 2,300 Years Ago Proves Male Vanity Is Timeless

Daily Mail (London), January 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Brylcreem Boy from the Bog; His Gelled Hair Could Grace the Head of Any Sports Star, but This Man Who Died 2,300 Years Ago Proves Male Vanity Is Timeless


Byline: JANE FRYER

HIS hair is carefully coiffed high on his head forming a perfect quiff, and held in place by masses of pungent hair product.

He looks as well-maintained as any Gavin Henson or David Beckham, but he lived long before the invention of modern hair care products - 2,300 years ago to be precise.

When his body emerged on a conveyor belt carrying peat to a shredding machine in Clonycavan, near Dublin, such was the condition of the flesh, hair, teeth and eyes that detectives thought they had stumbled across an IRA victim from the Seventies.

Instead, he was an archaeological miracle - so well preserved that experts have now been able to unravel every detail of his unlikely beauty routine... and how he was murdered.

When he was found, his face still looked startled - eyes wide open in the shock of death, mouth protesting and that distinctive red hair swept back.

Part of the head had been shaved, possibly to prepare for the three fatal axe-blows which had shattered the skull and, through the gaping wound, a yellowing brain was visible. The forearms, hands and lower abdomen were all missing.

Three months later, in May 2003, and just 25 miles away, in a bog in Croghan, Larry Corley's mechanical peat digger snagged something strange while clearing a ditch. As he emptied the scoop bucket, the headless torso of an immense man tumbled out with the peat.

Enormous hands were clenched into fists, the fingernails perfectly preserved, polished and manicured, and muscular arms reached out in desperate entreaty.

The headless corpse was naked, but for a band of plaited leather, decorated with four metal clasps and bound around his left bicep.

'I didn't know what to make of it. I was sort of frightened,' says Corley.

'But the bracelet on the arm made it look kind of old.' After an 18-month investigation by an international team of experts, it has been revealed that both men, aged between 20 and 25, were slaughtered not 30, but 2,300, years ago.

Carbon dating showed that Clonycavan Man (named after his dank grave) died between 392-201BC, and Old Croghan Man from 362-175BC.

THE conditions of the peat bog had preserved their mutilated bodies as perfectly as if they were fresh corpses, freezing them in time, right down to the pores on their still supple skin, ginger underarm hair and the whorls of their fingerpads.

According to Ned Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland: 'It's 20 years since we've had a complete bog find and now we have two incredibly preserved bodies, fresh from the bog.

'It was a fantastic opportunity to use for the first time the full range of modern scientific techniques - including dietary analysis, histological (skin tissue sampling) analysis and CT scanning - to unravel their lives.' Not only do their shattered bodies tell of the horrors of ritual slaughter, but both bogmen shed new light on ancient Irish society, right down to a weakness for height-enhancing hairdos and perfumed styling products.

For despite a nasty dose of nits at the time of his death, Clonycavan Man was most particular about his red hair.

Coiffed into a peak, apparently designed to make him appear taller and more imposing, his locks were cemented in place with an expensive Iron Age hair gel of plant oil mixed with a pine resin grown only in south-west France and Spain - the first proof of trade in luxury goods between Ireland and southern Europe nearly 2,500 years ago.

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