Kingship and Sacrifice – Dublin, Ireland - Atlas Obscura

Kingship and Sacrifice

National Museum of Ireland

This permanent collection of preserved bodies taken from Irish bogs is one of the leading authorities on such morbid mummies. 


Located within the National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology, the permanent exhibition known as Kingship and Sacrifice is a grim collection of withered human sacrifices who were preserved by the natural peat in which they were buried, including the Cashel Man, the oldest bog body ever found that still had flesh on its bones.

Starting in 2003, a research project known as the Bog Bodies Research Project was started at the museum, which brought a number of local corpses to the center that had been preserved for thousands of years. Ritual human sacrifice in ancient Ireland was not an uncommon practice, but the disposal of the victims often led to the remarkable preservation of their remains thanks to the unique earthen properties of peat. The bodies, despite being thousands of years old, still have blackened flesh clinging to their bones. 

The identity of the sacrificial victims remains unknown, but various hypotheses exist, including that they were deposed kings or shamans, simple commoners offered to appease the gods and guarantee harvests, and even “outsiders” such as adulterers and thieves who had broken taboos. 

In addition to the remarkable bodies dredged up from the muck, regalia and jewelry were found near the bodies, indicating the possibly exalted positions the sacrifices likely held, hence the name of the exhibition. Mummified bog bodies can be found all across the globe, but the blacked bodices on display are some of the only ones that are on actual public display.

Know Before You Go

It's inside the National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology on Kildare Street, next to the National Library of Ireland. It's 550 meters from the Trinity College entrance and 200 meters northward from the St Stephen's Green. Free entrance.

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