This distinctive leather arm-ring was found on an Iron Age bog body from Co. Offaly. It represents a very unusual find from this period, as organic jewellery rarely survives in the archaeological record. Thankfully, in this instance, the cold, acidic and oxygen-free conditions of the bog prevented the leather from decaying.
The bog body containing the arm-ring is now referred to as ‘Old Croghan Man’ and consists of the partial remains of a young adult male who died sometime between 362 BC and 175 BC (the head and lower torso of the body are missing). He had been extremely tall in life, measuring 6ft 6in height and had well manicured hands suggesting that he was not used to manual labour.
Like many other bog bodies, Old Croghan Man had suffered a violent death before being deposited in the peaty depths. Rather horrifically, holes had been cut into his upper arms through which a rope of hazel withies was threaded in order to restrain the body. He was then stabbed and his nipples sliced, before finally being cut in half across the torso. Such extreme violence may indicate that his death involved some form of ritualistic murder or sacrifice.
The arm-ring was located on Old Croghan’s upper arm and was fashioned out of two inter-twined strips of worked leather that were joined via a series of small slits and then reinforced with bands of animal sinew. Four bronze mounts were clasped around the leather and these helped hold the arm-ring together, as well as fulfilling a decorative function. Two of the bronze mounts were ornamented with circular punched motifs, while two had incised, linear decoration.
Today the leather arm-ring is still attached to Old Croghan Man’s arm and can be viewed at the National Museum of Ireland’s excellent Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition.
Alexandra Durrani, ‘Analysis and Conservation of an Armring from Old Croghan Man’. National Museum of Ireland