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"Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow."
September 18, 2011 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Did Zombies Roam Medieval Ireland? Two 8th-century skeletons with stones shoved in their mouths suggest that the people of the time thought so.
posted by Fizz (44 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
If we're talking long-dead people from Ireland (I think...somewhere with bogs, at least), it's only appropriate to post a cat scan of my favorite bog mummy. The theory is that this pregnant woman was out bog-watching (that's a thing people do, right? maybe they did 1000 years ago), when she suddenly went into labor. Either she died in childbirth and something knocked her in the bog shortly after, or she fell into the bog while actually having a baby.

Attention, all pregnant ladies: WATCH OUT FOR BOGS.
posted by phunniemee at 11:40 AM on September 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


No, they didn't Thanks to the stones in the mouth, obviously.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:41 AM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


O'crikey.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:44 AM on September 18, 2011


phunnuemee-
If you're interested enough to have a favorite bog mummy, I'm interested enough to read about your top ten and least favorite. A bog mummy fpp would be good sunday reading.
posted by kittensofthenight at 11:45 AM on September 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well, all the information I have on my mommy mummy is what you see above. A college professor of mine knew a guy who knew the guy who was working on this one, and told us the (little) information she had about it, and showed us the picture.

A google search for pregnant bog mummy returns a bunch of mommy blogs and nothing that sounds like my mummy, so I wouldn't even know where to start. The only picture I've got is "mine" from an email long ago, which would mean it would be inappropriate for an FPP.
posted by phunniemee at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2011


1300 years ago, two particularly inebriated Irish peasants got into an ill-conceived contest of dares...
posted by Navelgazer at 11:59 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Zombies or an Irish variation on the Wendiigo myth?
posted by Slackermagee at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2011


Those zombies were always after me lucky charms. But it's tough to eat cereal with a big rock in your mouth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:09 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love/hate the use-a-bit-of-pop-culture-to-sell-a-dull-scientific-find that so permeates science journalism. Such as this recent fpp which references Star Wars. I am a bit surprised they went with zombies here and not vampires "Archeologists were unsure when asked if these Irishman sparkled in the sunlight."
posted by munchingzombie at 12:13 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or, you know, a warning not to take dental hygiene for granite. Or against biting off more than you can chew. Or, hell, a later Dutch euphemism for a hypocrite was a "pillar-biter." Or, people really really didn't like these guys.

But, slightly unusual burial plus wild speculation = zombies!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:14 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The theory is that this pregnant woman was out bog-watching

She probably died during childbirth and so was buried in unconsecrated ground (the bog).
posted by pracowity at 12:19 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


> I am a bit surprised they went with zombies here and not vampires

They actually explain why calling them vampires doesn't make sense: vampire folklore wasn't present in western europe until the 1500s or so. HoweverRevenants were common characters around the time the bodies were buried, which is akin to what we would call zombies today.

So they aren't really glossing it over for pop culture journalism at all. If you needed a good title, calling them zombies makes sense, since no one outside of folklorists knows what the hell a revenant is.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:26 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Phunniemee, a tinyeye search on your picture has a ton of links to your mummy, but they're all in han Chinese or korean or Russian, but it might give you a place to start?
posted by FritoKAL at 12:27 PM on September 18, 2011


So zombies are even more played-out than I thought.
posted by fuq at 12:28 PM on September 18, 2011


Did Zombies Roam Medieval Ireland?

O'BRIEEEEEEEEEENNNSSSSSSS...
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:28 PM on September 18, 2011 [28 favorites]


So. Which "British documentary" did these feature in last week? [Fires up iplayer and 4od expectantly; fails to find program; googles it instead.] Oh, it's this Channel 5 thing. Right. I hope one of the skeletons is Richard Desmond.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:39 PM on September 18, 2011


Either she died in childbirth and something knocked her in the bog shortly after, or she fell into the bog while actually having a baby.

It looks like shoulder dystocia, which might have taken a long, painful time to kill the mother. Eek. Still an unpredictable risk of childbirth today (1%) although with modern medical care the chances of anyone dying from shoulder dystocia are very low; the mother especially unlikely.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:02 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Phunniemee, a tinyeye search on your picture has a ton of links to your mummy, but they're all in han Chinese or korean or Russian, but it might give you a place to start?

A good number of those are scraped from a friend's blog, from several years back when I sent the picture to her and she thought it was cool enough to post. I don't really care enough to sort through the rest.

I hereby bequeath all pregnant bog mummy FPP rights to whomever is interested enough to follow up on it.
posted by phunniemee at 1:03 PM on September 18, 2011


Pity that imageshack link is showing the frog in the ice cube though :( after all the interesting discussion around the bog mummy
posted by infini at 1:15 PM on September 18, 2011


Clearly gizzard stones.
posted by TheRedArmy at 1:17 PM on September 18, 2011


Bog-- I didn't know what that was so I looked it up. OoooOOoo also did you guys know about will o the wisps? Strange lights that follow you around? I think she was out looking for will o the wisps. Or maybe it was chasing her! Or she was chasing it!

I want to see one on youtube, are these strange bogs lights real as in "loch ness real", or real as in "real real"?
posted by xarnop at 2:02 PM on September 18, 2011


Short answer: no.
posted by joelf at 2:09 PM on September 18, 2011


"no one outside of folklorists knows what the hell a revenant is"

Scratch a D&D nerd, find an amateure folklorist.
posted by idiopath at 2:21 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


are these strange bogs lights real as in "loch ness real", or real as in "real real"?

Probably about as real as fireflies or gas escaping from recently disturbed soil.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:29 PM on September 18, 2011


Bog-- I didn't know what that was so I looked it up. OoooOOoo also did you guys know about will o the wisps? Strange lights that follow you around? I think she was out looking for will o the wisps. Or maybe it was chasing her! Or she was chasing it!

I want to see one on youtube, are these strange bogs lights real as in "loch ness real", or real as in "real real"?


They're real (more or less). But people who lived by marshes and bogs where they occurred typically didn't let "curiosity" get the better of them. Because of the dangers of traversing such land by night there existed general taboos about not entering after dusk.
posted by Jehan at 2:34 PM on September 18, 2011


I imagine there were quite a few zombies in Ireland this weekend after they took down the Australians in the rugby world cup!
posted by Metro Gnome at 2:48 PM on September 18, 2011


...the burials' dating is particularly interesting as it appears to predate historical records on revenants.

Those ancient Irish hipster zombie hunters are always so smug, fighting the walking dead before it was cool.
posted by Mr Mister at 3:31 PM on September 18, 2011


Erin go Braaaaaaaaains...
posted by bpm140 at 3:51 PM on September 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


"... and stay dead, assholes."
posted by bleep at 3:51 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So they aren't really glossing it over for pop culture journalism at all. If you needed a good title, calling them zombies makes sense, since no one outside of folklorists knows what the hell a revenant is.

Or D&D players.

I thought 'zombie' referred to voodoo zombies before Night of the Living Dead.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:39 PM on September 18, 2011


More hot bog person action
posted by shothotbot at 5:18 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fact fans: the only UK network not available in Ireland on any TV platform is Channel 5. So I guess they're more or less free to say whatever they want... we can't hear them.
posted by genghis at 5:52 PM on September 18, 2011


Obviously, these are the losers of an ancient Irish chubby bunny competition.
posted by fermezporte at 5:56 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Things like this make me want to read World War Z again.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:29 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually a stone lodged violently in the mouth sounds like a punishment for something terrible these guys might have done. They were buried next to each other but did not die at the same time.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:46 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Punishment

I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adultress zombie,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

–Seamus Heaney, 1975

it was hard (and a bit blasphemous) to mess with this poem
posted by exlotuseater at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


See, I tried this at work the other day. Turns out, you're really supposed to wait until the guy is dead first.
posted by newdaddy at 10:43 PM on September 18, 2011


A bog mummy fpp would be good sunday reading.

Ladies and germs, I give you the cutest bog mummy ever.
posted by benzenedream at 11:14 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


That article was weak! This predates the earliest records of revenants. Which were...? Did people even historically put rocks in the mouths of revenants? (They did for suspected vampires, but that was ruled out, so...?)
posted by salvia at 11:28 PM on September 18, 2011


MMMWWWWAAAAAAIIIINNNTH!!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:53 AM on September 19, 2011


For the record, fans of The Crow (comic) would also know what a revenant was.
posted by chmmr at 4:54 AM on September 19, 2011


Navelgazer has it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:00 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah this article is lame. They have no idea if people in Ireland believed in "Zombies" -- and the other anthropological stuff they mention later (worries about spreading some disease) don't really match up well with the zombie concept to begin with.
posted by delmoi at 7:01 AM on September 19, 2011


Ancient Swedish Fishers Put Human Heads On Stakes
posted by homunculus at 1:37 PM on September 20, 2011


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