Clonycavan Man’s hair contains an imported gel. Old Croghan Man has a leather amulet, decorated in the fashionable continental style, on his arm. It represents the sun, with which Irish kingship is closely associated. Both men also had their nipples sliced before they died. Together, these features suggest that the men were kings. The king’s nipples represented the life-giving sun. Their cutting suggests that their power was being ritually decommissioned.
Both men appear to have been “killed” three times: by strangulation, by stabbing and by drowning. However ritualised, Old Croghan Man’s death was garishly violent: he was bound with hazel rods threaded through holes in his upper arms, stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated and cut in half. (All that has been found are his torso and arms.) But the violence was not mere sadism. “This,” says Eamonn Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland, “isn’t done for torture or to inflict pain. It’s a triple killing because the goddess to whom the sacrifice is made has three natures. She’s goddess of sovereignty, of fertility and of war and death. So they’re making sacrifice to her in all her forms, and the king has to die three deaths.”
I can just imagine the pained expression on my old professor's face as he'd say, "Weeeeeell, we shouldn't read too much into these things..."