The Mennybraddan Woman (The Meenybradden Woman)

I spent my October break in Ireland this year and while I was there, found something that directly relates to our class. My dad and I visited a visitors center near Connemara National Park and found that they were featuring an exhibit on “People of the Bog”. Specifically, the Mennybraddan Woman.

People of the Bog exhibit in the Connemara National Park’s Visitor’s Center.

The Mennybraddan Woman is a body that was found by turf cutters in Mennybraddan Bog in 1978. Her body was found relatively well preserved because of the presence of peat in the bog. As the textbook claims, “bod bodies… are undoubtedly the best-known finds from the peat bogs of northwest Europe” (57). The organic material found in these bogs would not have survived outside the waterlogged environment. In the case of the peat bogs, “peat dramatically slows the process of decay” (Dr. R. O. Floinn, National Museum). The bog preserves organic material by sealing it in an airless environment. Places such as lakes, swamps, and bogs play important roles in archaeology because of their ability to effectively maintain organic remains.

Pile of peat positioned near a bog in Ireland.

A lot of the individuals whose bodies were preserved in the Irish bogs met their deaths through either sacrifice or through violence. The textbook references the Clonycavan Man who “had been killed with axe blows and possibly disemboweled” and the Oldcroghan Man who had been decapitated (58). The Clonycavan Man’s body was actually displayed in a museum in Dublin alongside the Mennybraddan Woman, though the bodies were found in different locations. However, the Mennybraddan Woman’s cause of death is unknown (Dr. R. O. Floinn, National Museum). She has not been suspected of being murdered, though, because her body does not show signs of a violent end.

The Remains of the Mennybraddan Woman

In an article written about the discovery, she was described as being buried without any other items around her. Her only accompaniment was a woolen blanket that she had been wrapped in. Could this statement about being buried with no items be premature? What if looters took the items? Could the items have decomposed even though her body had been preserved? As archaeologists, we must consider all the possibilities. However, if it is true that if she had been buried without anything, her death may imply sacrifice or suicide. PBS concludes that her death was either a result of either a murder or a suicide. Because her death did not appear violent, I would guess suicide. 

The Mennybraddan Woman is a fascinating archaeological discovery. Centuries-old bodies give us a glimpse into what life was like for individuals. Tattoos imprinted on bodies and tools the individuals carried teach us about the persons’ life and the lives of others at the time. The wool blanket found with the Mennybraddan Woman indicates that she had access to sheep to make wool. It tells us that the climate of the time was cold enough to require a blanket. If her death was sacrificial, it could imply something about the religious beliefs of the time. In conclusion, the discovery of mummified bodies in archaeology can supply a lot of information about past societies and ways of thought.


Lewis, Susan K. “Bog Bodies of the Iron Age.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.

Deem, James M. “Meenybradden Woman.” Mummy Tombs. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.

Renfrew, Colin and Paul Bahn. Archaeology Essentials. Thames & Hudson. 2007, 2010, and 2015.

Picture Sources:

Deem, James M. “Meenybradden Woman.” Mummy Tombs. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.

“Bogs of Ireland.” Culture and Heritage Tours Ireland.

“People of the Bog.” A picture I had taken while on my trip. I took it on October 9th, 2017.

Further Readings:


The Archaeology of Hurricane Katrina

In the past two weeks, the southern United States and much of the Caribbean were devastated by two hurricanes. These storms serve as a reminder of nature’s destructive powers and bring back memories of Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans in 2005. As an archaeologist we are prompted to ask, how do hurricanes provide us with research that can strengthen our understanding of human nature? What do the artifacts, what was left behind, tell us about the social, political, and cultural values of the communities destroyed? Using archaeology, we can learn about cultures through natural disasters.

Because archaeology is the study of what is left behind, human migration plays an important role in understanding cultures. When Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans, the mayor had only recently issued an evacuation order for the residents. Because he waited to do so, many people, predominantly poor people of color and the elderly, were left without means to leave. Their possessions have since become archaeological artifacts which can provide insight to their lives. As an archaeologist studies an artifact, they must consider questions of context and taphonomy. For example, if a researcher was examining a body of an individual who died in the hurricane, they might ask questions about why the person was not able to escape. Asking deeper questions allows for an archaeologist to consider the broader social and political context. The majority of those who died were poorer people of color and the elderly. Knowing this, anthropologists can begin to learn more about the economical situations and racial relations in New Orleans at the time.

Residents seeking shelter in the Superdome from Hurricane Katrina.

Additionally, archaeologists played a very specific role in the reconstruction of New Orleans. They were able to use methods of “GPS and GIS technologies to locate and identify historic properties” (McComb). By doing this, they helped the city decide what to rebuild. Understanding that sites change over time and are not time capsules is an important element of archaeology. New Orleans now is not what it was ten years ago. The decisions surrounding what buildings to rebuild provides commentary on a society’s cultural values. In New Orleans, the economically rich tourist centers, such as the French Quarter, were the first to be salvaged. In contrast, the poorer neighborhoods of the lower ward were never rebuilt. By realizing that sites are palimpsests and by questioning why certain buildings remain whilst others do not, archaeologists consider context.

After and before Hurricane Katrina.

In summary, archaeology can be used in times of natural disasters to learn more about a culture’s values. By asking questions about who and what was left behind, and what was rebuilt, anthropologists can learn more about issues of racial and economic segregation. Natural disasters play a huge role in history and have heavily impacted archaeological research.

Further Readings:

The Archaeology of Vulnerability: Hurricane Katrina and archaeology in the midst of disaster

Archaeological Sites After Disasters


McComb, Angela. “The Archaeology of Vulnerability: Hurricane Katrina and Archaeology in the Midst of Disaster.” MAPA. February 17, 2017. 

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: theories, methods, practice. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Picture Sources:

Fig. 1.: David J. Phillip. From: Associated Press. 2005.

Fig 2.: Gerald Herbert. From: Associated Press. 2015.

Fig. 3: Marty Bahamonde. New Orleans residents lining up to shelter inside the Superdome. From: FEMA. 2005.