PBS had an interesting episode of NOVA last night about “bog bodies” that date back to Iron Age Ireland and England -which was around 350 B.C. Occasionally, in the bogs of those countries, a mummified body will be found because the plants in the bogs secret a substance that preserves flesh in a similar manner to how leather is tanned. The bog bodies usually show evidence of having been intentionally killed or murdered, such as having their heads bashed in, and having been stabbed fatally. The other interesting thing noted was that the bodies usually show evidence of having been people who would have been of high social standing.
There is some debate as to why these people of high social rank were killed and put into the bogs, but as soon as I learned that they were people of high social standing, I thought “coup d’etat”. Later in the show, there was a suggestion that these people may have been tribal chieftains, which strengthens my thinking on this subject. These killings may have been how people in a tribal society, which has no concept of elected government, deposed of a leader. If they had had a concept of elected representatives, then they simply would have voted for a new leader, but since they would have had no concept of that, the only way to get rid of their leader would have been to kill him, probably instigated by the leader’s “political rivals”. They noted that the killings were usually brutal, which suggested that they weren’t just ritualistic, but I think the brutality would make sense. If hard times had fallen on the tribe, and the leader was regarded as responsible, then brutally killing him for tribal resentment that may have built up over many years, would make sense.