A bog body is a human cadaver that has been naturally mummified in a peat bog. Such bodies, sometimes known as bog people, are both geographically and chronologically widespread, having been dated to between 8000 BCE and the Second World War. The unifying factor of the bog bodies is that they have been found in peat and are partially preserved; however, the actual levels of preservation vary widely from perfectly preserved to mere skeletons.
Unlike most ancient human remains, bog bodies often retain their skin and internal organs due to the unusual conditions of the surrounding area. These conditions include highly acidic water, low temperature, and a lack of oxygen which combine to preserve but severely tan their skin. While the skin is well-preserved, the bones are generally not, due to the acid in the peat having dissolved the calcium phosphate of bone.
The oldest known bog body is the skeleton of Koelbjerg Man from Denmark, who has been dated to 8000 BCE, during the Mesolithic period. The oldest fleshed bog body is that of Cashel Man, who dates to 2000 BCE during the Bronze Age. The overwhelming majority of bog bodies – including examples such as Tollund Man, Grauballe Man and Lindow Man – date to the Iron Age and have been found in northwest European lands, particularly Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland . Such Iron Age bog bodies typically illustrate a number of similarities, such as violent deaths and a lack of clothing, leading archaeologists to believe that they were killed and deposited in the bogs as a part of a widespread cultural tradition of human sacrifice or the execution of criminals. The newest bog bodies are those of soldiers killed in the Russian wetlands during the Second World War.
The German scientist Alfred Dieck published a catalog of more than 1,850 bog bodies that he had counted between 1939 and 1986 but most were unverified by documents or archaeological finds; and a 2002 analysis of Dieck's work by German archaeologists concluded that much of his work was unreliable.
The preservation of bog bodies in peat bogs is a natural phenomenon, and not the result of human mummification processes. It is caused by the unique physical and biochemical composition of the bogs. Different types of bogs can affect the mummification process differently: raised bogs best preserve the corpses, whereas fens and transitional bogs tend to preserve harder tissues such as the skeleton rather than the soft tissue.
A limited number of bogs have the correct conditions for preservation of mammalian tissue. Most of these are located in colder climates near bodies of salt water. For example, in the area of Denmark where the Haraldskær Woman was recovered, salt air from the North Sea blows across the Jutland wetlands and provides an ideal environment for the growth of peat. As new peat replaces the old peat, the older material underneath rots and releases humic acid, also known as bog acid. The bog acids, with pH levels similar to vinegar, conserve the human bodies in the same way as fruit is preserved by pickling. In addition, peat bogs form in areas lacking drainage and hence are characterized by almost completely anaerobic conditions. This environment, highly acidic and devoid of oxygen, denies the prevalent subsurface aerobic organisms any opportunity to initiate decomposition. Researchers discovered that conservation also required that they place the body in the bog during the winter or early spring when the water temperature is cold—i.e., less than 4 °C (40 °F). This allows bog acids to saturate the tissues before decay can begin. Bacteria are unable to grow rapidly enough for decomposition at temperatures under 4 °C.
The bog chemical environment involves a completely saturated acidic environment, where considerable concentrations of organic acids and aldehydes are present. Layers of sphagnum and peat assist in preserving the cadavers by enveloping the tissue in a cold immobilizing matrix, impeding water circulation and any oxygenation. An additional feature of anaerobic preservation by acidic bogs is the ability to conserve hair, clothing and leather items. Modern experimenters have been able to mimic bog conditions in the laboratory and successfully demonstrate the preservation process, albeit over shorter time frames than the 2,500 years that Haraldskær Woman's body has survived. Most of the bog bodies discovered showed some aspects of decay or else were not properly conserved. When such specimens are exposed to the normal atmosphere, they may begin to decompose rapidly. As a result, many specimens have been effectively destroyed. As of 1979, the number of specimens that have been preserved following discovery was 53.
Around 3900 BCE, agriculture was introduced to Denmark, either through cultural exchange or by migrating farmers, marking the beginning of the Neolithic in the region. It was during the early part of this Neolithic period that a number of human corpses that were interred in the area's peat bogs left evidence that there had been resistance to its introduction. A disproportionate number of the Early Neolithic bodies found in Danish bogs were aged between 16 and 20 at the time of their death and deposition, and suggestions have been put forward that they were either human sacrifices or criminals executed for their socially deviant behaviour. An example of a Bronze Age bog body is Cashel Man, from 2000 BCE.
The vast majority of the bog bodies that have been discovered date from the Iron Age, a period of time when peat bogs covered a much larger area of northern Europe. Many of these Iron Age bodies bear a number of similarities, indicating a known cultural tradition of killing and depositing these people in a certain manner. These Pre-Roman Iron Age peoples lived in sedentary communities, who had built villages, and whose society was hierarchical. They were agriculturalists, raising animals in captivity as well as growing crops. In some parts of northern Europe, they also hunted fish. Although independent of the Roman Empire, which dominated southern Europe at this time, the inhabitants traded with the Romans.
For these people, the bogs held some sort of liminal significance, and indeed, they placed into them votive offerings intended for the Other world, often of neck-rings, wristlets or ankle-rings made of bronze or more rarely gold. The archaeologist P.V. Glob believed that these were "offerings to the gods of fertility and good fortune." It is therefore widely speculated that the Iron Age bog bodies were thrown into the bog for similar reasons, and that they were therefore examples of human sacrifice to the gods. Explicit reference to the practice of drowning slaves who had washed the cult image of Nerthus and were subsequently ritually drowned in Tacitus' Germania XC, suggesting that the bog bodies were sacrificial victims may be contrasted with a separate account (Germania XII), in which victims of punitive execution were pinned in bogs using hurdles.
Many bog bodies show signs of being stabbed, bludgeoned, hanged or strangled, or a combination of these methods. In some cases the individual had been beheaded. In the case of the Osterby Man found at Kohlmoor, near Osterby, Germany in 1948, the head had been deposited in the bog without its body.
Usually the corpses were naked, sometimes with some items of clothing with them, particularly headgear. The clothing is believed to have decomposed while in the bog for so long. In a number of cases, twigs, sticks or stones were placed on top of the body, sometimes in a cross formation, and at other times, forked sticks had been driven into the peat to hold the corpse down. According to the archaeologist P.V. Glob, "this probably indicates the wish to pin the dead man firmly into the bog." Some bodies show signs of torture, such as Old Croghan Man, who had deep cuts beneath his nipples.
Some bog bodies, such as Tollund Man from Denmark, have been found with the rope used to strangle them still around their necks. Some, such as the Yde Girl in the Netherlands and bog bodies in Ireland, had the hair on one side of their heads closely cropped, although this could be due to one side of their head being exposed to oxygen for a longer period of time than the other. Some of the bog bodies seem consistently to have been members of the upper class: their fingernails are manicured, and tests on hair protein routinely record good nutrition. Strabo records that the Celts practiced auguries on the entrails of human victims: on some bog bodies, such as the Weerdinge Men found in the northern Netherlands, the entrails have been partly drawn out through incisions.
Modern techniques of forensic analysis now suggest that some injuries, such as broken bones and crushed skulls, were not the result of torture, but rather due to the weight of the bog. For example, the fractured skull of Grauballe Man was at one time thought to have been caused by a blow to the head. However, a CT scan of Grauballe Man by Danish scientists determined his skull was fractured due to pressure from the bog long after his death.
Amongst the most recent, the corpse of Meenybradden Woman found in Ireland dates to the 16th century and was found in unhallowed ground, with evidence indicating that she may have committed suicide and was therefore buried in the bog rather than in the churchyard because she had committed a Christian sin. She may have also been unable to afford proper burial. Bog bodies have also formed from the corpses of Russian and German soldiers killed fighting on the Eastern Front during the First World War in the Masurian Lake District region of north-eastern Poland.
A number of skeletons found in Florida have been called "bog people". These skeletons are the remains of people buried in peat between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago, during the Early and Middle Archaic period in the Americas. The peat at the Florida sites is loosely consolidated, and much wetter than in European bogs. As a result, the skeletons are well preserved, but skin and most internal organs have not been preserved. An exception is that preserved brains have been found in nearly 100 skulls at Windover Archaeological Site and in one of several burials at Little Salt Spring. Textiles were also preserved with some of the burials, the oldest known textiles in Florida. A 7,000 year old presumed peat pond burial site, the Manasota Key Offshore archaeological Site, has been found under 21 feet (6.4 m) of water near Sarasota. Archaeologists believe that early Archaic Native Americans buried the bodies in a fresh water pond when the sea level was much lower. The peat in the ponds helped preserve the skeletons.
Ever since the Iron Age, humans have used the bogs to harvest peat, a common fuel source. On various occasions throughout history, peat diggers have come across bog bodies. Records of such finds go back as far as the 17th century, and in 1640 a bog body was discovered at Shalkholz Fen in Holstein, Germany. This was possibly the first ever such discovery recorded. The first more fully documented account of discovery of a bog body was at a peat bog on Drumkeragh Mountain in County Down, Ireland; it was published by Elizabeth Rawdon, Countess of Moira, the wife of the local landowner. Such reports continued into the 18th century: for instance, a body was reportedly found on the Danish island of Fyn in 1773, whilst the Kibbelgaarn body was discovered in the Netherlands in 1791. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, when such bodies were discovered, they were often removed from the bogs and given a Christian burial on consecrated church ground in keeping with the religious beliefs of the community who found them, who often assumed that they were relatively modern.
With the rise of antiquarianism in the 19th century, some people began to speculate that many of the bog bodies were not recent murder victims but were ancient in origin. In 1843, at Corselitze on Falster in Denmark, a bog body unusually buried with ornaments (seven glass beads and a bronze pin) was unearthed and subsequently given a Christian burial. By order of the Crown Prince Frederick, who was an antiquarian, the body was dug up again and sent to the National Museum of Denmark. According to the archaeologist P.V. Glob, it was "he, more than anyone else, [who] helped to arouse the wide interest in Danish antiquities" such as the bog bodies.
After the Haraldskær Woman was unearthed in Denmark, she was exhibited as having been the legendary Queen Gunhild of the early Mediaeval period. This view was disputed by the archaeologist J. J. A. Worsaae, who argued that the body was Iron Age in origin, like most bog bodies, and predated any historical persons by at least 500 years. The first bog body that was photographed was the Iron Age Rendswühren Man, discovered in 1871, at the Heidmoor Fen, near Kiel in Germany. His body was subsequently smoked as an early attempt at conservation and put on display in a museum. With the rise of modern archaeology in the early 20th Century, archeologists began to excavate and investigate bog bodies more carefully and thoroughly.
Until the mid-20th century, it was not readily apparent at the time of discovery whether a body had been buried in a bog for years, decades, or centuries. But, modern forensic and medical technologies (such as radiocarbon dating) have been developed that allow researchers to more closely determine the age of the burial, the person's age at death, and other details. Scientists have been able to study the skin of the bog bodies, reconstruct their appearance and even determine what their last meal was from their stomach contents, since peat marsh preserves soft internal tissue. Their teeth also indicate their age at death and what type of food they ate throughout their lifetime. Subsurface radar can be used by archaeologists to detect bodies and artifacts beneath the bog surface before cutting into the peat. Radiocarbon dating is also common as it accurately gives the date of the find, most usually from the Iron Age.
Forensic facial reconstruction is one particularly impressive technique used in studying the bog bodies. Originally designed for identifying modern faces in crime investigations, this technique is a way of working out the facial features of a person by the shape of their skull. The face of one bog body, Yde Girl, was reconstructed in 1992 by Richard Neave of Manchester University using CT scans of her head. Yde Girl and her modern reconstruction are displayed at the Drents Museum in Assen. Such reconstructions have also been made of the heads of Lindow Man (British Museum, London, United Kingdom), Grauballe Man, Girl of the Uchter Moor, Clonycavan Man, Roter Franz and Windeby I.
Hundreds of bog bodies have been recovered and studied. The bodies have been most commonly found in the Northern European countries of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Ireland. In 1965, the German scientist Alfred Dieck catalogued more than 1,850 bog bodies, but later scholarship revealed much of the Dieck's work was erroneous, and an exact number of discovered bodies is unknown.
Several bog bodies are notable for the high quality of their preservation and the substantial research by archaeologists and forensic scientists. These include:
Amcotts Moor Woman is the name given to bog body discovered in 1747 in a bog near Amcotts, Lincolnshire, England. Because little was known about preservation at the time, as well as over-sampling, only her left shoe has survived.Cashel Man
Cashel Man is a bog body from the Cúl na Móna bog near Cashel in County Laois, Ireland. He was found by Bord na Mona employee Jason Phelan from Abbeyleix. The body was a young adult male, around 20-25, who had been intentionally covered with peat after death. The crouched figure was recovered after being partially damaged by a milling machine in 2011. The head and left arm were presumed destroyed by the peat harvester, until later found. Radiocarbon dating places him around 2000 BC, making it the oldest fleshed bog body of Europe.Clonycavan Man
Clonycavan Man is the name given to a well-preserved Iron Age bog body found in Clonycavan, Ballivor, County Meath, Ireland in March 2003. It has been suggested that he had once been a king and was ritually sacrificed.Damendorf Man
Damendorf Man is a German squashed bog body discovered in 1900 in the See Moor at the village Damendorf in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.Elling Woman
The Elling Woman is a bog body discovered in 1938 west of Silkeborg, Denmark. The Tollund Man was later discovered just c. 60 m (200 ft) away, twelve years after the Elling Woman's discovery. The Elling Woman was mistakenly described as a man in P.V. Glob's book, The Bog People.Girl of the Uchter Moor
The Girl of the Uchter Moor also known as Moora is the name given to the female Iron Age bog body remains, discovered in 2000 in the marshland near Uchte, Germany. The remains include vertebrae, hair and skull pieces. The studies of the body began in 2005. The radiocarbon dating performed at the University of Kiel showed that Moora had died between 764 and 515 B.C. Despite common Iron Age burial practices, the body was not cremated. All of the body parts are estimated to have been found except for one scapula.Before DNA analysis and Radiocarbon Dating, the body was initially believed to be that of a sixteen-year-old girl, Elke Kerll, who had disappeared in 1969 after going to a dance club.Grauballe Man
The Grauballe Man is a bog body that was uncovered in 1952 from a peat bog near the village of Grauballe in Jutland, Denmark. The body is that of a man dating from the late 3rd century BC, during the early Germanic Iron Age. Based on the evidence of his wounds, he was most likely killed by having his throat slit. His corpse was then deposited in the bog, where his body was naturally preserved for over two millennia. He was not the only bog body to be found in the peat bogs of Jutland: with other notable examples Tollund Man and the Elling Woman, Grauballe Man represents an established tradition at the time; it is commonly thought that these killings, including that of Grauballe Man, were examples of human sacrifice, possibly an important rite in Iron Age Germanic paganism.
Grauballe Man has been described as "one of the most spectacular discoveries from Denmark's prehistory" because it is one of the most exceptionally preserved bog bodies in the world. Upon excavation in 1952, it was moved to the Prehistoric Museum in Aarhus, where it underwent research and conservation. In 1955 the body went on display at the Moesgaard Museum near Aarhus, where it can still be seen today. Due to the preservation of the man's feet and hands, his fingerprints were successfully taken.Haraldskær Woman
The Haraldskær Woman (or Haraldskjaer Woman) is a bog body of a woman found naturally preserved in a bog in Jutland, Denmark, and dating from about 490 BCE (pre-Roman Iron Age). Workers found the body in 1835 while excavating peat on the Haraldskær Estate. The anaerobic conditions and acids of the peat bog contributed to the body's excellent preservation. Not only was the intact skeleton found, but so were the skin and internal organs. Scientists settled disputes about the age and identity of this well preserved body in 1977, when radiocarbon dating determined conclusively that the woman's death occurred around the 5th century BCE.The Haraldskær Woman's body is on permanent display in an ornate glass-covered sarcophagus inside St. Nicolai Church in central Vejle, Denmark.Koelbjerg Man
The Koelbjerg Man, formerly known as Koelbjerg Woman, is the oldest known bog body and also the oldest set of human bones found in Denmark, dated to the time of the Maglemosian culture around 8000 BC. His remains are on display at the Møntergården Museum in Odense, Denmark.Lindow Man
Lindow Man, also known as Lindow II and (in jest) as Pete Marsh, is the preserved bog body of a man discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss near Wilmslow in Cheshire, North West England. The human remains were found on 1 August 1984 by commercial peat-cutters. Lindow Man is not the only bog body to have been found in the moss; Lindow Woman was discovered the year before, and other body parts have also been recovered. The find, described as "one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 1980s", caused a media sensation. It helped invigorate study of British bog bodies, which had previously been neglected in comparison to those found in the rest of Europe.
At the time of death, Lindow Man was a healthy male in his mid-20s, and he may have been someone of high status, as his body shows little evidence of heavy or rough work. There has been debate over the reason for Lindow Man's death, because the nature of his demise was violent, perhaps ritualistic; after a last meal of charred bread, Lindow Man was strangled, hit on the head, and his throat cut. Dating the body has proven problematic, but it is thought that Lindow Man was deposited into Lindow Moss, face down, some time between 2 BC and 119 AD, in either the Iron Age or Romano-British period. The recovered body has been preserved by freeze-drying and is on permanent display at the British Museum, although it occasionally travels to other venues such as the Manchester Museum.Lindow Moss
Lindow Moss, also known as Saltersley Common, is a raised mire peat bog on the edge of Wilmslow in Cheshire, England. It has been used as common land since the medieval period and is best known for the discovery of the preserved bog body of Lindow Man in 1984.
The peat bog was formed in a collection of hollows left by melting ice at the end of the last ice age. The first written record of Lindow Moss was in 1421 when the lord of Mobberley and Wilmslow allowed people to dig peat from the mossland for use as fuel. It originally covered over 600 hectares (1,500 acres), but has since shrunk to a tenth of its original size. The bog can be a dangerous place; an 18th-century writer recorded people drowning there.For centuries, peat from the bog was used as fuel. It continues to be extracted but now for mixing within compost products. The process is now mechanised with a mechanical digger.
The site is known for its flora and fauna such as hare's-tail cottongrass, common cottongrass and green hairstreak butterfly. It also has been a habitat for water voles although their continued existence is threatened by sinking water levels. The Saltersley Common Preservation Society promotes the preservation of the moss. In November 2011, they teamed up with a local amateur filmmaker to produce a short video detailing the history of the bog and some of the threats it faces.Lindow Woman
Lindow Woman is the name given to the partial remains of a female bog body, discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss, near Wilmslow in Cheshire, England, on 13 May 1983 by commercial peat-cutters. The remains were largely a skull fragment, with soft tissue and hair attached, and were dated to the Roman period. It was more technically known Lindow I after another body was discovered in the same bog, which is identified as Lindow Man or Lindow II, the most extensive bog body yet found in England.List of bog bodies
This is a list of bog bodies in order of the country in which they were discovered. Bog bodies, or bog people, are the naturally preserved corpses of humans and some animals recovered from peat bogs. The bodies have been most commonly found in the Northern European countries of Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Reports of bog bodies surfaced during the early 1700s. In 1965, the German scientist Alfred Dieck catalogued more than 1,850 bog bodies, but later scholarship revealed much of Dieck's work was erroneous. Hundreds of bog bodies have been recovered and studied, although it is believed that only around 45 bog bodies remain intact today.Moesgaard Museum
Moesgaard Museum (MOMU) is a Danish regional museum dedicated to archaeology and ethnography. It is located in Højbjerg, a suburb of Aarhus, Denmark.
MOMU cooperates with the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology and Anthropology at Aarhus University. The main part of the museum’s archaeological collection is of Danish origin. In addition, the Ethnographical Collections contain almost 50,000 artefacts from all over the world. They are used both for research and exhibitions. The collection also contains photographic material, films and sound recordings. The museum’s exhibitions presents several unrivalled archaeological findings from Denmark’s ancient past, amongst others the Grauballe Man, the world’s best preserved bog body and the large ritual weapon caches from Illerup Ådal, testifying the power struggles and warfare of the Iron Age. The collection also contains seven local rune stones.
Temporary exhibitions at the museum also display examples of the world's cultural heritage.
A large new museum building, housing both exhibitions for the public and headquarters for academic activities, was inaugurated in 2014.Mohawk hairstyle
The mohawk (also referred to as a mohican) is a hairstyle in which, in the most common variety, both sides of the head are shaven, leaving a strip of noticeably longer hair in the center. The mohawk is also sometimes referred to as an iro in reference to the Iroquois, from whom the hairstyle is derived - though historically the hair was plucked out rather than shaved. Additionally, hairstyles bearing these names more closely resemble those worn by the Pawnee, rather than the Mohawk, Mohican/Mahican, Mohegan, or other phonetically similar tribes. The red-haired Clonycavan Man bog body found in Ireland is notable for having a well-preserved Mohawk hairstyle, dated to between 392 BCE and 201 BCE. It is today worn as an emblem of non-conformity. The world record for the tallest mohawk goes to Kazuhiro Watanabe, who has a 1.13 meters tall mohawk.Stoneyisland Man
Stoneyisland Man is the name given to a bog body discovered in the Stoneyisland Bog, Gortanumera, County Galway, Ireland 13 May 1929.Tollund Man
Tollund Man is a naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the period characterised in Scandinavia as the Pre-Roman Iron Age. He was found in 1950, preserved as a bog body, on the Jutland peninsula. The man's physical features were so well-preserved that he was mistaken at the time of discovery for a recent murder victim. Twelve years before Tollund Man's discovery, another bog body, Elling Woman, had been found in the same bog.Scholars believe the man was a human sacrifice rather than executed criminal because of the arranged position of his body, and the fact that his eyes and mouth were closed.Windeby I
Windeby I is the name given to the bog body found preserved in a peat bog near Windeby, Northern Germany, in 1952. Until recently, the body was also called the Windeby Girl, since an archeologist believed it to be the body of a 14-year-old girl, because of its slight build. Prof. Heather Gill-Robinson, a Canadian anthropologist and pathologist, used DNA testing to show the body was actually that of a sixteen-year-old boy. The body has been radiocarbon-dated to between 41 BCE and 118 CE.Yde Girl
Yde Girl (English: (listen)) is a bog body found in the Stijfveen peat bog near the village of Yde, Netherlands. She was found on 12 May 1897 and was reputedly uncannily well-preserved when discovered (especially her hair), but by the time the body was turned over to the authorities a fortnight later it had been severely damaged and deteriorated. Most of her teeth had been pulled from the skull by villagers as well as a large amount of hair. The peat cutting tools had also been reported to have severely damaged the body.