Greetings my Faithful Readers!
This week is a trip into the macabre, as we take a look at Bog Bodies. Like a train wreck, it's impossible not to look at these strange and ancient bodies. The truth of the matter is, however, that we, as historical enthusiasts, have a lot to learn from these finds.
Take, for instance, Lindow Man. It is speculated that Lindow Man was alternately a criminal on the run, a late-day Druid Priest sacrificed in a ritual, or the victim of a robbery. Whatever the ancient truth may have been, Lindow Man's work was not finish on that dark day at approx 500 AD. Once he was discovered, his entire being was analyzed. Such care was taken to analyze his stomach remains that it is possible to garner a fairly accurate recipe from his stomach contents. Scientists were able to tell what grains he ate, how they were cooked, how long, at what temperatures, and how much gluten was present (which tells the length of time the dough sat before cooking and whether it was leavened or not).
According to The Life and Death of a Druid Prince: The Story of Lindow Man, an Archaeological Sensation by Anne Ross, Don Robins (a somewhat melodramatic book that nevertheless gives the scientific results of the stomach analysis) Lindow man's last meal was most likely a mixed-grain bannock, which was burnt on one edge such as might happen with a traveler who stops to make a hasty meal by the roadside. Some folks--see links below--interpret the results to mean a sort of porridge. But however the results are interpreted, that's the sort of information that is invaluable in re-creating history. I used this and similar information to re-create a meal for an early-period feast many years ago. Lacking early Celtic cookbooks, archaeology was the first and best place to go for information about Ancient Celtic Food.
Many of these finds are fairly early to our time period, but none the less fascinating. I encourage you to use the reading list linked below for more information to these fascinating finds. Please pass this Links List along to those who may find it interesting.
Dame Aoife Finn m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt Canton of Riverouge Barony of Endless Hills Kingdom of Aethelmearc
If you wish to correspond with Aoife directly, please send mail to: mtnlion at ptd dot net.
Reluctant Travelers: The Bog Bodies of Europe
(Site Excerpt) On May 13, men working on the peat elevator discovered a well-preserved skull which the forensic pathologist identified as a 30 to 50-year-old European female. When confronted with this discovery, Mr. Reyn-Bardt confessed to the murder. Police continued their investigation in the peat, and decided to involve Oxford University's Research Laboratory for Archaeology. Just before the Reyn-Bardt case went to trial, Oxford came forward with a date for the skull-they had found it to be 1660-1820 years old....
The Bodies in the Bog: A Reading List
Bog finds, Wetlands, Logboats
(Site Excerpt) In Europe, hundreds of logboats (dugouts) have been found in bogs and sweetwater lakes. The oldest are c 9000 years old, the youngest are c 250 years old in most of Europe, but as young as c 100 years in the Baltic States and Russia. Most logboats found in bogs are probably not sacrificed offerings. Such logboats may simply have been abandoned in lakes or riverbeds that later dried-out.
The Mysterious Bog People
(Site Excerpt) The Mysterious Bog People is a unique exhibition. Never before have so many bog mummies and offerings been brought together, providing valuable insight into the practices of our ancestors. Even the remains of the only known wooden Bronze Age temple will be on display.
Tri-Spiral: Lindow Man Articles
(Adobe Acrobat required)
Articles on: Lindow Cereals, Lindow Man find
Early Anglo-Saxon Costume: An Archaeological Approach
Copyright 2002, 2003 by Elizabeth Peters
(Site Excerpt) One of the challenges in researching early period costume is that written and artistic records contain little or ambiguous material. In this class, we will look at Anglo-Saxon Costume in the Pagan Era (410-650 AD). Examples of men's and women's costume will be discussed. We will examine an archaeological approach to reconstructing the costume of this period. Reports of bog and grave finds as well as actual dress ornaments from the period will be used.
Questions about Bog Mummies
(Site Excerpt) A sleeveless tunic was found in one bog, a sleeved tunic in another. All of these are considered men's garments. Skin capes and woolen cloaks have been found with women's bodies. The most famous clothing item is a woolen peplos (a draped dress--somewhat like a toga) found on Huldremose Woman.
(Site Excerpt) The only other place (besides northern Europe) to produce bog mummies is Florida (Windover Pond, though the preserved remains there were not entire "bog bodies" but "bog brains:" early native Americans used the pond as a burial site from which scientists recovered some skeletal remains in the mid-1980s; the preserved brain matter inside some skulls was able to provide DNA samples.
(Site Excerpt) Found in the Bourtangermoor in 1904 by peatcutter Hilbrand Gringhuis, the bodies were long thought to be those of a man and woman. They were called the Weerdinge couple, and they were even given names: Darby (for the man) and Joan.
Wikipedia: Bog Body
(Site Excerpt) Preserved bodies of humans and animals have been discovered in bogs in Britain, Ireland, northern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. Records of such finds go back as far as the 18th century. It is not readily apparent if a body has been buried in a bog for years, decades, or centuries. However, during the 20th century, forensic and medical technology was developed which allow researchers to more closely determine their age.
(Site Excerpt) Although the majority of finds are from Antrim and Londonderry, this is partly due to the fact that Ordnance Survey extensively surveyed both counties in the 1830s, collecting archaeological information as they went. Antiquarians working from Belfast formed collections from objects found on these surveys, many of which eventually found their way into museums. It is probable that a vast number of similar finds may have been lost from peatlands in other counties, particularly the widespread areas in Tyrone and Fermanagh.
Tollund Man and Elling Woman
(Site Excerpt) Why Tollund Man was hanged and buried in the peat bog we shall never know. But his fellow men did not treat him like a criminal: after he died, they carefully closed his eyes and mouth and carried him to the peat bog, where he was laid to rest with care. This bears witness to a dignified burial. Thus it is reasonable to see Tollund Man as a human sacrifice to the god or gods. Maybe to the god of the bog, he who gave men peat and other goods. Early Iron Age societies cremated their dead, only bog bodies had a different burial - perhaps the gods would be appeased by a whole body only and not by burnt bones.
The Drents Museum in Assen: Yde Girl
(Article about facial reconstruction)
(Site Excerpt) In1992, the face of Yde Girl was reconstructed by medical artist Richard Neave. The task was daunting, because the mummy had been found 100 years earlier and had dried out so much that it was half its original size.
Bodies of Evidence
(a timeline of mummified remains and their discovery)
Many sites from Archaeology.org
Violence in the Bogs
(Site Excerpt) In 1879 the body of an adult woman was found in a bog near Ramten, Jutland in Denmark. The body, known as Huldremose Woman, was very well preserved. The woman met her violent end sometime between 160 B.C. and 340 A.D. Her arms and legs showed signs of repeated hacking, and the diggers who found her body noted that her right arm was detached from the rest of her body. That arm was evidently cut off before she was deposited in the peat. (National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen)
Bodies of the Bogs
(Site Excerpt) Over the past centuries, remains of many hundreds of people--men, women, and children--have come to light during peat cutting activities in northwestern Europe, especially in Ireland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, northern Germany, and Denmark. These are the "bog bodies." The individual bog bodies show a great degree of variation in their state of preservation, from skeletons, to well-preserved complete bodies, to isolated heads and limbs. They range in date from 8000 B.C. to the early medieval period. Most date from the centuries around the beginning of our era. We do not know exactly how many bog bodies have been found--many have disappeared since their discovery.
Clothing and Hair Styles of the Bog People
(Site Excerpt) A well-preserved body was found on Grewelthorphe Moor, North Yorkshire in 1850. Dressed in bright woolen garments and a pair of shoes, it was reburied in the churchyard of Kirkby Mazeard. Fortunately a policeman managed to secure some bits and pieces: a nailed sole of the left shoe, a woolen insole, and a textile fragment of irregular shape which may have been part of a stocking. The unusual shoe sole is typical for the Roman period. (Yorkshire Museum, H 2053.1, H 2053.2)
(Site Excerpt) ... it was believed that the remains were those of the Norwegian queen Gunhild. According to the Jomsvikinga saga she was killed and drowned in a bog at the instigation of the Danish king Harald Blatand (Blue Tooth). King Frederick VI had a beautiful sarcophagus carved for this alleged royal mummy, in which it was laid to rest in the church of St. Nicholas in Vejle.