May 1, 2017

Bog Bodies

Europe’s Famed Bog Bodies Are Starting to Reveal Their Secrets

 Tollund-Man Bog Body


I drove here on a damp March day with Ole Nielsen, director of the Silkeborg Museum. We tramped out to a desolate stretch of bog, trying to keep to the clumps of ocher-colored grass and avoid the clingy muck between them. A wooden post was planted to mark the spot where two brothers, Viggo and Emil Hojgaard, along with Viggo’s wife, Grethe, all from the nearby village of Tollund, struck the body of an adult man while they cut peat with their spades on May 6, 1950. The dead man wore a belt and an odd cap made of skin, but nothing else. Oh yes, there was also a plaited leather thong wrapped tightly around his neck. This is the thing that killed him. His skin was tanned a deep chestnut, and his body appeared rubbery and deflated. Otherwise, Tollund Man, as he would be called, looked pretty much like you and me, which is astonishing considering he lived some 2,300 years ago.
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What really gets you is his lovely face with its closed eyes and lightly stubbled chin. It is disconcertingly peaceful for someone who died so violently. You’d swear he’s smiling, as if he’s been dreaming sweetly for all those centuries. “It’s like he could wake up at any moment and say, ‘Oh, where was I?’” says Nielsen, who has clearly fallen under Tollund Man’s spell himself. “Looking at his face, you feel you could take a trip back 2,300 years to meet him.
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The best-preserved bodies were all found in raised bogs, which form in basins where poor drainage leaves the ground waterlogged and slows plant decay. Over thousands of years, layers of sphagnum moss accumulate, eventually forming a dome fed entirely by rainwater. A raised bog contains few minerals and very little oxygen, but lots of acid. Add in low Northern European temperatures, and you have a wonderful refrigerator for conserving dead humans.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/europe-bog-bodies-reveal-secrets-180962770/#m0QyTA7girZCiEAD.99
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Posted by Jill Fallon at May 1, 2017 4:32 PM | Permalink