Some Mysteries Surrounding Bog Bodies Revealed


Bog bodies are the naturally preserved hum corpses that were found in the quagmire or mire of Northern Europe. They are different from other ancient human remains, the bog bodies have their skin and internal organs intact due to the unusual conditions of the areas they were buried in. The bogs (or mires) have low temperature, acidic water, lack of oxygen and scarcity of microbial which have led to their good condition as well as tanning of skin. The bog bodies started to be discovered in various parts of UK, Ireland and surrounding areas as early as 1800s. In 1965 German scientist Dr. Alfred Dieck catalogued the presence of nearly 1,850 such bodies in Northern Europe.

Tulland Man: A Bog Body

There have been various tales created by people ever since the first discoveries of the bog bodies. Their neatly arranged hair and other well preserved body parts coupled with signs of cruelty on their bodies have made people wonder about the real story. While some feel that the most feared or loathed people were sacrificed by their near ones during their near ones to please the Gods during the Iron Age others feel they died of natural causes and were buried in this forbidden place. But the advent of technology has meant there are more ways to find out the truth. Technologies such as radio carbon dating, CT scans and three dimensional imaging have led to new conceptions.

Another Danish Bog Body

  • Tacitus’s Records: In the past the researchers had resorted to historical accounts from the Roman historian Tacitus of the first century A.D. According to Tacitus, the Germans killed the cowards and homosexuals and threw their bodies in the bogs. Similarly, the bog bodies were interpreted as bodies of people in disgrace who were tortured, disgraced and buried in the bogs instead of cremation which was an Iron Age custom.
  • Winderby Girl: Winderby Girl which was discovered in Northern Germany in 1952 was supposed to be an adultress whose head had been shaved in a similar manner described by Tacitus. Researchers also speculated that she might have been blindfolded and drowned in the bog. Another body found close by was identified as her lover. But tests conducted later concluded that the Winderby Girl was actually a young man and that he lived many centuries (as seen by the radio carbon dating results). Further, the researchers feel that the hair of this bog body might have been lost due to careless digging. The bones and growth interruptions indicated that the young man was malnourished and died of natural causes.
  • Picture of Winderby Girl

  • Grauballe Man: Grauballe Man which was discovered northwest of Copenhagen in 1952 had been labelled as tortured and mutilated before death. After thorough forensic investigations it as revealed that the signs of torture and mutilation had been inflicted upon the bog body many centuries after its death. X-rays of the body revealed that the bones were demineralised by acidic bog waters and it looked like glass. CT scans have also revealed that the skull of the Grauballe Man was fractured by the pressure caused when a boy wearing clogs accidentally stepped on it. The broken legs of the body was caused due to the acidic environment of the bog and due to a vicious blow to force him to kneel, as previously felt by some scholars.
  • Grauballe Man Lying in His Death Bed

  • Clonycavan Man: This bog body on the otherhand bears witness to the so called human sacrifices to suffice Gods. The man once stood six feet and four inches tall, but only his torso and arms were found. Wounds on the arms suggest that he had fended off knife stabs before being fatally stabbed in the heart. This body has been badly mutilated with its nipples cut, upper arm pierced and twisted hazel inserted into the holes.

As most of these bog bodies were buried in nearby locations thus there is also a theory that they were sacrificed to please the Gods. According to the ancient texts sacrificing “high-ranking hostages taken to force rebellious lords into obedience, pretenders to the throne, or even the failed kings themselves” was a common practice. Each injury suffered honoured different aspects of the goddess such as sovereignty, fertility, and war.

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