The Bog PeopLe

For the past 180 years, the remains of human beings have been recovered from the waterlogged marshes and peat bogs of northwestern Furope. Many of these were well preserved, despite lying submerged in the bog since the Iron Age.

N-lot all these preserved bodies were

_] necessarily those of sacrificial victims—

criminals may have been executed, then their bodies deposited in bogs. The Roman historian Tacitus recorded that in Germany "the coward, shirker, and the unnaturally vicious are drowned in miry swamps under a cover of wattled hurdles."

In 1984 peat cutters working in Lindow Moss in Cheshire, England, uncovered a human body. After foul play was ruled out, archaeologists were called in to examine the

I\indow Man was in his mid-20s when he died, had a mustache, and was well-nourished and groomed. He had met a grizzly end, sustaining heavy blows to the back of the head (which would have knocked him unconscious) before being garrotted by a sinew cord fastened around his neck.

His throat was then cut open, and the body deposited face down in the bog. Carbon dating suggests that he was executed during the first century AD, around the time of the Roman invasion of Britain. His death was almost certainly a ritual killing, since he had been stripped naked except for a fur amulet, and his body had been painted. His last meal consisted of bread containing cereal seeds and mistletoe

Above: The preserved head of a bogman who was strangled before being ritually placed in a peat bog near Tollund, Denmark.

pollen. The pollen has led to speculation that his

Lindow man. The Tollund

death involved a druidic ceremony, since

Man was naked except for

mistletoe has been associated with druid

a leather belt and a cap, and

NORTH

ceremonies. From his appearance it seems lie-

had been garrotted by a

SEA

Tollund

was of a high social standing. This ritual

sinew rope. Like the

JUTLAND

murder involving "three kinds of death" has a

Lindow man, his last meal

• Lindow

parallel in an early Irish Celtic myth of a king

was a form of seed bread.

Windeby •

sacrificed by a three-stage killing.

consumed just belore his death. The similarities

ALBION

Cruel death

strongly suggest that this

GERMANIA

Although Denmark lay beyond the Celtic

form of ritual execution was

territories in Europe, the indigent Danes shared

common throughout the

a common material culture. Several ancient bog

Celtic world and its fringes.

GAUL

have contributed to our understanding of Celtic bog sacrifice or punishment. In 1839 the remains of a large, fully-dressed woman of about 50 was recovered in Juthe Fen in Jutland, and the evidence suggests she was still alive when she was buried.

Wooden hooks had been driven through her knees and elbows, pinning her to the bog surface. Large branches were then laid over her body, pushing her under the surface of the mire. The 19th-century antiquarians who first examined the remains record that her face bore a horrific expression. The execution took place during the Iron Age, and historians have speculated that she could have been a sorceress.

A second female body was discovered at Windeby in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany. The corpse was that of an adolescent, of between 12 and 14 years of age. Her death was clearly a ritual act, as part of her head had been shaved, and she was blindfolded before being executed. Her body was pinned under the surface of the marsh by birch branches and a large stone. It is unclear whether she was executed as a criminal or was a sacrificial victim, but archaeologists speculate that the latter was more likely. Tacitus also records that death by drowning was a punishment for adultery.

The body of an Iron Age man was discovered at Tollund in Denmark, and the corpse bore the signs of a ritual execution similar to that inflicted on the men were discovered, one of whom had been garrotted (Borre Fen Man) and the other had his throat slit (Grauballe Man), both forms of execution inflicted on the Lindow Man. Water bore a ritual significance for the Celts, and therefore bog sacrifices may have formed part ol some long-forgotten religious ceremony.

Below: Lindow Man suffered "three deaths" before being deposited in a bog in Cheshire. England some two thousand years ago.

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