Eight Thousand Years of Bog Bodies Reveal a Grim Burial Tradition


Bathroom-mummified individuals are primarily present in raised bogs — discrete, dome-shaped plenty of peat that sometimes type in lowland landscapes and attain depths of 30 ft or extra. (Blanket bogs are usually shallower and unfold out extensively over moist or upland areas.)

The primary recorded physique emerged from Schalkholz Fen in Holstein, Germany, in 1640. Since then, the cold-weather swamps of northern Europe have yielded such regional curiosities as Windeby Lady, Haraldskjaer Lady, Lindow Man, Clonycavan Man, Previous Croghan Man and Koelbjerg Man. The bones of Koelbjerg Man, recovered in 1941 on the Danish island of Funen, date to 8000 B.C. Seamus Heaney’s melancholy “Bathroom Poems” embrace a lament for Grauballe Man, whose throat was slit within the third century B.C.:

The cured wound

opens inwards to a darkish

elderberry place.

Of the 57 lavatory individuals whose explanation for loss of life may very well be decided in Dr. van Beek’s research, a minimum of 45 met violent ends, and fairly a number of had been bludgeoned or suffered mutilation and dismemberment earlier than they died. Tollund Man, courting to the fifth century B.C. and dredged from a Danish peat lavatory in 1950, was hanged. Bone arrowheads had been discovered embedded within the cranium and sternum of Porsmose Man, recovered from peat elsewhere in Denmark. Seven victims seem to have been slain by a number of means, a observe that students name overkilling. Nearly all the overkills in Dr. van Beek’s research occurred from 400 B.C. to 400 A.D.

Whereas most websites held only a single deceased individual, some had been used repeatedly, with one Danish lavatory, Alken Enge, estimated to carry the disarticulated stays of greater than 380 historic warriors killed in a brutal battle and left in open water. The bones, completely male and predominantly grownup, date to early within the first century A.D., when Germanic tribes engaged in intratribal warfare. Researchers imagine that the useless had been cleared from the battlefield and dumped into the lavatory with their weapons and private ornaments.

This might have been one of many lesser indignities that befell lavatory individuals. Many had been rapidly extracted or improperly conserved; within the Netherlands of the late 18th century, 4 lavatory corpses had been even floor into mumia — mummy powder — and offered as treatments. (For these questioning, pulverized mummy will not be yummy, reportedly.)

A elementary query about these Iron Age victims is why. Had been they murdered? Executed? Sacrificed to the gods, maybe as fertility choices? Miranda Aldhouse-Inexperienced, emeritus professor of archaeology at Cardiff College and writer of “Bathroom Our bodies Uncovered,” has argued that ritual sacrifices could have been undertaken at instances of disaster in a group: famine, excessive climate, battle threats, the perceived have to kill international hostages.


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