About the cultural background of bog bodies
Victim of violence: The Danish Tollund Man was hanged or strangled before he was buried and preserved in the bog around 2400 years ago.
Image: Picture Alliance
Bog corpses, often preserved with skin and hair for many centuries, exert a horrible fascination. But what is the cultural background of the finds?
Haut like black tanned leather, the face still surprisingly lifelike after thousands of years, maltreated, twisted bodies, sometimes signs of extreme violence – some bog corpses were probably human sacrifices. Even today, their tales of woe are noted with shudders. However, a study by Roy van Beek from Wageningen University in the Netherlands now shows that focusing on these spectacular finds does not do justice to the large group of bog bodies. Until modern times, deliberate burial in the bog was a millennia-old, deep-rooted tradition in Northern Europe, stretching from Ireland to the Baltic States. It was not only used to make human sacrifices, criminals or outcasts disappear.
The finds range from the Middle Stone Age to the 19th century. The oldest find dates back to the eighth millennium BC, the most recent finds are two hundred years old. To date, more than two thousand individuals have been recovered as bog mummies, as skeletal finds, or as corpses or skeletal parts. About half of the finds could be dated with certainty. However, many finds are only known from historical sources or from hearsay because they were buried again immediately after they were recovered.