Digging in a peat bog (A bog is a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material) your spade hits something, a little too hard and you see a face staring back at you. Bingo, you might've stumbled on a murder scene, and once you get back to your senses, the first thing you do is inform the police.
The police confirm your suspicion; someone was murdered, but not recently, it happened centuries ago. Shocking enough?
Did you know the waterlogged conditions of a peat bog create low-oxygen, low-temperature, and a high acidic pH environment that can preserve the remains of bodies for thousands of years? It is also these conditions that make peat a useful fuel for burning.
Amongst the hundreds of bodies discovered in peat bogs, here are 10 of the most ancient and amazing bog bodies ever found.
It was in 1950 in Denmark when a few peat diggers hit something too hard, and after pulling it out, they saw a face staring back at them. They called the police as they thought they found a crime scene and they were damn right about it. The fresh, sleeping face of the Tollund Man is kept in the Silkeborg Museum, and although the face does look seemingly fresh, you'd be awestruck to know that the Tollund Man lived in the 4th Century BC.
Found with a rope around his neck, the X-rays revealed that he was hanged but his neck was not broken, and he died of strangulation. The body was in a rather good condition, so the examiners were even able to find out that his last supper was a type of porridge, and that the Tollund Man suffered from a worm infection.
Because of the location and the way his body was arranged, it is believed that the Tollund Man's death was a ritual sacrifice. The same conclusion of ritual sacrifice is repeated with many bog bodies.
Not as well preserved as the Tollund Man, the body of Cashel Man was discovered in Ireland in the year 2011. And experts believe he was a king, and his death was a violent one.
There was a ritual of marrying Irish Kings to a goddess, so the Kings got their power to protect their land and people. And, if any calamity occurred then the marriage was officiated, it was believed to have failed. We all understand that divorces are a nasty affair, but for Irish kings, they were horrendous. It was at the same place that the king was crowned in a bog below the hill where he was attacked and mutilated.
Strikes and violent stabs on the Cashel Man's back show that he went through the same horrifying ritual. A suggestive sword wound on his arm shows that he did try to save himself. The site was marked with hazel rods placed over the Cashel Man.
The Old Croghan Man was discovered with just a head and a torso so he can hardly be called a man. But signs show that he was a man of importance before he died between 362 and 175 BC. Standing 198 centimeters tall (6'6") the Old Croghan Man must have towered over others in that period of poor nutrition. He was an important man as the analysis reveal, he enjoyed a meat-rich diet that was a luxury during those times, and another missing piece adds to this analysis; his nipples were removed.
Submission towards the king in ancient Irish times was shown by sucking at his nipples, and a man couldn't be a king if he didn't have nipples as no one would be able to show him respect. The Old Croghan Man wasn't shown much respect, and to restrain him rope was passed through his arms where holes had been cut. He was placed in the dark waters of the bog, but before that, he was disemboweled, repeatedly stabbed and cut into two.
It was in 1984 that the first bog body was found in the United Kingdom that was well-preserved and could be studied scientifically. The Lindow Man was possibly sacrificed when the control of the country was in the hands of the Romans, somewhere between 2 BC and 119 AD. But since the Romans outlawed human sacrifice, this bog burial was either done illegally or was one of the later burial before the invasion.
It was in a peat processing plant that a worker threw something at his co-worker thinking it of as a piece of wood, but when he threw it, the peat revealed a human leg. Archaeologists recovered the body soon afterward.
Brutally murdered, skull fragments were knocked into the Lindow Man's brain due to a blow to the top of the head. He had survived for several hours before he was placed face down in a body of water, but before that, he was stabbed, and his neck was broken, and it was all revealed due to the inflammation in his head.
Found just 262 feet (80 meters) apart from the Tollund Man, the Elling Woman died around 280 BC. It was only after she was discovered that it was believed that women too could be killed in this manner and placed in the bogs. Her body placement, stylish clothes, and her hair make it impossible to believe that it was a judicial murder. Though she was hanged, her killing looks like a ritual sacrifice.
Her remains were first thought to be animal remains, but it was the woven belt around her waist that said it all. She was formerly called the Elling Man as only the back of her body was well-preserved, the front was decayed. It was the X-rays and the complex braiding of her hair that revealed the truth. She was found with animal hide wrapped around her legs, a cloak and the rope with which she was hanged was also found close to where her body was found.
Another bog body found in Denmark, the Grauballe Man's throat was cut from ear to ear, and because of this, his face was misshapen but was well-preserved. He died around 55 BC. The Grauballe Man was found with several broken bones, and it could so have happened due to the weight of the peat above.
It was his well-preserved hands that told the story of no manual labor and well-cared nails. When he was discovered, he was wearing only a cap and belt, and it could be possible that he was buried naked or it was the condition of the bog that destroyed his clothes.
His shock of red hair was the most startling aspect about him, but analysis reveals that he had dark hair and again it was the bog condition that is responsible for the current color.
One of the earliest bog bodies to be found in 1835 also in Denmark and amongst the earliest one's to be preserved. The Haraldskaer Woman is still preserved in Vejle in the St. Nicolai Church in a glass-covered sarcophagus.
Her body was discovered in Gunhild's bog in Gunnelmose, and it was because of this that she was believed to be Gunhild, the Norwegian queen. Legends say that the Norwegian Queen was drowned in the bog and it was the Danish king who housed the queen in a beautifully carved sarcophagus after she was discovered.
The Haraldskaer Woman was not the Norwegian queen, and it was found with the help or radiocarbon dating. Studies also reveal that she was a woman of importance and did not live anywhere near the bog. The marks on her neck still reveal the story of her strangulation.
With a more personalized name of Windeby Girl, examinations revealed the body was actually a boy. He was found wearing a wool blindfold over his eyes and a cap. The half-shaven head suggested a ritual sacrifice, but it was later found out that half the hair had fallen off in the bog due to the uneven preservation. It could possibly be that the blindfold was a hairband and it slipped down to the eyes.
Windeby I suffered from malnutrition, and unlike other high-status men and women recovered from the bogs, his death was due to natural causes and was a simple burial in the bog.
Although found impaled to the bottom of a body of water, the Bocksten Man's death was no ritual sacrifice. Also, he wasn't found in well-preserved conditions as other bog bodies. It was only his glorious locks of hair and bones that were left of him. And, it was only 700 years ago that he was buried.
His burial might be an attempt to hide a murder as he was struck thrice on the head: on his jaw, on his right ear and the last fatal blow when he was already on the ground on the back of his skull.
His clothes told the story of him being well-off and based on the theories suggested, he might have been a recruiter for the army or maybe a tax collector. All in all a rich man who might have been a victim of wrong timing.
As the zombie fad keeps returning so does the fear of the dead returning kept the Germans on their toes in the 3rd century AD. The body without the head was found of the Datgen Man, and later the head was found staked down and buried 3 meters (10 ft.) from the body. Datgen Man's body too was staked and mutilated after that. The way he was held down suggests that people who buried him didn't want him to get back up. Wiederganger or the one who walks again believed by the Germans could be one reason for this kind of burial.