Sunday, November 18, 2007

Prehistoric Peat Bog People in Europe

Tollund Man - Denmark c. C 4th BC (C14 dating)

I've always been absolutely (morbidly?) fascinated by the peat bog people, individuals who died but whose bodies have been preserved to an astonishing degree in peat.

The 2400 year old Tollund Man is one of the most famous examples, having been discovered in Bjældskovdal bog in Denmark in 1950. It has been theorized that this individual had been hanged not as a criminal but as a sacrifice to the gods, evidenced by his being buried in the bog rather than cremated, the usual way of disposing of bodies.

Other examples of such sacrificial practice include Oldcroghan Man, discovered at Oldcroghan in central Ireland. This individual belonged to the upper classes of that Iron Age society, as seen in his manicured fingernails and Iron Age 'hair gel'.

Manicured Hand of Oldcroghan Man - central Ireland c. C 3rd BC (C14 dating)

In this Irish case, sacrifice seems intertwined with punishment.

The individual was possibly a political hostage, whose body, as an offering to fertility gods, was buried on the borders of tribal boundaries to ensure a good harvest of corn and milk through a king's reign.

The punishment was severe. This man
was stabbed, his nipples sliced and holes cut in his upper arms through which restraining ropes could be threaded. He was cut in half across the body and beheaded. ('Enjoy your dinner' - a very inaccessibly private joke!).

These instances of European human sacrifice have made me think of the horrified condescension with which similar killing in the Mezo-Americas is usually presented in Europe and America. Not that I am attempting to justify such practices anywhere or advocating their return (except in a few cases ... !). I'm making the general point that such practices have occurred far more widely than we care to admit. And in cultures intermingled with my own.

A peat bog in Scotland ...

A Peat Bog in Scotland

... to finish the post on a calm and tranquil note - if that's what you need!

1 comment:

  1. Those were fascinating! I'd never even heard of them before.