Tollund Man
Overview
 
The Tollund Man is the naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the time period characterised in Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 as the Pre-Roman Iron Age
Pre-Roman Iron Age
The Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe designates the earliest part of the Iron Age in Scandinavia, northern Germany, and the Netherlands north of the Rhine River. These regions feature many extensive archaeological excavation sites, which have yielded a wealth of artifacts...

. He was found in 1950 buried in a peat bog on the Jutland Peninsula
Jutland Peninsula
The Jutland Peninsula or more historically the Cimbrian Peninsula is a peninsula in Europe, divided between Denmark and Germany. The names are derived from the Jutes and the Cimbri....

 in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, which preserved his body. Such a find is known as a bog body
Bog body
Bog bodies, which are also known as bog people, are the naturally preserved human corpses found in the sphagnum bogs in Northern Europe. Unlike most ancient human remains, bog bodies have retained their skin and internal organs due to the unusual conditions of the surrounding area...

. The head and face were so well-preserved that he was mistaken at the time of discovery for a recent murder victim.
On May 6, 1950, Viggo and Emil Højgaard from the small village of Tollund were cutting mud to find peat for their stove in the Bjældskovdal peat bog, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) west of Silkeborg
Silkeborg
Silkeborg is a city in central Denmark. Located in Silkeborg municipality in Jutland, the city has a population of 42,724 . The development of Silkeborg as a modern city may be traced to the foundation of the paper mill by Michael Drewsen on the Gudenaa in 1844...

, Denmark.
Encyclopedia
The Tollund Man is the naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the time period characterised in Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 as the Pre-Roman Iron Age
Pre-Roman Iron Age
The Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe designates the earliest part of the Iron Age in Scandinavia, northern Germany, and the Netherlands north of the Rhine River. These regions feature many extensive archaeological excavation sites, which have yielded a wealth of artifacts...

. He was found in 1950 buried in a peat bog on the Jutland Peninsula
Jutland Peninsula
The Jutland Peninsula or more historically the Cimbrian Peninsula is a peninsula in Europe, divided between Denmark and Germany. The names are derived from the Jutes and the Cimbri....

 in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, which preserved his body. Such a find is known as a bog body
Bog body
Bog bodies, which are also known as bog people, are the naturally preserved human corpses found in the sphagnum bogs in Northern Europe. Unlike most ancient human remains, bog bodies have retained their skin and internal organs due to the unusual conditions of the surrounding area...

. The head and face were so well-preserved that he was mistaken at the time of discovery for a recent murder victim.

Discovery

On May 6, 1950, Viggo and Emil Højgaard from the small village of Tollund were cutting mud to find peat for their stove in the Bjældskovdal peat bog, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) west of Silkeborg
Silkeborg
Silkeborg is a city in central Denmark. Located in Silkeborg municipality in Jutland, the city has a population of 42,724 . The development of Silkeborg as a modern city may be traced to the foundation of the paper mill by Michael Drewsen on the Gudenaa in 1844...

, Denmark. As they worked, one of their wives, who was there helping to load the peat on a carriage, noticed in the peat layer a corpse so fresh that they could only assume that they had discovered a recent murder victim, and after much deliberation among the workers, she notified the police at Silkeborg. The police were baffled by the body, and in an attempt to identify the time of death, they brought in archaeology professor P. V. Glob
Peter Glob
Peter Vilhelm Glob , also P.V. Glob, was a Danish archaeologist who worked as the Director General of Museums and Antiquities of the state of Denmark and was also the Director of the National Museum in Copenhagen...

. Upon initial examination, Glob suggested that the body was over two thousand years old and most likely the victim of a sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

.

The Tollund Man lay 50 metres (164 ft) away from firm ground, buried under approximately 2 metres (6.6 ft) of peat, his body arranged in a fetal position. He wore a pointed skin cap made of sheepskin
Sheepskin
Sheepskin is the hide of a sheep, sometimes also called lambskin or lambswool.Sheepskin may also refer to:* Parchment, a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin** Diploma, originally made of sheepskin...

 and wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

, fastened securely under his chin by a hide thong. There was a smooth hide belt around his waist. Additionally, the corpse had a noose
Noose
A noose is a loop at the end of a rope in which the knot slides to make the loop collapsible. Knots used for making nooses include the running bowline, the tarbuck knot, and the slip knot.-Use in hanging:...

 made of plait
Braid
A braid is a complex structure or pattern formed by intertwining three or more strands of flexible material such as textile fibres, wire, or human hair...

ed animal hide drawn tight around the neck, and trailing down his back. Other than these, the body was naked. His hair was cropped so short as to be almost entirely hidden by his cap. There was short stubble (1mm length) on his chin and upper lip, suggesting that he had not shaved on the day of his death.

Scientific examination and conclusions

Underneath the body was a thin layer of moss. Scientists know that this moss was formed in Danish peat bogs in the early Iron Age, therefore, the body was suspected to have been placed in the bog more than 2,000 years ago during the early Iron Age. Subsequent 14C
Carbon-14
Carbon-14, 14C, or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with a nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons. Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues , to date archaeological, geological, and hydrogeological...

 radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 of Tollund Man indicated that he died in approximately 375-210 BC. The acid in the peat, along with the lack of oxygen underneath the surface, had preserved the soft tissues of his body.

Examinations and X-rays showed that the man's head was undamaged, and his heart, lungs and liver were well preserved. Although not elderly, Tollund Man must have been over 20 years old because his wisdom teeth had grown in. The Silkeborg Museum estimated his age as approximately 40 years and height at , relatively short stature even for the time period. It is likely that the body had shrunk in the bog.

On the initial autopsy report in 1950, doctors concluded that Tollund Man died by hanging rather than strangulation. The rope left visible furrows in the skin beneath his chin and at the sides of his neck. There was no mark, however, at the back of the neck where the knot of the noose would have been located. After a re-examination in 2002, forensic scientists found further evidence to support these initial findings. Although the cervical vertebrae were undamaged (as they often are in hanging victims), radiography showed that the tongue was distended—an indication of death by hanging.

The stomach and intestines were examined and tests carried out on their contents. The scientists discovered that the man's last meal
Last meal
The last meal is a customary part of a condemned prisoner's last day. Often, the day of, or before, the appointed time of execution, the prisoner receives a last meal, as well as religious rites, if they desire. In the United States, inmates generally may not ask for an alcoholic drink...

 had been a kind of porridge made from vegetables and seeds, both cultivated and wild: Barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, linseed, gold of pleasure (Camelina sativa
Camelina sativa
Camelina sativa, usually known in English as camelina, gold-of-pleasure, or false flax, also occasionally wild flax, linseed dodder, German sesame, and Siberian oilseed, is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae which includes mustard, cabbage, rapeseed, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels...

), knotweed, bristlegrass, and chamomile
Chamomile
Chamomile or camomile is a common name for several daisy-like plants of the family Asteraceae. These plants are best known for their ability to be made into an infusion which is commonly used to help with sleep and is often served with either honey or lemon. Because chamomile can cause uterine...

.

There were no traces of meat in the man's digestive system, and from the stage of digestion it was apparent that the man had lived for 12 to 24 hours after this last meal. In other words, he may not have eaten for up to a day before his death. Although similar vegetable soups were not unusual for people of this time, two interesting things were noted:
  • The soup contained many different kinds of wild and cultivated seeds. Because these seeds were not readily available, it is likely that some of them were gathered deliberately for a special occasion.
  • The soup was made from seeds only available near the spring where he was found.

Tollund Man today

The body is displayed at the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, although only the head is original. Conservation techniques for organic material were insufficiently advanced in the early 1950s for the entire body to be preserved, therefore, the forensic examiners suggested the head be severed and the rest of the body remain unpreserved. Subsequently the body desiccated and the tissue disappeared. In 1987, the Silkeborg Museum reconstructed the body using the skeletal remains as a base. As displayed today, the original head is attached to a replica
Replica
A replica is a copy closely resembling the original concerning its shape and appearance. An inverted replica complements the original by filling its gaps. It can be a copy used for historical purposes, such as being placed in a museum. Sometimes the original never existed. For example, Difference...

 of the body.

Both feet and the right thumb, being well-conserved by the peat, were also preserved in formalin for later examination. In 1976, the Danish Police Force
Police of Denmark
The police of Denmark is the interior part of the Danish legitimate force providers...

 made a finger-print analysis, making Tollund Man's thumb print one of the oldest finger-prints on record.

Other Jutland bog bodies

Similar bog chemistry was at work in conserving Haraldskær Woman
Haraldskær Woman
The Haraldskær Woman is an Iron Age bog body found naturally preserved in a bog in Jutland, Denmark. Labourers discovered the body in 1835 while excavating peat on the Haraldskær Estate...

, also discovered in Jutland as a mummified Iron Age specimen. Forensic analysis also suggests a violent death, or perhaps a ritualistic sacrifice, due to presence of noose marks and a puncture wound.

See also

  • Clonycavan Man
    Clonycavan Man
    Clonycavan Man is the name given to a well-preserved Iron Age bog body found in Clonycavan, County Meath, Ireland in March 2003. He has been calculated to have been approximately 1.57 metres in height, and is remarkable for the "gel" in his hair....

  • Grauballe Man
    Grauballe Man
    The Grauballe Man is a bog body that was uncovered in 1952 from a peat bog near to the village of Grauballe in Jutland, Denmark. The body itself is that of an adult male dating from the late 3rd century BC, during the early Iron Age, and he had been killed by having his throat slit open...

  • Lindow Man
    Lindow man
    Lindow Man, also known as Lindow II and as Pete Marsh, is the preserved bog body of a man discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss near Wilmslow in Cheshire, North West England. The body was found on 1 August 1984 by commercial peat-cutters...

  • Lindow Woman
    Lindow Woman
    Lindow Woman, also known as Lindow I, is the name given to the partial remains of a female bog body, discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss, near Wilmslow, northwest England, on 13 May 1983 by commercial peat-cutters. The remains were a skull fragment, with soft tissue and hair attached.Police...

  • Old Croghan Man
    Old Croghan Man
    Old Croghan Man is the name given to a well-preserved Iron Age bog body found in an Irish bog in June 2003. The remains are named after Croghan Hill, north of Daingean, County Offaly, near where the body was found. The find is on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.Old Croghan Man...

  • Weerdinge Men
    Weerdinge Men
    The Weerdinge men . were two naked bog bodies found in Drenthe, the Netherlands, in the southern part of Bourtanger Moor in 1904. Radiocarbon dating shows that the two likely died between ca.160 BC to ca.220 AD. At first, it was believed that one of the two bodies was female, which led to the...

  • Windeby I
    Windeby I
    Windeby I is the name given to the bog body found preserved in a peat bog near Windeby, Northern Germany, in 1952. Until recently, the body was also called the Windeby Girl, because an archeologist believed it to be the body of a 14-year old female due to its slight build. Prof...

  • Yde Girl
    Yde Girl
    Yde Girl is a bog body found in the Stijfveen peat bog near the village of Yde, Netherlands. She was found on 12 May 1897 and was reputedly uncannily well-preserved when discovered , but by the time the body was turned over to the authorities a fortnight later it had been severely damaged and...


External links

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