Bog Body Q & A
On occasion, visitors to the Mummy Tombs have written with interesting (and sometimes strange) questions about bog bodies. Here is a selection of their questions with my answers. If you have a question about bog bodies, you can write to me. If I can, I will post an answer here.
QUESTION from Rebecca: I am interested in historical re-enactment, and trying to find information on a Danish bog find that contained a long sleeved leather tunic. Would you be able to point me towards any sources?
ANSWER: I have not found any mention of a long-sleeved leather tunic. But I was able to find some information about a long-sleeved textile tunic--much like a sampler, since it was constructed out of 43 pieces of fabric. It was found on Bernuthsfeld Man in 1907 in a German bog. The body may be on display in Emden. Here's a link to an example of a long-sleeved bog tunic from Sweden: The Bocksten Tunic.The most comprehensive source about bog clothing is van der Sanden's Through Nature to Eternit: The Bog Bodies of Northwest Europe. A calfskin tunic mentioned in this book (p. 125) was found in 1944 at Sogards Mose in Denmark. The book also shows an outline of the Bernuthsfeld Man's tunic (p.128). This book is hard to find, but you might be able to order a used copy through alibris.com or abebooks.com. You might also try Glob's The Bog People: Iron Age Man Preserved, which does give information about bog clothing as well. Don't know if any of this will steer you in the right direction, but I hope it helps.
Yde Girl pronunciation
QUESTION from Kate: I am a narrator for the Library of Congress and am preparing to narrate a book about mummies for children 8-14 years old. There are two (among other) names that I cannot find in our source material. I've read a lot about Yde girl but no where does it give the pronunciation of the word. I'm having the same problem with Grauballe man. I can find neither in the Gazetteer or Geo dictionaries. Can you help?
ANSWER: Kate, here's the way I've heard the words pronounced in my research. Yde = EE-duh (accenting the long E). Grauballe = Gruh-BALL-uh. I don't speak Dutch or Danish, so these were how the words sounded to my untrained ear. Hope this helps.
QUESTION from Karla: I'm doing an assignment on Elling Woman for ancient history...and so far I've hardly found any information. Id just like to ask if there's any useful information you could give me, particularly about who found Elling Woman and how she was recovered.
ANSWER: Elling Woman was discovered in 1938 near Silkeborg Denmark in a bog named Bjaeldskovdal. This is the same bog in which Tollund Man was discovered in 1950. Her body was discovered by a man named Jens Zakariassen who had been cutting peat at the time. The block of peat in which her body was encased was sent to the National Museum in Copenhagen, where the body was completely uncovered. After the body was examined, it was stored (during which time it became dehydrated). No attempt was made to treat the body to protect it from deteriorating. The body is now on display at the Silkeborg Museum.
Grauballe Man Project
QUESTION from Tony: I am a high school junior and we have a major essay due on one of the bog bodies. I have chosen to do Grauballe Man. The problem is that I have found no information about the question, and I was wondering if you could help me. The question is "What can be learned about the cultural practices and rituals of a specific ancient people from the preserved human remains known as the Bog bodies and other related sources?" I know that Grauballe Man and some other bog bodies were found in Denmark but what about their cultural practices and rituals? If you could please send me some information I would be very grateful.
ANSWER: Tony, I can't send you information, but I can point you in the right direction. You probably want to find a vopy of Paula Asingh's Grauballe Man: Portrait of a Bog Body. That is the latest information about Grauballe Man. But don't overlook P. V. Glob's The Bog People: Iron Age Man Preserved and Don Brothwell's The Bog Man and the Archaeology of People. You may even want to look up Tacitus who wrote some interesting reports about the early people of Europe (the same people who helped create--quite accidentally--the bog people). All three books discuss the types of rituals that the early Europeans practiced (which led to the accidental production of bog mummies). Some questions to consider: What gods did these people worship? How did they demonstrate their faith? What ceremonies did they perform? This should get you started.
QUESTION from Eileen: I have a little information about the bog jacket found about 2,000 years ago, in Denmark(?). Where could I find information about this item as I am making a bog jacket and want to know the history of it and what it was made of, animal skins or something else.
ANSWER: Rebecca has written me to explain that the jacket you are referring to is derived from the top of the Egtved Girl and has an open seam running down the front. Rebecca continues: "I have only seen it mentioned in handicraft and weaving books, so when I first heard about a 'bog jacket' I was confused as well, as there was nothing in my science/archaeology notes that was a jacket. It is popular for weavers because once you have spent so much time weaving a piece of fabric, it is generally accepted you want to waste as little of it as possible, with as few cuts as possible (as loosely woven fabric would fray more and therefore be difficult to sew I assume). Therefore, there is a trend for cutting simple, rectangular garments with little shaping." Thank you, Rebecca. Wikipedia now posts a photo of the garment.
Swabian Knot: How to Do the 'do
QUESTION from Gretchen: My son has brought your books home from the school library and I was fascinated and delighted by them. Do you know how to make a Swabian knot [shown on Osterby Man in Bodies from the Bog]?
ANSWER: Here are the instructions:
QUESTION from Steven: I am studying prehistoric religion at the University of Lund in Sweden. I wonder if you could tell me where I might find the most recent literature that deals with the technical analyses of the stomach contents of the various bog bodies.
ANSWER: The best general source I can recommend is Wijnand van der Sanden's book Through Nature to Eternity: The Bog Bodies of Northwest Europe. Chapter 8 is entitled "The Last Meal" and discusses intestinal contents and their analysis.
Irish Bog Bodies
QUESTION from Susan: Do you have information about the bog mummies of Ireland? I teach a High School class that has shown interest in this subject. Any information you could offer or forward would be helpful.
ANSWER: One of the problems with bog bodies is that there isn't much information on the general subject. So if you want more information about the bog bodies of any particular country...you run into an info shortage. More information exists about bog bodies in Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands than Ireland (I have yet to find a book that concentrates on Irish bog finds--even though the country has a huge amount of bog land). If you haven't seen my book Bodies from the Bog, you will want to look it over (Ireland is included).
If you want something more scholarly, look for R. C. Turner and R. G. Scaife's Bog Bodies: New Discoveries and New Perspectives or Wijnand van der Sanden's Through Nature to Eternity: The Bog Bodies of Northwest Europe (with many color photos, lots of text--the best book on the subject). I've also included a number of Irish bog bodies on this website, including Clonycavan Manand Meenybradden Woman.
Stomachs and Intestines from the Bogs
QUESTION from M: I've heard scientists know how to tell what bog people ate - how is this possible?
ANSWER: If the bog body is in good condition, scientists can use an endoscopic tube and enter the stomach and/or intestines to retrieve whatever food remains there. Once this has been extracted, they can analyze this. I describe the findings of Grauballe Man's stomach analysis in much more detail in Bodies from the Bog. Unfortunately, only a dozen or so bodies found in the last 100 years have had this analysis done (most bodies were found long enough ago that they are no longer well enough preserved to have this analysis).
Oldest Bog Body
QUESTION from L: How old is the oldest body to ever be found in a bog?
ANSWER: Not an easy question, L, because (1) such poor records have been kept, (2) all "bodies" are not the same (some are mummified, others are skeletons--the skeletons are often much older than the mummies), and (3) radiocarbon dating has not been done on most of the bog bodies ever discovered.
With that in mind (there is no real definitive answer):
>the oldest bog skeleton appears to be Koelbjerg Woman (Denmark--test results indicate that she died about 10,000 years ago).
>perhaps the oldest bog mummy is Emmer-Erfscheidenveen Man (from the Netherlands-- though he's more of a skeleton than a body), who died about 3200 years ago, more or less.
>it appears that the best preserved oldest bog mummy is (or was) Borremose Man (Denmark--but he may not be well-preserved these days-- he's not on exhibit anywhere and may be in "deep storage"); he died about 2700 years ago.