Posted on February 6, 2024
When a Danish family discovered a well-preserved body in a bog while cutting peat for fuel in 1950, they initially assumed it was a recent murder victim. However, the reality was quite different—the body belonged to a man from the Iron Age, dating back around 2,400 years.
Known as the Tollund Man, his remarkably preserved face, with a hint of a smile and stubble, has made him one of the most famous bog bodies globally, especially considering the assumption that he was a human sacrifice.
In the years following the discovery, extensive research has been conducted on Tollund Man, yielding more insights into his life and demise. Here is an overview of this naturally mummified individual.
Identity of Tollund Man
Evidence from wisdom teeth indicates that Tollund Man was at least 20 years old when he perished in Bjældskovdal bog in Jutland, Denmark. However, researchers estimate his age to be between 30 and 40 years old. Radiocarbon dating has pinpointed his death to approximately 405-380 B.C.
Standing around 5 feet 3 inches tall, Tollund Man was found in a sleeping position with a rope around his neck. A detailed examination revealed that his cause of death was hanging, noting the exceptional preservation of his head and face.
Following his passing, the acidic nature of the bog helped in preserving Tollund Man’s bones and several soft tissues, including his brain, intestines, skin, and nails. Despite millennia passing, his body remained intact thanks to the chemicals produced during the decomposition of sphagnum moss, the primary component of peat.
Today, Tollund Man rests at the Silkeborg Museum, a Danish cultural heritage center near the location of his discovery.
The Society of Tollund Man
Tollund Man resided in the early Iron Age, predating the Roman conquest of Europe. During this era, Jutland was densely populated, hosting villages and farms where farmers cultivated grain, raised livestock, and participated in religious ceremonies that involved offerings, occasionally including human sacrifices, placed in local bogs.
Researchers theorize that these bogs held significant spiritual importance, potentially linked to beliefs in the divine and the afterlife. However, due to the absence of written records from the Jutland inhabitants, the exact motivations behind their religious practices remain unknown.
Attire of Tollund Man
While bogs are renowned for preserving clothing alongside bodies, Tollund Man was buried unclothed, unlike other bog bodies like the Scottish example from 1951 with knitted garments.