One of the best-preserved “swamps” in history, Tollundman was found with a noose around his neck, leading researchers to conclude that he was the victim of human sacrifice.
On May 6, 1950, brothers Viggo and Emil Højgaard were cutting peat in Jutland, Denmark, when they discovered a body.
They thought they had come across the latest murder victim and immediately called the police. A Copenhagen schoolboy recently went missing and the body found was of a man no more than 5 feet 3 inches tall.
However, although his features suggested that he had recently died, his clothing suggested otherwise. He had a pointed hat made of sheepskin and wool and a noose woven from animal skins around his neck. His skin, hair, and nails were tanned to a leathery brown.
It soon becomes clear that this is not the victim of a recent murder, but a body in the swamp. The bodies were naturally mummified and preserved for thousands of years in a peat bog.
This man became known as the Thorund Man, after the nearby Danish village. The fact that it was so well preserved after 2000 years remains shocking even today.
The story of Torlund Man and the body left behind
Carbon dating revealed that the Tollundian remains were more than 2,000 years old, dating back to Scandinavia’s pre-Roman Iron Age, between 405 and 380 BC. The man, estimated to be around 40 years old, hanged himself and died.
It has been suggested that he may have been executed as a criminal, but most experts “tend to agree that” [his] “The killing was a kind of ritual sacrifice to God,” writes Joshua Levine. smithsonian museum. If he had been executed as a criminal, his body would have been cremated. In fact, the leathery noose was still wrapped around his neck.
Tollundmann’s facial features and internal organs, including his heart, lungs, and liver, were surprisingly well preserved, but the skin on his arms and hands had deteriorated to just hardened tissue and bone. His corpse was posed in the fetal position, his eyes closed and his mouth slack in a faint smile.
Tollundman was in very good condition when it was discovered that scientists were able to take his fingerprints. Even his organs were found to be in good condition, and analysis of his stomach revealed that he ate his last meal 12 to 24 hours before he died. Judging by the ingredients, it was probably some type of porridge or porridge made primarily from flaxseed and barley.
Swamps across Northern Europe
The vast majority of bog bodies like Torndman’s have been unearthed in northern Europe and date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Author Christian Fischer writes in this book: Mummies, disease, and ancient cultureit is estimated that 122 complete bog bodies have been discovered and their sources can be identified, although some estimates put the number as high as 1,400.
Nearly all of the bodies found in the swamp appear to have been killed in some type of ritual sacrifice or punishment, the report said. smithsonian museum. Archeology professor and author Peter Wilhelm Grob said the remains were likely sacrificed to the pagan goddess Nersus, also known as the Earth Mother, who symbolizes peace and prosperity.
The first recorded bog remains were discovered in the 17th century. One was discovered in Germany in 1640 and is believed to be the first bog body discovered. A peat cutter in Northern Ireland discovered one of his in 1780, resulting in what is considered the first published report on bog bodies.
The oldest swamp remains discovered to date were known as Kerbjauman, whose remains were dated to approximately 8000 BC. His entire body was never found, only his skull and bone fragments, which are the oldest human bones ever found. Discovered in Denmark.
Many historians believe that many of these swamps may be related. This theory was supported by the discovery of another swamp body just 80 feet from where Trundman was found. The woman, known as the Elling Woman, was discovered in 1938 and carbon-dated to date her death to around 280 BC, just a few decades after Tollund’s murder. I did.
The science behind Tollund mummification
Bog bodies like Trundman’s are often described as “naturally mummified” because the natural elements have amazingly preserved the remains.
Due to their proximity to cold, saline bodies of water such as the North Sea in Scandinavia, peat bog water is highly acidic. Because of the high salinity, peat moss is able to grow freely within the bog, and as the moss rots, significant levels of acid are released into the bog.
According to the Silkeborg Museum, the water in these swamps ends up with a pH balance similar to that of vinegar, so human remains left in the swamps can be preserved in the same way that vegetables are pickled in vinegar. The acid prevents the growth of bacteria that can cause deterioration and decomposition of the body.
All of the bodies in the swamp are believed to have been placed in the water during the winter, when water temperatures were below 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit). These temperatures are similar to those of a refrigerator, and like a refrigerator, the cold temperatures inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Analysis of Trundmann’s stomach contents confirmed this, as his last meal consisted of barley and seeds, indicating it was a winter meal.
Discovery of further wetlands
The discovery of bodies in swamps like Tollundman has been fairly consistent since the first discovery in the 17th century. This was especially true while peat was being collected for use as fuel, as it had been for centuries until very recently in Europe. According to Science magazine, peat provided 40% of Ireland’s electricity in the 1960s.
However, the use of peat as a fuel has almost stopped, mainly due to its environmental impact. Peat is more polluting than coal, producing more carbon dioxide and twice as much natural gas than coal when burned. Environmentalists advocate ending the use of peat as fuel, both for air pollution and environmental protection reasons. Restoring harvested peat bogs stops carbon from being released into the atmosphere, improves water quality and provides essential habitat for endangered species.
Since the use of peat as fuel has declined, fewer and fewer bog carcasses are found, most of them because they were discovered during peat harvesting. However, some have still been successfully discovered, such as Cashelman, who was discovered in Ireland in 2011.
Today’s situation at Tollundmann
Tollundmann’s remains can be seen at the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark. However, most of the bodies were dry due to inadequate preservation techniques when they were discovered. Only his head, feet and thumb were preserved in their original condition. The rest of the body was duplicated.
“When he was discovered in 1950, they took X-rays of his body and head, so you can see that the brain was very well preserved,” said Ole, director of the Silkeborg Museum. Nielsen said. “They dissected him just like they would dissect a normal human body, took out his intestines and said, yeah, it’s all there, and put them back together. Today we do things in a completely different way. We are working on it.”
The museum claims that Tollund Man is “probably the best-preserved prehistoric remains in the world.”
After reading about Torndman, learn the story of the Kirakitsok mummy. The Kirakitsok mummies were so well preserved that scientists knew their last meal. Next, learn about Graubalman, an Iron Age mummy preserved in a swamp for 2,300 years.