The Tollund man lived during
the late 5th century BC and/or early 4th century BC, about 2,400
years ago. He was buried in a peat bog on the Jutland
Peninsula in Denmark, a find known as a bog body. He
is remarkable for the fact that his body was so well preserved
that he had seemed to have recently died.
May 6, 1950 Højgård brothers
from the small village of Tollund were cutting peat for
their tile stove and the kitchen range in the Bjældskovdal
peat bog, 10 km west of Silkeborg, Denmark. As the two
brothers worked, they suddenly saw in the peat layer a
face so fresh that they could only suppose that they had
stumbled on a recent murder. They immediately notified
the police at Silkeborg.
The Tollund Man lay 50 meters away from firm ground
and had been covered by about 2 meters of peat, now
removed. He wore a pointed skin cap on his head fastened
securely under his chin by a hide thong. There was
a smooth hide belt around his waist. Otherwise, he
was naked. His hair was cropped so short as to be
almost entirely hidden by his cap. He was almost clean-shaven,
but there was very short stubble on his chin and upper
lip. There was a rope made of two leather thongs twisted
together under a small lump of peat beside his head.
It was drawn tight around his neck and throat and
then coiled like a snake over his shoulder and down
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 about
the time when Jesus Christ was born. Therefore,
the body must have been placed in the bog approximately 2,000
years ago during the early Iron Age. Using small samples of
his hair, Tollund Man's age has been confirmed
by the latest refinements in radiocarbon dating. The acid in
the peat, along with the lack of oxygen underneath the surface,
had prevented the body from decaying.
Examinations and X-rays showed that the man's head
was undamaged, and his heart, lungs and liver were
well preserved. He was not an old man, though he must
have been over 20 years old because his wisdom teeth
had grown in. He had probably been killed by the rope
around his neck. The noose had left clear marks on
the skin under his chin and at the side of his neck
but there was no mark at the back of the neck where
the knot was. Due to skeletal decomposition, it was
impossible to tell if the neck had been broken.
The stomach and intestines were examined and
tests were carried out on their contents. The scientists discovered
that the man's last meal had been a kind of soup made from vegetables
and seeds, some cultivated seeds and some wild: barley, linseed,
'gold of pleasure', knotweed, bristlegrass,
There were no traces of meat in the man's digestive
system, and from the stage of digestion it was obvious
that the man had lived for 12 to 24 hours after this
last meal. In other words, he had not eaten for 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.
Until recently, it was believed that it was
a rich man who were sacrificed to the Gods, but recently doctors
has discovered that he probably was nothing
but a thief who was hanged and thrown in the peat bog.
The body is currently kept in the Silkeborg
Museum in Denmark.
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