Tollund Man (Silkeborg, Central Denmark)

Tollund Man (Silkeborg, Central Denmark)

Walking around the Bjældskovdal bog in 1950, brothers Emil and Viggo Højgaard (along with Grethe, Viggo’s wife) stumbled upon a body. Believing the man to be the victim of a recent killing, they called the police. Further investigations revealed that he had indeed been murdered—some 2,300 years earlier.

The Tollund Man was found curled in the fetal position with his eyes closed and a serene expression frozen on his face. The cold, acidic, oxygen-starved conditions of the peat bog had kept him remarkably well preserved. His hair, beard stubble, eyelashes, and toenails were all intact, and he was nude, but for a sheepskin cap and wide belt around his waist. A rope was wound tightly around his neck. The Iron Age man had been hanged, likely during a ritual sacrifice.

In 1950, it was not yet known how best to preserve discoveries like Tollund Man. Accordingly, only the head of the original specimen was kept intact. The rest of the body was subjected to various tests to determine his probable age (probably around 40, due to the presence of wisdom teeth and wrinkles) and the conditions surrounding his life and death. Among the details found: Tollund Man was 5 feet 3 inches (1.6 m) tall, his final meal was a gruel made from barley and flaxseed, and his “sacrificers” (read: killers) took the time to close his mouth and eyes after death.

Thousands of “bog bodies” have been discovered in sphagnum swamps across Northern Europe, but the Tollund Man remains the best preserved. His original head and reconstructed body now reside at the Silkeborg Museum. The rope used to end his life is still wrapped around his throat.

Source: Atlas Obscura

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