Author Floats Theory on Ancient Bog Bodies
She thinks they were human sacrifices
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2016 8:03 AM CDT
Tollund Man was discovered in 1950 by Danish peat cutters.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Peat harvesters have been discovering well-preserved human remains in the bogs of England and throughout Northern Europe for centuries. Most date from about 700BC to 200AD, and they represent people of varying age, sex, and social status. But they do have one thing in common: Violent deaths. Lots of theories have been floated for why the bog victims died, from accidental death to execution of criminals. In her book Bog Bodies Uncovered, archaeologist Miranda Aldhouse-Green argues in favor of human sacrifice, the Atlantic reports. Forensic examinations of the bodies, the writings of classical authors, and other evidence all come together to suggest that the victims were ritually murdered and left in bogs to appease the gods, she writes. Some 1,000 bodies have been recovered from bogs, according to Nautilus. Because they contain little oxygen and have a plant called sphagnum that inhibits bacteria, bogs offer a perfect preservative environment.

Many of the bog bodies had physical deformities—a cauliflower ear, dwarfism, extra thumbs—leading Aldhouse-Green to speculate that "visually special people" may have been selected for sacrifice. The elaborateness of the killings—Lindow Man apparently took a blow to the head and then had his throat cut as he was being strangled with a cord, notes this BBC story—indicates they weren't ordinary murders. Also, cremation, rather than interment in bogs, was common during the Iron Age, and Roman historians describe human sacrifice among the denizens of Northern Europe. However, even Aldhouse-Green concedes that classical historians are biased sources. Uncertainties notwithstanding, per the Atlantic, "the bog bodies are still with us, living a life they couldn’t possibly have imagined in death." (Some of the world's oldest mummies have a big problem.)