Seventy years ago, in 1952, the Iron Age man known as ‘Grauballe Man’ was found, his throat slashed, in a Danish peat bog.
Now ensconced in a state-of-the art gallery at the Moesgaard Museum he is a dramatic and rather disturbing sight. But how is his brutal death to be explained?
Was he a hostage, a criminal or an ‘unclean’ individual? Was he perhaps a shaman, or someone possessed of such dangerous powers that he could not be granted a death than allowed his spirit to join the ancestors of the community. Or, on the other hand, was he a revered leader and his people wanted to mummify his body to keep them with him? Did he die alone, or did he suffer a public end?
Seventy years of research and we are yet to arrive at definitive answers, although we are edging closer to understanding more about how he lived and died. We now know his age at death (around 30), that he probably endured malnutrition or childhood illness, and that at some point he suffered a heavy blow to his jaw; but that he had a relatively stable final part of his life, dining mainly on animal products including meat and cheese.
To discover more, read the feature by bog-body expert, Prof. Miranda Aldhouse-Green, in
the current issue (#7) of Archaeology Worldwide.
Image: The face of Grauballe Man, on display at the Moesgaard Museum, Denmark.