Most bog bodies are victims. Violently killed thousands of years ago, the corpses of men, women, and children have been naturally preserved by the unique chemistry of Northern Europe’s bogs.Today, archaeologists and anthropologists are acting as crime-scene investigators. They’re using knowledge of chemistry, geology, and human behavior to better understand the circumstances that led to these gruesome deaths.Watch this four-minute video from the National Geographic Channel, then discuss the questions in the Questions tab.
What are some differences between Europe’s bog bodies and their more glamorous cousins, Egyptian mummies?
Why do you think Iron Age communities allowed these people to be killed?
- Not all bog bodies are ancient. The pristine bodies of Russian soldiers killed during World War II were discovered in Polish bogs in the 1990s.
- The hair on most bog bodies is red. They weren’t all redheads, however—the color is a result of hair’s chemical reaction with the acidic water in the bog. Scientists don’t know the actual color of the mummies’ hair.
- Many bog bodies are so well preserved scientists can tell what they ate for their last meal. Most had cereals (such as wheat or rye) or bread, and a few had meat.
- In 1976, Danish police successfully took fingerprints of Tollund Man, probably the world’s most famous bog body and the one shown in the video. At more than 2300 years old, these are the oldest fingerprints on record!
- The oldest bog body yet discovered is that of Koelbjerg Woman. This 25-year-old Danish woman died around 8000 BCE.
- Most bog bodies are found in Northern Europe. However, peat ponds in Florida have also preserved the skeletons of ancient Native Americans.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry anonymous adjective, noun
unknown person or contributor.
person who studies cultures and characteristics of communities and civilizations.
person who studies artifacts and lifestyles of ancient cultures.
wetland of soft ground made mostly of decaying plant matter.
bog body Noun
prehistoric remains of a person, preserved and discovered in a wetland bog.
study of the atoms and molecules that make up different substances.
condition or situation.
capacity of soil to sustain plant growth; or the average number of children born to women in a given population.
Encyclopedic Entry: fertility geology Noun
study of the physical history of the Earth, its composition, its structure, and the processes that form and change it.
gross or violent.
the gathering and collection of crops, including both plants and animals.
an attack or move to take possession.
Iron Age Noun
last of the prehistoric "three ages," following the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, marked by the use of iron for industry.
corpse of a person or animal that has been preserved by natural environmental conditions or human techniques.
series of customs or procedures for a ceremony, often religious.
destruction or surrender of something as way of honoring or showing thanks.
influenced by legends, spirits, or stories of the supernatural.