The bog bodies of Europe

Yde Girl

This is one of Europes bog bodies, found in 1897 by peat cutters by the village of Yde in the Netherlands.  Carbon dating on the body dated her to the first century AD. She had been killed by strangulation; a woolen belt was wrapped around her neck three times and was she then strangled. A small stab wound was found at the base of her throat, suggesting this was some kind of ritual killing.

She is estimated to have been about 16 years old at the time of her death, and in rather poor health, with curvature of the spine, and some trouble from her right foot. She was only about 4’5” tall.

The skull reconstruction was achieved using a CT scan and a polystyrene skull overlaid with a wax skin.

Tolland man

This exceptionally well preserved body was found in Denmark, and dated to about 2,000 years old. He is thought to have been hanged or strangled by the rope around his neck, and he had eaten a drugged meal, a kind of vegetable and cereal porridge containing high levels of ergotamine, a strong hallucinogen.

He was so well preserved that the local police believed he was a recent murder victim when they first found him. Only his head and one hand are not still with us, as in 1950 when he was found preservation techniques weren’t so advanced.


Graubelleman man

Is another mummy from Denmark, found in 1952. He’s thought to have died about 55 BC. He was killed by having his throat cut. he had also suffered a blow to the skull and a leg fracture. His body showed no signs of manual labour.

Clonycavan man

This is the most recent find, from Ireland in 2003. He is believed to have died about 200 BC, and killed by a powerful axeblow to his head. He had also been hit in the chest, and disembowled.

He is thought to have been very short even by ancient standards, only 5’2” tall, and was in his twenties when he died. One of the most interesting things about the body is his hair, which showed a lot of lice, and it was welded into a tall style using a hair gel made from vegetable oil and pine resin imported either from Southern Spain or France. This maintained his hair in a kind of mohawk stle that survived over 2,000 years in a bog, so in life it must have been welded into place by the mixture. The fact that he could afford imported cosmetics suggestes he was fairly wealthy.


A lot of these bodies have flaming red hair. It wasn’t because red heads were singled out for ritual sacrifice. Although human hair will usually maintain its hair well if kept in a dark dry place, the acid condition of peat bogs attacks the brown- black pigment in the hair (eumelanin), but is leaves the naturally red-brown pigment (pheomelanin) in the hair alone, over thousands of years turning the hair red


2 responses to “The bog bodies of Europe

  1. A few vowel/name corrections – it’s Tollund man and Grauballe man – Tollund and Grauballe being two Danish villages.

    Best regards, a Dane.

  2. This is really fascinating. Thank you for doing such extensive research and sharing this with everyone. 🙂

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