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Gods and sacrifices in the bog

Video Gods and sacrifices in the bog
From "People of the Iron Age"
1.26 minutes - Broadband.
© Lejre Experimental Centre

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Internet The iron-age village
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Internet The Iron Age

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Sacrifices to the gods
Sacrifices to the gods.
Big picture
© Lejre Experimental Centre
 Home At the Time of the Tollund Man Gods and Religion

Gods and Religion

- What did People Believe in?

Click for extra large picture
At the time of the Tollund Man cremation was usual. Extra large picture. More illustrations.
© Niels Bach
Family burial place close to Buskelund, Silkeborg
Family burial place close to Buskelund,
Silkeborg. Big picture
When somebody died in the village, he or she was cremated in a funeral pyre. After that the bones were placed in an urn which was lowered into a grave. The urn might be covered with stones and encircled with a ring of stones which was customary in Central Jutland.

The burial sites show that the people of the Iron Age clearly believed in a life after death but that you had to to on a journey to get there. In order to make the journey easier food and drink were placed in the grave with the dead. If there wasn't enough room in the grave itself an earthenware vessel filled with food was placed next to it.

Other parts of Denmark had different burial customs but they all had one thing in common - the use of cremation was universal at the time of the Tollund Man - except for the small group of people who were sacrificed and placed in the bogs without being cremated.

Livestock was also sacrificed to the gods
Livestock was also sacrificed to the
gods. Big picture
© Lejre Experimental Centre
However, a likely explanation is probably that since these people were given as a sacrifice to the god of the bog, it would be impolite to offer him a pot of burnt bones - no, the god was to have a complete human being as his servant.

Who this god or gods were, we cannot say for certain, but the existence of bog bodies in Denmark shows that they appear in the areas where people used to dig for peat in the Iron age. Therefore it is not unreasonable to imagine that these sacrifices are actual sacrifices of thanks to the god made in return for the peat that was dug from the god's bog.

Maybe rituals were carried out to honour the gods
Maybe rituals were carried out to
honour the gods. Big picture
© Lejre Experimental Centre
We have many other pieces of evidence of the bog being a sacred place - we have found carriages, ships, earthenware vessels, and even immensely valuable silver vats such as Gundestrupkarret, which have been placed in or given to the bog.

It was a very common practice to sacrifice earthenware vessels containing food to the gods. But they also sacrificed livestock or certain parts of the animals. Maybe they held parties and carried out specific rituals to honour the gods during which the others parts of the animals were eaten.

Iconic figures found south of the border between Denmark and Germany
Iconic figures found south
of the border between
Denmark and Germany.
Big picture
A couple of wood figures might be able to tell us what the gods looked like. Next to some heaps of stone a couple of human looking figures from the time of the Tollund Man were discovered.

In other places similar wood figures, roughly cut to look like humans, have been discovered. They had been placed on low rockeries. On and along the rockery earthenware vessels, probably containing food, had been sacrificed.

In Broddenbjerg Bog located close to Viborg in Central Jutland, a wood figure, which reveals that the gods could also be used as symbols of fertility, has been discovered under similar circumstances.

If you were at war, then all the objects you captured were thrown into a bog where you believed that the god of war lived. In this bog everything was sacrificed - including weapons, ships, personal equipment, yes, even the horses which had carried you. If the gods weren't given what you had captured, then you ran the risk of losing the next war.

 Related Stories
At the time of the Tollund Man

Everyday life
People got up when the sun rose and the cock crowed...

A village
Traces of the villages people lived in at the time of the Tollund Man have been found all over Denmark...

The houses were of the three-aisled kind which means that the roof was carried by two rows of poles...

The cooking was done by the fireplace in the iron-age house...

Clothes and fashion
The clothes worn by Huldremose Woman consisted of a fur cape made out of sheepskin and a skirt woven with natural-coloured wool...

The iron of the iron age
Danish iron comes in the form of bog iron...

Weaponry and war
During the Early Iron Age a significant number of wars were on in Europe...

During the Bronze Age light carriages with spoke wheels were developed...

The rest of the world
Europe was populated by two large nations who lived north of the Alps...

  More Info
Why are bog bodies preserved for thousands of years?
After the Tollund Man was discovered it was revealed that the bog he had been lying in was acidiferous...

Gundestrupkarret. Big picture
Photo: Lennart Larsen.

The Broddenbjerg Figure
The Broddenbjerg Figure
Big picture

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