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Video The Tollund Man's bog
53 seconds - Broadband

Video Peat-digging in the bog
53 seconds - Broadband

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

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 Home A Body Appears The Bog where the Tollund Man was Discovered

The Bog where the Tollund Man was Discovered

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The people of the Iron Age dug peat in the Tollund Mans bog.Extra large picture.
More illustrations. © Niels Bach
Bjældskovdal. Big picture
Bjældskovdal, which is a bog area located approximately 10 kilometres west of Silkeborg, is known for its excellent peat. As early as in the Iron Age people used to dig for peat in the bog - the evidence being the discovery of peat spades and earlier excavations in the bog.

Three times peat-digging has brought relics from prehistoric times to the people of modern times. The first time it happened was in 1927 when a bog body was discovered. It was quickly covered again by collapsing peat soil and as a result of that the body was not examined.

The second time was in 1938 when the well-preserved body of Elling Woman was discovered, and finally the third time in 1950 when the most well-preserved of all bog bodies, the Tollund Man, was discovered.

The bog located by Bjældskovdal
The bog located by Bjældskovdal. Big picture
Bjældskovdal is connected to Bøllingsø (lake of Boelling) which has now dried-up. The bog is a so-called raised bog. It's a type of bog which is constantly wet all year round, so even during the warmest summers you'll get your feet wet when you walk across it. The fact that it is always wet is also the reason why bodies were preserved in it.

The plant called peat moss, which dominates the bog, gives off a small amount of acid which mixes with the water and combines with acid stemming from the decomposition of plant residues and thus humic acid - also known as "bog acid" - is created. This acid makes it impossible for bacteria to grow and therefore organic material does not decompose.

Peat moss
Peat moss. Big picture
After the discovery of the Tollund Man a thorough examination of the bog where he was discovered was carried out. Specialists in the geology of bogs could tell that the Tollund Man had been placed in an excavation in the bog dating from the same time as he. That tells us that the people of the Iron Age used to dig peat, and on other occasions we have also discovered spades and earthenware vessels from prehistoric times in peat bogs.

The reason why the people of the Iron Age used to dig for peat is probably that there was not that much wood left for fuel. For many decades huge areas had been cleared to be used as fields, and there was also a large demand for wood for houses and fences.

Peat also has the very good characteristic of burning very slowly, so when you used peat you didn't have to keep an eye on the fireplace during the night in order to make sure the fire was kept alive.

The peat spade that was discovered next to the Tollund Man
The peat spade that was discovered
next to the Tollund Man. Big picture
Next to the place where the Tollund Man was discovered a peat spade had been discovered the day before and a couple of days later another peat spade was discovered close by. Both of the peat spades, which turned out to be from the iron age, are very short and have a handle that goes across. They must have been ideal for cutting square blocks out of the peat.

The specialists in bog geology were also able to tell that once the Tollund Man had been placed in the excavation the water gradually rose around him - and slowly but surely new peat was created - covering the Tollund Man.

Oak trees by Bjældskovdal
Oak trees by Bjældskovdal.
Big picture
At the National Museum of Denmark samples were taken from the peat surrounding the Tollund Man. You can find pollen from flowers which is still well-preserved in the peat even after thousands of years, and by using a microscope you can tell what plants the pollen originally came from.

The vegetation has changed during the centuries according to whether the climate was cold or warm, moist or dry. The pollen, which was discovered in the peat, showed that during certain time periods the climate had been slightly warmer than today, and the plants they came from were quite common in the bronze age and the iron age.

The analysis also showed that at the time of the Tollund Man a significant number of oak trees grew in the vicinity.

This is where the wooden pathway ran across the bog
This is where the wooden pathway
ran across the bog.
Big picture
After the Tollund Man was discovered peat diggers have mentioned that during their digging they came across a pathway made of wooden planks which ran across the bog and right past the place where the bog bodies were discovered.

A pole from the pathway has been dated to originate from the same time period as the Tollund Man and Elling Woman.

Related Stories
Transporting the body

Transporting the Tollund Man
In order to provide the best possible protection of the Tollund Man a big box was built around him...

Who discovered the Tollund Man?
The two brothers, Viggo and Emil Højgaard, came from Tollund...

Why did he have to die?
Was the Tollund Man a criminal? Was he hanged in order to get rid of him...?

The last meal
The last meal consisted of a kind of porridge or gruel made primarily of grain and seeds...

 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...

The bog located by Bjældskovdal
The bog located by Bjældskovdal. Big picture

This is where the Tollund Man was discovered
This is where the Tollund Man was discovered. Big picture

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