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Autopsy and X-Ray Examination

Bispebjerg Hospital
Bispebjerg Hospital
On May 31st, 1950 the excavation of the Tollund Man was completed at the National Museum, and drawings were made and photographs taken of him. Then his journey continued to Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen in order to carry out the internal exminations of him and at the same time find out what was the cause of death.

A forensic examiner examined him as if he was the victim of a recent murder, and in the report it says among other things that "the rope, judging by the way it was placed around the body's neck, was most likely not used for strangulation, and because of that it is of less importance that the cervical vertebras were undamaged since that sometimes happens when a person is hanged".

X-ray of the Tollund Man
X-ray of the Tollund Man
Big picture
X-rays had shown that the Tollund Man's cervical vertebras weren't broken. When a person is hanged it is very common that the cervical vertebras break, but still the forensic examiner had no doubts that the cause of death was hanging.

If you look closely you can see the faint shadow of his cap in the top right corner. Inside the head you can see the brain which has shrunken a little. In his jaw you can see his teeth.

New examinations of the brain with an endoscope have shown that it is unusually well-preserved.

The new examinations also show that his tongue had become distended - a characteristic often seen in a hanged person.

The internal parts were also examined, and they turned out to be well-preserved. The forensic examiners were able to open the Tollund Man and look at his heart, lungs and liver.

The alimentary canal, which consists of the stomach and intestines, was removed in order to be studied more closely - in particular to see if any food had been preserved that might tell us about his last meal before he was hanged.

The Tollund Man's alimemtary canal
The Tollund Man's alimentary canal
Big picture
The fact that his personal hygiene wasn't that good is indicated by the presence of intestinal worms. He and other bog bodies all had human pinworms in their small and large intestines which doctors tell us are best kept away if you wash your hands often. However, even today approximately 75% of us have intestinal worms which makes the Tollund Man less unusual.

The report from the forensic examiners also tells us that after the Tollund Man had been examined his head was cut off. It was done in accordance with instructions from the National Museum because the intention was to try to preserve it as it looked. There was no interest in preserving the body - it was thought of as being too ghastly and macabre!

However, the well-preserved feet and a finger were kept in formalin - a preservative liquid - so they could be examined later. The finger-print experts with the Danish National Police Forces examined them in 1976.

 Related Stories
Excavation at the National Museum

Excavation at the National Museum
After the box containing the Tollund Man had been opened carefully...

Carbon-14 dating
A small sample the size of a thumbnail was taken from the Tollund Man's body...

Finger-prints
The finger-prints were well-preserved and are among the oldest in the world...

Examination of the stomach contents
The alimentarry canal, that means the stomach and intestines, was removed...

Latest research: CT-scanning
The latest technology can reveal secrets and provide us with new information...

Preservation of the Tollund Man
When the Tollund Man was discovered in 1950, the Danish scientists had never before been faced with the task of preserving a bog body...


Queen Gunhild is examined
The photo shows how doctors are examining a bog body at the hospital in Århus. It was previously believed to be the remains of the Norwegian Queen Gunhild, the wife of Harold Bluetooth. Among the people present are a forensic examiner, a radiologist and a dentist. Big picture

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