The Last Meal
In connection with the examinations in 1950, the forensic examiner removed the Tollund Man's stomach and intestines. Most of his last meal had passed through the stomach and moved into the small intestine. Based on these facts the examiners were able to conclude that he must have eaten somewhere in between 12 and 24 hours before he died.
The stomach contents were passed on to a specialist in plants from the Iron Age to be examined closely. Seen through a microscope it was clear that there were no traces of meat, fish or fresh fruit in the contents - only traces of grain and seeds could be found.
The specialist found numerous traces of barley and flaxseed, false flax and knotgrass. The last two grow in the wild, whereas barley and flaxseed were cultivated in fields. Traces of other weed seeds were also found in the contents - some of them had probably been gathered, whereas others may have been mixed in by happenstance. The specialist was able to recognize approximately 40 different kinds of seeds.
To sum it up, the meal consisted of some kind of porridge or gruel made primarily of grain and seeds - flaxseed had probably been added in order to increase the amount of fat in the meal. As already mentioned, the contents showed no traces of meat.
Other last meals have been discovered in other bog bodies, for example in a body discovered in Borremose in Himmerland (the northern part of Jutland) and in Grauballe Man. The contents of the meals are very similar to the Tollund Man's, so there is no doubt that it must have been a common meal in the iron age.
At an excavation close to Aalborg the archaeologists discovered a jar with a similar meal in the storeroom of a house from the Iron Age - you only had to add water and put it over the fire and then you could have eaten it with great pleasure 2,000 years ago.
The fact that the contents of the meal had no traces of meat or fresh fruit is a strong indication that these foods were not available. It is very likely that the meal was eaten in the wintertime or in the early spring - that also corresponds with the fact that the temperature must be fairly low in order for a human being to turn into a well-preserved bog body.
We know from other excavations that people did indeed eat meat in the iron age. But the livestock was probably not very big, so until the end of summer when the lambs and calves were big enough to be slaughtered, people rarely ate meat.