In 1640, a strange body was discovered in the peat bogs of Shalkholz Fen, Germany. It was well preserved but ancient, and it became the first documented case of a bog body ever found. These bog mummies are unique in the fact that their hair, skin, and even clothes are incredibly well preserved, despite their age. Unlike many other mummies, even the dead's facial expressions are often left in place, offering archeologists valuable information about the time, place, and manner of these people's lives and deaths.
Bog bodies (also called bog people) have been found around the world, and each find gives us a closer look at those who came before us. Sometimes the bog bodies tell dark tales, particularly concerning their deaths, a few of which suggest murder or ritual sacrifice. Creepy, maybe, but also fascinating.
Although no pictures in this article are particularly graphic, it should be noted that you'll see a lot of dead bodies, so be prepared. You may be shocked to find that a few of these mummies still look almost alive.
The Majority of Bog Bodies Show Signs of a Violent Death
With the average mummy we find in Egypt, the cause of death varies widely. Disease, an accident, a bone or birth defect, the list goes on and on. However, when we look at the mummies pulled out of peat bogs, we find that they generally have one thing in common: they died violently. That's right, the majority of these bodies show that these people were murder victims or possibly sacrifices. A few have their skulls broken, some show signs of being beaten for long periods of time, and one or two showed evidence of being repeatedly stabbed to death. A few famous ones, including the one pictured, still have nooses around their necks when they're found.
This is a little creepy, to say the least, and it gives rise to more questions than answers, especially considering their range of ages. Were they all killed for the same purpose? Why were they selected to be killed? And, as we'll touch on later, why were all of these people thrown into a peat bog after they were killed?
The Dätgen Man Might Have Been an Ancient Zombie
If you want even more evidence that these bodies are creepy, you just need to look to the Dätgen Man. This body was found in Germany in 1959, with the head separated from the body. The decapitated body was staked down to the ground, under the peat, indicating that someone had done this to his body after death. What's more, he was stabbed to death well before being decapitated. Why would the people who killed him do this?
Well, as it turns out, there's this thing called a wiedergänger, which is sort of like a zombie. The treatment of his remains indicates that people might have thought that he would rise from the grave as a wiedergänger. Let's hope we didn't unleash a fearful spirit in bringing him out of that bog.
The Internal Organs Usually Remain Intact
One of the amazing things about bog bodies is the fact that the skin and internal organs often remain preserved. And we're not just talking about barely recognizable lumps of mummified flesh here, either. The Tollund Man, who we'll talk about more a little later, had his stomach well-enough preserved that we could get a look at its contents and see his last meal. And he wasn't the only one.
The Dröbnitz Girl (pictured here) was discovered in Poland in 1939, and she was found to have amazingly preserved internal organs. Upon analysis, it was found that her stomach was intact enough to examine her last meal. What archeologists found was that the roughly 14-year-old girl had been eating gruel and several types of vegetables before her death, so she was relatively well fed. She was found with a cloak and a wooden comb. They also discovered that she lived around the year 650 BC!
Unfortunately, her body and grave were destroyed by Nazis during World War II, so we cannot further examine her internal organs today.
Many Bog Bodies Are Boneless
With all these well-preserved internal organs, it would make sense that the skeletons inside would be perfectly preserved as well. However, when scientists and archeologists examine many bog bodies, they find that most of the bones have been dissolved or destroyed, so that the remaining body is just skin, organs, and hair. The skull, hands, and feet seem to be the last parts to retain their bone structure - but why exactly is this happening?
During the mummification process that happens in many peat bogs, there's a lot of acid that gets into the body. This acid seeps into bones and dissolves the calcium phosphate there, which completely destroys the bone's structure and hardness. Because internal organs, skin, and hair contain little or no calcium phosphate, the acid doesn't attack them the same way.