Denmark (Ancient Göte) Iron Age Bog man with Asian features - Grauballemannen by saamiblog on Flickr.

The Grauballe Man is a bog body that was uncovered in 1952 from a peat near to the village of Grauballe in Jutland, Denmark. The body is that of an adult male dating from the late 3rd century BC, during the early Iron Age. Based on the evidence of his wounds, he was most likely killed by having his throat slit open. His corpse was then deposited in the bog, where his body was naturally preserved for over two millennia. His was not the only bog body to be found in the peat bogs of Jutland, with other notable examples being Tollund Man and the Ellig Woman, thereby being a part of an established tradition at the time; it is commonly thought that these killings, including that of Grauballe Man, were examples of human sacrifice, a possibly important rite in Iron Age Germanic paganism.

The Bog Body of “Grauballe Man”

The “Grauballe Man”, pictured above, was found in 1952 by a Dane digging for peat in Northern Europe. His throat was cut in 290 B.C., but his body was well enough preserved to yield fingerprints. Why was he killed? Maybe ritual, maybe execution for a crime, maybe human sacrifice. Here’s one odd clue: judging from his nutrition and manicure, the body appears to have been from the upper class.

The acidity of the bog water, the cold temperature, and the lack of oxygen have effectively prevented these corpses from decomposing. More than 700 bodies have been recovered, some as old as 10,000 years and some still appearing fresh enough to be mistaken for recent murder victims.

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The bog body now known as the Grauballe Man was found on the 26th of April 1952, near the village of Grauballe in the central part of Jutland in Denmark. He was discovered by men cutting peat for fuel about three feet below the surface of the ground. When they were digging one of the workers, Tage Busk Sørensen (standing far right on picture no. 2) , stuck his spade into something that he immediately knew was not peat; he noticed the red hair of the Grauballe man pupping up and he soon realised that he had found the head of a human body. The local doctor was called and he quickly realised that this was not a job for neither him nor the police and Professor P.V. Glob from the Prehistory Museum at Aarhus was summoned.

Picture No. 1: The Grauballe Man in situ (photographed by P.V. Glob)

Picture No. 2: P.V. Glob and the peat workers. Tage is standing at the far right.

Like other bodies recovered from the bogs, Grauballe Man shows signs of violence indicating that he was killed rather than dying of natural causes. In this case, the Iron Age man had his throat cut in what is theorized to have been ritualistic sacrifice. The unclothed body today is noted for its striking red hair, a color that is the result of immersion in the bog and not the natural color of hair Grauballe Man had during his life.

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