The Tollund Man

It was May 6th, 1950 and two brothers from the village of Tollund were in the process of cutting peat to use for their stove and kitchen range. The peat they were seeking could be found in the Bjaldskovdal peat bog, which is about 10 kilometers from Silkebord, Denmark. As they sifted through the peat, a face greeted them from the layer they had been working on. Thinking they had come across a murder victim, they quickly called the Silkborg police to the scene of where the “Tollund Man” was found.


The uncovered body was located 50 meters away from firm land. The man’s body was in the fetal position, hidden underneath two meters of peat. On his head, he wore a pointed skin cap that was tied under his chin by a thong made from hide. A hide belt was wrapped around his waist. No other pieces of clothing were found on his body. His hair was still intact, which was a short, cropped cut. Short stubble was found on his chin and upper lip, but the rest of him was clean-shaven. A rope made of twisted-together leather thongs was found close to his head. The rope was found tightly drawn around his neck and throat, surrounding his shoulder and back.


A thin layer of moss was found underneath his body, which is associated with peat bogs from the early Iron Age. Researchers believed that he was placed in the bog about 2,000 years ago. Radiocarbon dating was performed on a sample of the Tollund Man’s hair showed that he might have died around 350 BC. The soft tissues of his body could be examined, which was allowed by the acid within the peat, as well as the lack of oxygen.


Through a series of examinations and X-rays, scientists saw that his head did not suffer any damage and that his heart, lungs and liver were well preserved. His age was estimated at around 40 years of age; he was more than 20 years old because his wisdom teeth were still present. The fate of the Tollund Man seems that he was hung. Noose marks could be seen on the skin under his chin, as well as on the side of his neck. Since skeletal decomposition did occur, they were unable to conclude whether or not his neck was ever broken.


The body was so intact, that his last meal could be deduced from the contents within his stomach and intestines. It is most likely that he ate a soup made out of vegetables and seed, such as barley, linseed and chamomile. By analyzing his digestive system, it is thought that he loved for 12-24 hours before he died.


When trying to figure out who the Tollund man was, numerous theories surfaced. Some thought that he was a wealthy individual, who was sacrificed during a ritual. Further analysis that was done led others to believe that he was just a criminal that was hung for his crimes and buried in the peat bog. Today, his body resides at the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark. He was quite a remarkable find since his features were so well preserved that he had looked like he had been living among us only of recent.