Friday, June 19, 2009

Bog bodies

Osterby Man, a decapitated skull found in a bog near Osterby, Germany in 1948 and dating back to the 1st century A.D.
Lindow Man, Iron Age remains found in a peat bog in Chesire, England, in 1984.
In another instance of synchronicity, I settled on the idea of blogging about bog bodies before I went to bed, only to wake up to news that someone had to be rescued from a swamp yesterday. Similar to earlier stories out of Brisbane, Australia, Boston Heights, Ohio, and Waikuku, New Zealand, a woman got stuck up to her neck in swampy water in Spokane, Washington, which parallels a fictional story I intended to mention by Richard Selzer in which a man deliberately gets sucked down in a bog to die like Lindow Man (pictured). In searching for Selzer's story, which is included in the collection Imagine a Woman, I came across an interesting article in the New York Times that recounts examples of bog men as both boogeymen and romantic heroes in fiction and poetry. Last Halloween, I posted photos of Tollund Man. Here I feature Lindow Man and Osterby Man, two of the more than 1,800 bog bodies that have been discovered. But as James M. Deem notes in his book Bodies from the Bog (aimed at kids, but worth purchase by adults for the amazing photos), many bog bodies now exist only on paper, having deteriorated or disappeared years ago. Interestingly, Osterby Man is distinguished by his hairstyle - the Swabian Knot - which has remained intact, although its red color is due to the action of the peat.

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