In 1985 workmen digging peat
in Lindow Moss
, near Manchester
, discovered part of a corpse
. A homicide
investigation confirmed that this was a victim of deliberate killing, but the death was two thousand years ago, and officially sanctioned.
He was about 25 years old. His stomach contents included one very unusual substance, mistletoe pollen. Mistletoe being sacred to the Druids, this suggested he was a sacrifice. His death was ugly. He was knocked on the head, garrotted*, and his throat was cut, before being thrown into the bog.
When he was first discovered he was called Bog Man. This soon changed to the more dignified Lindow Man. His body is preserved in the British Museum in London.
And I do mean preserved. This is half a human body. Not a skeleton, but a complete upper half of a well-preserved corpse of a 25-year-old man from the first century CE. He is cut off below the navel, except that there is also a leg. There is some shrinkage, some distortion, caused by the pressure of the layers above him, but not a lot. There are a lot of dead human bodies on display in the British Museum, mainly Egyptian. This one, somehow, is a little closer to home. He or his mates were my ancestors.
You can see all his hair and his beard, bleached from the action of the soil. You can see the big slit in his throat. His ear is small and delicate: you'd expect such a cartilaginous thing as an ear to be among the first casualties of centuries of peat deposition, but his is the same shape as when he walked and talked. One arm is flung out, crushed to bones, the other is hugged to his chest.
He had a name, he had a family, he was like us. We walk around his preserved dead body, brown with tanning, as if it's a pot-sherd or a belt-buckle.
There's a great big hologram of him if you want to see his wounds in three dimensions.
* Yes, it is spelt garrotte here, though other noders all write garotte and Webster says Garrote. I've checked my dictionary.
Part of the JudyT Golden Jubilee celebration of Britain.