Lindow Manchester

The first weekend of the Lindow Man Exhibition
April 22, 2008, 9:07
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition

Going into work on Monday morning was like coming downstairs to open your presents on Christmas morning when you are a child. The sense of anticipation, the excitement, the not knowing what to expect. Karen on reception told me how it had gone over the weekend: about 750 people per day and an amazing £1500 spent in the shop each day, which is great news.

After all the excitement of last week it is a relief to be able to sit down in my office without the phone ringing or having to deal with emails that need an urgent response. A number of people call into the office. One of them is Cat (Lead Educator, Secondary Humanities) who’s brought the Lindow Man debate “the Verdict” box in to show me. Cat has taken the Lindow Man evidence and turned it into a brilliant educational activity. This is part of the Manchester Museum’s learning programme designed to enable schoolchildren and students to get more out of the Lindow Man exhibition.

The kids will be given a box containing three sets of legal briefs and supporting evidence. They will be divided into three teams and have to show that Lindow Man was murdered, sacrificed or drowned. Each of the three teams have to present a case using the evidence and a panel of judges makes a decision – the verdict.

It’s amazing how impressive a simple thing like a piece of plastic mistletoe intended for the Christmas party market looks when put in a plastic jar and boxed as evidence. As Paul Newman isn’t appearing in this version of “the verdict” I guess there’ll be no puckering up! Even the dossiers have been tied with a purple ribbon for that authentic legal flavour.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this works with the kids. With such imaginative  activities in the learning programme hopefully there’ll be no shortage of schools wanting to be involved.  I should say more about this in another Blog.


5 Comments so far
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Hey, museum! Wat is it with the MDF in the exhibition? Can you explain that? What’s the reason for over-intellectualised approach?

Comment by Puzzled

Some of our visitors like the design of the exhibition, some do not. We wanted to create a different feel in the space and to give the exhibition its own distinctive identity. I wonder whether we’re too close to the opening still, to get a feel for a balanced response yet.

I’m not sure about over-intellectualised. We set out to explain things in what we think are straightforward and accessible terms to cater for one of our target audiences, families with children, because of our Widening Participation role. However, more detailed information, for those that want it, is available in our Find Out More files. People can also find out more by being involved in our programme of events and activities. It is challenging to some visitors to suggest that there is not just one way of understanding Lindow Man. Some may expect us as a Museum to be able to give a definitive answer to the Lindow Man mystery. Sadly despite 24 years of searching we are left with conclusions made on the balance of probabilities. We just don’t know for sure.

To us and the people we consulted it was important that we treated Lindow Man sensitively and also that we explained that there is not just one way of understanding Lindow Man but many, depending on your job, your life experiences and your outlook. So even the wealth of factual detail can be understood by different people in different ways. One person’s ligature is another person’s necklace, for instance. The perspectives of the seven interviewees offer something different from what was done here in 1987 and 1991, whether you agree with that person’s approach or not. I should point out that we invited them to participate, they were not self-appointed. The feedback we are getting from visitors suggests that we have indeed succeeded in stimulating debate about how we treat human remains such as Lindow Man. I don’t recall ever having so much response – both positive and negative – to an exhibition. Whatever people have to say, it’s great.

Comment by bryansitch

“overintellectualized” is a strange way to describe a museum exhibit. Lindow man was not a sacrifice. There seems to be a knee jerk conclusion that every “bog body” was a sacrifice. Lindow man met his violent death in the middle of what we know was a horribly
brutal foreign invasion and a desparate final defence. In such an environment there are many violent ways to die. Its more likely that in the chaos of that time he was murdered by criminals, or by persons with a personal grudge to settle. Perhaps he was suspected by his own people of being a collaborator, confronted and set upon. It equally possible that Roman soldiers payed his village a visit beliveing members of his village to have carried out attacks on them. They would have gone straight to the headmans house and dragged, maybe, his oldest son out and in front of the rest brutally killed him as a punishment. We have written records dedcribing this common Roman behavior toward recently conquered subject peoples.

Comment by Marcus

It’s great that we’re still getting comments on the Lindow Man blog, even though the exhibition finished last April (2009). The comment by ‘Puzzled’ about an over-intellectual approach from over a year ago is not one that I agreed with (see my reply of 24th April 2008). I might just say in reply to Marcus’ contribution that I agree with him that not all bog bodies are necessarily the result of sacrifice. People fell in accidentally and drowned. There are historically attested examples of this. Some are victims of what could be described as muggings but some of the bodies look as though the victims have been prepared. Marcus offers a range of scenarios for Lindow Man, which again invite discussion. The radiocarbon dates are fuzzy but appear to put Lindow Man in the late 1st or early 2nd century AD, some time after the Roman annexation of northern Britain. If Lindow Man was a ‘collaborator’ (what might that mean in northern British terms, thinking about Cartimandua for instance?) and had been set upon by vengeful fellow tribesmen or by Roman soldiers brutalizing the native population, why is it that the forensic evidence suggests some degree of grooming? Someone selected at random and subjected to summary justice would be unlikely to have manicured finger nails. If Lindow Man had been someone important (which might explain the finger nails) and was killed as a warning why carry out the killing in a bog? The absence of evidence of carrion eating insects suggests Lindow Man died in the bog, not elsewhere and then dumped in the bog afterwards. Would Roman soldiers go to all the trouble of killing their victim in Lindow Moss? The similarities to the relatively recently discovered Irish bog bodies (manicured fingernails; good physical condition, even athleticism of the dead person) is suggestive. These people at least appear to be special in some way but whether they are part of an elite group within that society or were selected as scapegoats (which is a possibility from my reading of Rene Girard’s work) is difficult to say. The fact that we are still debating this nearly 8 months after the exhibition finished shows just how intractable is the problem!

Comment by Bryan Sitch

I had a visitor at the weekend, who had heard of Lindow man, and wanted to visit. We left after a few minutes. It looks like a half-built B&Q kitchen, and is practically free of any informational content. As an employee of the university, I was frankly embarrassed at the fact that the University museum was hosting such nonsense. A total waste of money.

Plus please save us from all this new-age guff about ways to understand Lindow man. He was a bloke who was garotted and chucked in a bog.

Comment by carole

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