Lindow Manchester

Content of Lindow Man Exhibition
April 27, 2008, 9:07
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition

A fortnight on and the comments are still coming in. Some say we have covered the various themes in a simplistic way but one of the Museum’s target audiences is families with young children so we wanted to make the text and ideas accessible. If people want to delve into things in more detail, however,  there is more information in supporting files and transcripts of the interviews and in the associated programme of events and activities and the education programme.

I believe there is some interesting material in the exhibition. Melanie Giles raises the possibility that the story of Excalibur from Arthurian legend may have originated in discoveries of ancient artefacts in watery places. Things like swords were not understood as material evidence of people who’d lived centuries before, but weapons from a different world entirely, the world of the spirits. It made them magical. J.D.Hill talks about the significance of water birds on the Wandsworth shield and the St Albans knife. Lakes, pools, rivers and springs were interfaces with a different world and the creatures that live in that environment were sacred and magical by association, hence their appearance on high status votive metalwork. The relatively modest bird figurines we found in our own collection may be further evidence of these prehistoric beliefs.  New approaches like this give the objects new significance. 

Susan’s photograph of the Lindow School choir and her repatriation t-shirt document Lindow Man’s social impact, a subject interesting in its own right.  When J.D. showed me his wonderful “Excalibur” letter opener in his office at the British Museum I immediately asked if he’d consider lending it to the exhibition because it encapsulates so many of these stories: offerings of  metalwork in watery contexts, prehistoric ritual and belief and how those beliefs may have survived in myth and legend.

Myths and legend influenced one of the thinkers whose work I read in researching the exhibition: Rene Girard. Girard’s theory of  scapegoating may offer yet another avenue of research on Lindow Man and other discoveries at Lindow Moss. It may even help to make sense of the Alderley Edge wizard but that’s a story for another day.


2 Comments so far
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I have not seen the exhibition, but I am glad that Melanie Giles was able to contribute to the interpretation, as I find her work very interesting and worthwhile.

I am happy for ancient remains to be displayed in museums, as I think it is a good way of remembering the ancient dead and memorialising their lives and traditions. I am glad that a variety of perspectives on Lindow Man were sought.

I hope that the exhibition also covered the discussions about whether or not he actually was a sacrifice. There is a significant body of opinion to the effect that he wasn’t.

Comment by Yvonne

The exhibition does include discussion of whether Lindow Man was a sacrifice, partly through differing evaluations of the evidence for the “triple death” and partly through the application of Rene Girard’s sacrificial theory . Using Girard’s theory I think it possible to argue that Lindow Man was a scapegoat. Aspects of the later Lindow Moss body and some of the Continental bog bodies may support this intepretation: Lindow III has a under-developed thumb, perhaps making him sufficiently different in the eyes of people in his community to justify scapegoating. We have no such evidence with Lindow Man himself but then his body is incomplete and even if there were no physical abnormalities, he might still have been killed because of a mannerism or a tic or even because he was unblemished. The evidence can be read in all sorts of ways and I would be the first to say this reading doesn’t exclude other interpretations. If we exclude the garotte as a necklace and the gash to the throat as not contemporary (both equally contested) we are left with a blow to the head and a fatal blow to the side of the neck. Is this consistent with mugging? Is that why Lindow Man is naked? Were his clothes and other possessions stolen? But why does he keep the fox skin arm band? I will be discussing sacrificial theory in more detail at an Ideas Cafe at the Manchester Museum on Monday 16th June (6.30-8pm).

Comment by bryansitch

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