Lindow Manchester

Another Bog Body
August 18, 2008, 9:07
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition

I recently got back off annual leave to find that one of my collegues, Jeff Horsley, Head of Exhibitions and Presentation,  had kindly left a copy of the catalogue to the Bocksten Man  exhibition in Gotenberg on my chair. Bocksten Man is a Swedish bog body dating from the Middle Ages. Originally discovered in Bocksten Bog in Halland in 1936 by 11 year old Thure Johansson, the body was taken to the Regional Museum in Varberg, where the remains, including a complete set of Medieval clothes, were studied, consolidated and put on display. On the basis of the style of the clothes Bocksten Man was dated to 1340-1370; radio carbon dating out him between 1290 and 1410; dating a wooden stake and clothing enabled the  date to be refined to 1340-1370. Bocksten Man was 30-35 years old when he died and suffered from DISH, a disease associated with too rich a diet. Although he was relatively well-off, his clothing showed he wasn’t from the upper classes. He appears not to have had a manual job. Recent forensic study suggests that he died from three blows to his head (though not all agree with that interpretation) and he had been impaled in the bog: two birch stakes had been driven right through the body, but this may not have happened whilst he was alive. One of them came from a roof from a peasant farm building. Bocksten Man’s identity may never be known but he may have been a bailiff who was murdered by peasants and his body hidden in the bog. Bocksten Man’s head was also reconstructed, complete with shaggy mane of hair. It is amazingly life-like. ‘Who do you think he looks like?’, the Catalogue asks. I think he’s the splitting image of Christopher Walken, the famous American actor who starred in The Deer Hunter! Dating aside, the similarities with Lindow Man are interesting: the refinement of dating made possible by new technology and analytical techniques; the debate about precisely how he died; the veritable detective story to reconstruct the circumstances of death; and the acknowledgment that the curators do not have all the answers – you may have your own theories – the riddle is not yet solved. The new exhibition opened in 2006. For more information see Christina Andersson-Wiking & Pablo Wiking-Faria The Bocksten Man Exhibition Catalogue, Harland Regional Museum in Varberg, 2008, ISBN 91-89570-10-3 or look-up the website


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