Lindow Manchester

Offerings in the Lindow Man exhibition
Offerings box in the Lindow Man exhibition

Offerings box in the Lindow Man exhibition

During the consultation in advance of Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery it was suggested that the Museum include an offerings box so that those who wished could leave an offering to honour Lindow Man and the ancestors. The Museum felt it was important to respond positively to the public consultation and to facilitate the leaving of material of a more thoughtful or personal nature that some visitors might want to leave as a mark of respect. These, we were advised, might include aesthetically or spiritually significant objects such as artwork, carved wood or interesting stones. The offerings box created another opportunity for visitors to engage in a tangible way with the subject of human remains. The offerings box was located close to Lindow Man’s case next to a comments card board where visitors could also leave a personal message.

Offerings from Culleram, Ibitha in the Museum

Offerings from Culleram in the Puig des Moulins Museum, Ibitha

Visitors to prehistoric sites sometimes leave offerings such as flowers but these are of such an ephemeral nature that they often disappear or are disposed of before any record can be made. Such material left on sites is liable to be removed and disposed of as rubbish. However, the Puig des Molins Museum in Ibitha displays material from the religious site dedicated to the goddess Tanit at Culleram, Sant Joan de Labritja, in the north-eastern part of the island. Offerings in the Lindow Man exhibition in 2008-9 are potentially of academic interest because so little work has been done in this area and it made the recording of such material important for future research.

Visitors left a wide range of material. By far the greatest single category of offering was coins. This may say something about the values of modern society in that coins appear to be the most appropriate way of making an offering. It can be compared with throwing coins in a fountain, which is well attested archaeologically. In one of the earlier Lindow Man exhibitions in 1987 or 1991 there was a fountain which gathered more money than the Museum donations box (pers.comm. Prof. John Prag)! The money was estimated to be of the value of £300. Leaving something in the offerings box was one way of showing respect regardless of one’s religious beliefs. For example, visitors to a Christian church sometimes light a candle or make the sign of the cross regardless of their religion.

Pool in one of the earlier Lindow Man exhibitions at Manchester Museum

Pool in one of the earlier Lindow Man exhibitions at Manchester Museum

Notable amongst the offerings were personal messages and poems dedicated to Lindow Man; personal accoutrements such as a mirror or a cigarette lighter; and leaves, seed heads and other organic items. It is surprising how many personal accessories associated with hair or personal decoration, such as hair grips, “bobbles” and head bands, as well as badges are present. Many of the objects are small, portable personal items of modest value, precisely the kind of thing one might pull out of one’s pocket or hand bag or remove from one’s clothing or person if the opportunity arose to make an impromptu offering. More thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing items such as a flints, feathers, a rock crystal and a personally inscribed pebble were also recorded. However, two gold rings and a silver ring of some financial value were put in the offerings box, and considerable thought, clearly, went into preparing one of the most fascinating items in the offerings box collection: a fired clay fertility goddess with exaggerated breasts, stomach and thighs. The stomach is presented as an open bowl and contains moss, conjuring up associations with birth, rebirth and Lindow Moss as a womb in which Lindow Man is incubated. At a time when Transition Wilmslow is working on a new vision for Lindow Moss intended to bring about the rebirth of the peat bog, perhaps this symbolic Earth goddess/Mother figure is relevant in a way we could not have anticipated at the time of the Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery exhibition. However, Some of the offerings may simply be rubbish and the ‘offerings’ list also includes bus and rail tickets, discarded receipts and sweet wrappers.

Modern votive offering in the Lindow Man exhibition 2008-9

Modern votive offering in the Lindow Man exhibition 2008-9

Readers of this blog may be interested to know that there will be a day-school called Lindow Moss: Origins and Future Prospects on 18th October 2014 and I have been invited to speak about Manchester Museum’s experience of running three temporary exhibitions about Lindow Man during the last 30 years. This will continue the work of raising the profile of Lindow Moss started at a public meeting about a ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’ held in Wilmslow in April and furthered by the recent dawn commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man’s body. At the time of writing I am anticipating a guest blog written by someone who attended the ceremony so watch this space.

Dawn ceremony at Lindow Moss

Dawn ceremony at Lindow Moss


More Bog Body Poetry

Recent contributions of poetry relating to Lindow Man seem to have struck a chord. Earlier this week I had a letter from the writer and artist, Eve Coxeter, who tells me she bumped into Joan Poulson and heard about the Lindow Man exhibition.

Like Joan, Eve was inspired by the bog body phenomenon to write a novel about Tollund Man. Eve visited Silkeborg some years ago to see his body and actually met P.V.Glob, who wrote the seminal work The Bog People, with its beautiful black and white photographs of bog bodies and associated discoveries.

Joan writes that Prof.Glob was elderly but still used his own plane to fly up to his farm near Silkebord every weekend. There were even burial mounds on his property, she says. Eve’s novel was intended to bring Torlund (the medieval name) to life.

Although it remains unpublished, the script can be accessed via Eve’s website,,  and anyone interested can see the novel under ‘Novels:Torlund?’ . Eve has also kindly allowed me to post a copy of her poem on the Blog and reproduce her drawing and a sculpture of Tollund Man. So thanks to Eve for allowing me to share this:-
By Eve Coxeter

how sunken are you?

Dredged from the peat
where you have slept
through autumn mists.
fog sweep your soul
yet rise so whole
in face and foot
not man made flesh
but gods returned
your incomplete reality.

How past gives back
presents your face to man
in all but breath.

You speak
through humic acids
no words commune
unconscious host
fen sacrifice noosed
for a lost goddess
your sacred seed
germinating the archaic
silence in us all,

Convey, tell that which
human knowledge would compel
our hoped communication
divided from you at last
by the glass case
only of time.
Which reminds me that there is a copy of a novel ‘Lindow End’ by local writer Christine Pemberton in Susan Chadwick’s section of the Lindow Man exhibition. This contemporary thriller involves ancient bog body DNA and a test tube baby. I don’t want to give anything away but I haven’t been able to look Christine in the eye since I read her book.

Lindow Man Exhibition and Public Consultation
July 22, 2010, 9:07
Filed under: Publication | Tags: , ,

I bumped into Sam Alberti on the stairs yesterday who pointed out that ‘we’ (him and me that is) were ‘all over the latest issue of Museum Practice like a rash’. It deals with consultation, co-authorship and dealing with criticism.  There’s quite a lot of discussion about the Manchester Museum’s consultation with the public over the Lindow Man display in Rebecca Atkinson’s articles (July issue). Look at Creating Engaging Displays. Then the Case Study on Dealing with Criticism. Or Challenging Preconceived Ideas.

Lindow Man Exhibition Publication

I was out with a colleague from the Manchester Museum’s education team, Neil Dymond-Green,  this morning to talk to pupils at St James’ Primary School about our new Ancient Worlds displays.

When I walked in my office there was a thick, new book on my desk still inside its wrapper and a pithy message on the outside from Jeff Horsley saying ‘The exhibition looks fantastic’.

I opened New Exhibition Design/Neue Ausstellungs Gestaltung 02 suspecting it was something to do with the Lindow Man exhibition. It’s always nice to open a brand new book, with that peculiar fresh smell of printing but even more of a thrill to find some rather nice images of Lindow Man displays taken by former colleague Bryony Bond.

There’s only a couple of short paragraphs by way of text. The book focuses on exhibition design so it’s what it looked like that’s important.

There are three pages of tasteful shots showing the innovative shelving, the biographies of the contributors and visitors interacting with the various sections. It’s all very atmospheric and brings back happy memories of the Lindow Man exhibition.

From now on I won’t have to scrabble about looking for images on the shared drive. I can simply refer them to this beautiful and thought-provoking publication.  Thanks to Jeff for dropping this off.

Lindow Man Visitor Figures

As part of the work on evaluating the Lindow Man exhibition I rang Carole Knight, Project Administration Assistant at the Manchester Museum, to ask how many people visited. 133,413 people came to see Lindow Man.

Lindow Man Offerings Box

Going through the contents of the Lindow Man Offerings box. In addition to over £300 in loose change there are lots of personal accessories such as badges and prepared pieces such as a female fertility figure with an open belly containing moss. There are poems and individual messages to Lindow Man as well as the usual bus tickets, sweet wrappers and shop receipts. Surprisingly one credit card transaction receipt gives the 16 figure account number  for a purchase in Kuala Lumpur! Some colleagues from the Data Group came to see the stuff this morning prepare a presentation to the Manchester Museum staff in the summer. A post doctoral student is also interested in looking at the material for a paper about offerings in museums.

Lindow Man Without Lindow Man

A couple of days after our Lindow Man exhibition closed I had a meeting with Cat Lumb, Lead Educator Humanities (Secondary and Post-16) to talk about how we could continue to offer an education session based around the Lindow Man courtroom scenario without being able to use Lindow Man himself.

We spent an hour looking around the Mediterranean Gallery and the new Manchester Gallery and  identified a number of objects that she could use with students to talk about what Lindow Man means. We spoke about different value systems and binary opposites between Northern (European)  and Southern (Mediterranean), cold and heat, beer and wine, barley and grape, ‘barbarous’ and civilised, native British (Brigantian?) and foreign (Romanised), literate and illiterate and so on.

Which of these sets of opposites  is better is a value judgement of course but native people don’t have a choice. They could either go along with the occupation or if they resisted they were defeated militarily in swift order. If the Roman administration is stamping out human sacrifice, then perhaps one of the (extreme) ways for native people to create or maintain a sense of identity is to sacrifice someone – like suicide bombers in Iraq.

The reconstructed head of Worsley Man on display in the Manchester Museum offers a way in to this debate and the original head is of early 2nd century AD date too. Other things that help the contrast between native and Roman include a Roman amphora in the Mediterrenean Gallery and the altar set up by Aelius Victor to the Mother Goddesses here in Manchester and now on display in the Manchester gallery.

We looked at some coins in the Money Gallery and compared native British gold coins with the Roman currency systems and discussed the different significance of money in different cultures. The perfect illustration of this was Chinese hell money displayed in the same gallery that is intended for use in the hereafter. It makes no sense in a monetary economy like ours but in the realm of magic and the afterlife it has considerable meaning.

Perhaps the Romans experienced a similar sense of bafflement faced with native British ways of doing things and vice versa.

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