Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition, Pagans | Tags: controversial topics, Creating Engaging Displays, Lindow Man, Lindow Man exhibitions, Museum Practice, offerings
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filed under: Anniversary | Tags: Bog bodies, contested remains, controversial topics, human remains, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man, Lindow Man exhibitions, Lindow Moss, peat
It is surpassing strange to thank that it is already thirty years since the discovery of the body of Lindow Man. Peat diggers at the Lindow Moss site near Wilmslow to the south of Manchester made a most macabre discovery: a human leg turned up on their peat conveyor belt. Some years previously a local woman had discovered in mysterious circumstances and when a human head was discovered on the same conveyor belt the previous year Police arrested a local man. Although the head was shown to date from before the modern period the accused, who had confessed his crime, was charged with the murder and found guilty. So when the leg was found it was assumed that it might be the remains of the missing woman. However, it was first necessary to find the rest of the body and county archaeologist, Rick Turner, was able to trace the source of the remains back to the original excavation trench in the peat and there find a flap of skin sticking out of the side of the trench. A block of peat that the excavators hoped would contain the body was removed from the peat.
This is where Manchester Museum comes in. As chance would have it the only member of staff working that day was Velson Horie, the Museum’s senior conservator, and he gave advice and support to the recovery team. He is seen in white, top right in the photograph above. There followed an agonising wait to find out whether the body was ancient or modern, and the Police appear to have postponed an autopsy until the date had been clarified by radiocarbon-dating. This having been shown to be ancient, the Coroner ruled that the body was not a modern murder victim and Lindow Man, as he came to be known, was sent to the British Museum, which had the expertise, the facilities and funding to study and conserve the remains. Dr Ian Stead who was responsible for the BM’s Iron Age collections put together a team of experts who used the pioneering technology of CAT scanning to investigate the body.
The body was relatively well-preserved though incomplete. It had long been known from discoveries in Scandinavian peat bogs that organic remains in certain circumstances could be very well preserved. The decay of sphagnum moss creates sphagnan which has a similar effect on organic materials to tanning. The anaerobic conditions, the relatively cool temperatures and saturated conditions in the peat moss or bog all helped preserve the body, though not in its entirety. For instance, although the hands were not very well preserved, the finger nails were intact!
The body itself was preserved using polyethylene glycol (or PEG) and then freeze-dried for display in a specially designed display case. It even became possible to see what Lindow Man looked like because a facial reconstruction was created by Prof John Prag and Dr Richard Neave of the University of Manchester.
The findings of the study of Lindow Man’s body were sensational. Not only had he suffered blows to the head, there was also evidence of a ligature around the neck and a cut to the throat, although some archaeologists have questioned the evidence. To add to the heady mix there was also some mistletoe. A great deal has been made of the presence of just a few grains of mistletoe pollen but, as Jody Joy, Curator of the Iron Age at the British Museum, has pointed out, this was well within EU toxicity guidelines and wouldn’t have affected Lindow Man! The question of the significance of the mistletoe is symptomatic of the heated debates that characterised the interpretation about Lindow Man right from the start. The fact that he appears to have been naked apart from a fox skin armband, suggested to some that he was the victim of a robbery or a mugging. Others interpreted the trio of injuries as an act of human sacrifice in honour of three Celtic gods. Anne Ross and Don Robins in The Life and Death of a Druid Prince reconstructed the circumstances of Lindow Man’s death about the time of the suppression of the Boudiccan revolt against the Roman occupation. They offered the dramatic scenario of a human sacrifice following the destruction of the Druids on Anglesey and the defeat of Boudicca’s army in AD 60-1. The victim, Lindow Man, had remains of a burnt bannock or bread cake in his gut, which it was argued was evidence of the lottery by which he had been selected for sacrifice. The later refinement of the radiocarbon dating results to put Lindow Man into the early Roman period didn’t change matters because the Iron Age lifestyle continued into Roman times. One reading of the evidence would suggest he was put to death not to avert the Roman occupation but in response to it, in a violent reaffirmation of native spiritual beliefs. It is very interesting in this respect that Worsley Man, another, earlier, bog body discovery from the North West was dated to the early 2nd century AD.
This detailed study provided content for the first of three Lindow Man exhibitions at Manchester Museum. Perhaps in acknowledgement of the Museum’s support at the time of the excavation, and of the strength of local feeling in response to the removal of Lindow Man to London, the British Museum lent the body to Manchester Museum in 1987 and 1991, and most recently in 2008-9. In the 1980s Lindow Man was the subject of a repatriation campaign organised by Barbara O’Brien. The campaign featured a song sung by Lindow Primary School choir ‘Lindow Man we want you back again’. This was unsuccessful but in retrospect the materials it generated, including photographs of the visit to the recording studio, a campaign t-shirt and a copy of the somewhat cheesy song (think Grandad we love you but with archaeological lyrics), have been a boon to museology students seeking UK case studies of repatriation.
The repatriation campaign didn’t feature in Manchester Museum’s Lindow Man exhibitions of 1987 and 1991. They focused on the findings of the detailed study of Lindow Man and recreating his life and times. They proved to be extremely popular.
When the British Museum offered Lindow Man for a third loan in 2008-9 Manchester Museum was delighted to accept. The exhibition was generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Wellcome Trust. The exhibition reflected the current debate about human remains in museums and other institutions. This was the first high profile exhibition I worked on at the Museum and in keeping with best practice I organised a consultation to which a wide range of people were invited. The findings of the consultation were that Lindow Man’s body should be displayed respectfully and that different ways of interpreting the body were presented in the exhibition. We invited seven people, including archaeologists, museum curators, a member of the Lindow community, peat diggers and a pagan to each present their perspective on the body. We invited people to comment on a number of questions we posed during the life of the exhibition such as ‘How do you think Lindow Man died?’ and ‘Should museums show human remains?‘. Some 12,500 comments cards were filled in by visitors.
However, the exhibition proved to be controversial. Even though it won an award for its innovative design, quite a lot of visitors felt it looked unfinished, and again, although it won a British Archaeological Award for its presentation of the issue of human remains, some visitors did not like the multi-vocal appr0ach to the interpretation. Given that the exhibition was intended to stimulate debate about the issue of human remains, the feedback might have been anticipated but it did stimulate a very heated debate – no bad thing in a university at which students are encouraged to see topics from different points of view, but somewhat uncomfortable for colleagues who were subjected to personal comments. The exhibition and its associated events and activities attracted 190,000 people and generated favourable reviews in museum and archaeology journals. It has also been discussed in a number of articles, more in fact than any other temporary exhibition that I have ever worked on. Not to mention the steady flow of under graduate and post graduate students wanting to feature the Lindow Man exhibition as a case study in their dissertations. The various recorded interviews with contributors, some of them filmed, remain an archive of fascinating social history material for future research.
I might also add that the return of Lindow Man to Manchester was celebrated in the arts and a surprising amount of poetry has been written, quite a lot of it I suspect, in response to the presence of an offering box in the last exhibition. It is little appreciated that at the time of Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery, Manchester Museum also hosted a temporary exhibition about photography of Lindow Moss featuring work by the gifted photographer Stephen Vaughan. And what of the future? Visitors sometimes ask me if Lindow Man is going to return to Manchester and how would we display him if he did? Some reviewers have already stated that it could be an opportunity to review how Lindow Man has been displayed, the three exhibitions providing a unique sequence showing how museological practice has experimented in displaying human remains and the differing sensitivities to the exhibition of human remains in society that can now be evidenced.
Sadly in 2008 it was too late to develop Rene Girard’s work on scape-goating in relation to sacrifical theory, bog bodies and Lindow Man, but it is a topic I have spoken about in presentations to students and the public. perhaps there would be some mileage in exploring this approach in any exhibition proposal. But that’s a debate for another day, if the possibility of a loan should arise again, and I am by no means asking for it. However, the recent commemoration of the discovery in a dawn ceremony at Lindow Moss is bound to bring new interest to earlier debates about the interpretation and meaning of Lindow Man and where he should be. This event was a follow-up to a meeting held in Wilmslow in April to present a new approach to the Moss and its management, whereby peat extraction would cease and the original landscape environment be recreated. A dayschool will be held in Wilmslow on 18th October 2014 to explore the environmental history of Lindow Moss and the legacy of Lindow Man. Let’s be grateful that Lindow Man was discovered thirty years ago. One thing’s to be sure the debate about him is going to run on and on for another thirty years.
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition, Poetry | Tags: archaeology and poetry, Bog bodies, Creating Engaging Displays, human remains, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, offerings
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, http://www.evecoxeter.com, 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:-
TORLUND THE MAN GOD
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.
through humic acids
no words commune
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.
Filed under: Events, Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: Archaeology Society, Lindow Man exhibitions
At the beginning of this term I met Andy Michaelas, a first year archaeology student at the University of Manchester. He was very keen to start up the students’ archaeology society again. He kindly asked me to give a talk to the students on the subject of Lindow Man.
Going over some of the earlier presentations I am reminded just how much material there is to talk about. If you look upon the exhibition as an exercise in public archaeology and you include the earlier exhibitions of 1987 and 1991 it is clear that the three ‘outings’ to Manchester provide a fascinating sequence of displays that shed light on changing attitudes, approaches and findings to and about Lindow Man.
Anyway the talk is in Mansfield Cooper in the University of Manchester tonight at 6pm Room 2.05 and I’m looking forward to it.
Filed under: Repatriation | Tags: Castleford Conference, human remains, Lindow Man exhibitions, Lindow Man song, Restitution
Here’s another blast from the past from the Manchester Museum Lindow Man files. But one that has a modern resonance because I spoke about the unsuccessful campaign at last week’s Museums and Restitution conference at the Manchester Museum.
I got a laugh when I said one of the now grown-up children who contributed to the Lindow Man exhibition really had been there, did do that and still had the t-shirt to prove it!
These children joined the campaign to repatriate Lindow Man’s body to the North West by recording a song, Lindow Man we want you back again (think Grandad we love you but with archaeological lyrics).
Susan Chadwick kindly lent us a photo, her t-shirt and one of her favourite toys from the time. I’ve never seen a tape or record of the song with the packaging so it would be great to see it if anyone out there still has a copy.
It’s a reminder if one were needed, as championed so ably at the Castleford Conference in 2005, that heritage assets should include the intangible elements of local views of place: things like stones, beliefs, ideas, traditions and oral history. To which we can attach songs and recordings and ephemera associated with campaigns and the like.
Filed under: Publication | Tags: Creating Engaging Displays, human remains, Lindow Man, Lindow Man books, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, Museum Practice
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.
Filed under: Repatriation | Tags: Bog bodies, contested remains, controversial topics, human remains, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man, Lindow Man and education, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, repatriation, repatriation campaign, Restitution
Having signed up to giving a paper on the unsuccessful campaign to repatriate Lindow Man at next month’s Restitution Conference at the University of Manchester, I am revisiting my notes from 18 months ago in preparation. One of the people I’d have loved to meet when we were working on the exhibition was Barbara O’Brien who co-ordinated the campaign to bring Lindow Man back to Manchester back in 1987. She got support from local MPs but didn’t get the support she felt she should have had from museums and called off the campaign. She used to work for Granada TV but they couldn’t put me in touch with her. She used to live in Hale, Altrincham. Attempts to find her via the internet have met with a blank. I don’t even know if she’s still alive. If you’re still out there Barbara it would be great to talk to you.