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


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.

Bog Bodies book

I recently got in touch with Karin Sanders whose book Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination came out earlier in the year. She is Professor of Scandinavian at the university of California, Berkeley.

Oldenbourg bog body display (courtesy of Karin Sanders)

Oldenbourg bog body display (courtesy of Karin Sanders). Use of MDF in the Lindow Man exhibition was intended to replicate the organic feel.

Some of the chapters cover similar topics to those of the Manchester Museum’s Lindow Man exhibition in 2008-9. There is a chapter on ethical treatment of bodies on display in the book.

What really caught my eye though was a photograph of a bog body display at Oldenbourg in Germany. The body is displayed in what looks like a peat bog section and it immediately reminded me of the use of MDF in the Lindow Man displays, which does have an organic, vegetation-like appearance from a distance. Karin kindly allowed me to reproduce this on the Blog to see what other people think.

Entrance to Lindow Man exhibition showing use of MDF

Entrance to Lindow Man exhibition showing use of MDF

It is unfortunate that because of the scheduling Karin’s book had effectively been completed before our exhibition but she was gracious enough to say that she would have used the exhibition as an example had we opened earlier. Meanwhile a short account of the exhibition has appeared in the latest UMAC Journal and we are regularly receive enquiries from students and museum professionals about our project.

Is a Care Bear Appropriate?

Nearly 8 months after Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery closed the Museum is still receiving comments about the exhibition. We receive between 500 and 1000 visits to the Blog every month. This is an email received by Stephen Devine (New Media and Photographic Officer) from Jean N.:

‘I have just visited the Lindow Man web page. How can you hold
a ‘responsibility to treat human remains with respect and dignity’
yet show an image of a ‘Care Bear’ underneath the heading ‘Lindow
Man’? It conveys the wrong message completely!’

This is Steve’s reply:-
Thank you for taking the time to contact us and apologies for my slow response.


Our human remains policy restricts the use of image of human remains which is one reason why you do not see an image of Lindow Man himself on our website.

Our Lindow Man exhibition presented a number of perspectives relating to memories of the discovery of Lindow Man. The Care Bear, selected by one of the members of the public involved in the exhibition, represents one of these.

The Care Bear was something that reminded the participants of that time in her life and of the discovery of Lindow Man.

This was one of a number of images used extensively in the exhibition and for the marketing of the exhibition. As such I feel that on our website the image represents the exhibition rather than Lindow Man himself.

While there was a number of different reactions to the use of the Care Bear there was never any intention of disrespect towards Lindow Man.

Personally I feel that connecting Lindow Man with viewpoints of the living and the focus on related objects from modern times as well as his own the exhibition showed a great deal of respect.
Many thanks, Steve

I replied:-

“A number of people have commented on the Care Bear. It might help you to appreciate why we put this in the exhibition if I explain about the consultation that we did over a year in advance of opening.

Recognizing that human remains are more of an emotive topic nowadays than the last time the Museum displayed Lindow Man back in 1987 and 1991, we invited a wide-ranging group of people to consult about the exhibition. The invitees included curators, archaeologists, students, members of Manchester City Council, members of the public and pagans. We put them in mixed groups and all five groups reported back that they wanted a respectful treatment of Lindow Man and for his interpretation to reflect the different theories about how and why he died.

We decided to implement those recommendations by interviewing a number of different people, each of whom had had experience of Lindow Man in one way or another. They included a forensic scientist, two peat diggers, a landscape archeologist, someone who lives at Lindow Moss, museum curators from the BM and Manchester Museum and a Pagan.

We asked the interviewees to recommend objects as exhibits for each section. Susan Chadwick, who lived at Lindow Moss when she was a little girl, told us about her Care Bear and how it reminded her of the time when Lindow Man was discovered. We thought that it was useful as a device to help people remember when Lindow Man was found and to think about what they were doing when he was discovered and reactions to the discovery.

The toy was intended to show visitors that the perspective on Lindow Man was that of someone who is now a mature adult but who was just a child in 1984. Susan’s testimony gives us a unique perspective: through her eyes we find out what it was like to find her favourite paths closed off by Police “Crime Scene investigation” tape or the feelings of local people when Lindow Man goes off to London. As this section was separate from the display of Lindow Man, I personally don’t think it was insensitive to show the Care Bear and it also helped young children to engage with some of the ideas.

Of course I accept that different people will have different ideas of what constitutes respect and sensitive treatment but we did consult and, in the context of the approach we took to the exhibition, I still personally feel that it was respectful. Human remains are such a contentious area that probably no two people are going to agree entirely. It was that kind of exhibition I’m afraid but we did try to obtain consensus through our consultation.”

Jean has replied:-

‘Thank you for your reply. My comment was in no way a criticism of the exhibition (which I have not seen) but the strange juxtaposition on the web-page. I am sure that the exhibition treated the remains with respect and I now appreciate that in 1984 the Care Bear might strike a chord with other children.

What struck me as strange, however, was the motif of the Care Bear directly underneath the title ‘Lindow Man’ on the web-page as if the Care Bear was a representation of Lindow Man. That surely wasn’t the intention. Maybe no-one else has made that assumption?

My present interest in Lindow Man is as a student on the new OU course Understanding Global Heritage although I was aware of him from previous studies. I come from a museum family and I write also as one who has been involved in museum display and interpretation in the Highlands on an occasional consultancy basis.’

Our thanks to Jean for these comments and allowing us to post the correspondence on the Lindow Man Blog.



A Poem from the Lindow Man Offerings Box

This is one of several poems placed in the Lindow Man offerings box as a mark of respect for Lindow Man

“Crumpled, folded, left lying for the peat
Flesh becomes water, became earth
Became stone in time.
No hope of that now, leather man, stone
Your journeys unexpected direction?
To offer us questions
It’s always questions, that’s what we have of you.
Maybe questions are what we need
No certainties, no mysteries finally revealed”

“It’s spring outside now,
The frogs have broken the hibernation dream
And fill the world with bubbling, copulating life
I would bring you flowers and new shoots,
Pussy willow and hope.
But they cannot, could not, touch you in you
Sealed crystal coffin, defying even handsome princes
So I bring you the dream of spring and the wind
that blows over the hills, with the rain and
the sudden sleet, And I offer you, spring mornings
and the air full of promise, stones warming
slowly under a glowing sun.
I feed you dreams and a blanket of memories,
A thicket of hope to shelter you from the
Endless staring eyes in that cold, climate controlled
We will hold a space for you in the dancing circles,
A place at the table, a welcome in the Feast for the Dead

With love, Gordon the Toad”

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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