Filed under: Anniversary, Lindow Moss, Pagans | Tags: Bog bodies, contested remains, human remains, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man, Lindow Moss, New Vision for LIndow Moss, offerings, peat, Transition Wilmslow
On the 1st August, it was the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man, who was found during peat-cutting at Lindow Moss. To commemorate the event and raise awareness of the current state of the bog a walk was organised by Wilmslow Transition Group, on the early morning of Saturday 2nd August. As a museology student researching public engagement with archaeology, I was keen to participate and visit Lindow Moss, and thanks to the kindness of the organisers I was allowed to join the walk.
Wilmslow Transition is part of the Transition network, which connects and inspires a series of initiatives and projects across the UK with the aim to develop a sustainable future within local communities. One of the objectives of Transition Wilmslow is the restoration and protection of the Lindow Moss, once a bog with a rich fauna and flora, whose rich natural and cultural heritage is menaced by intensive peat extraction. The first workshop with different stakeholders was held earlier this April, and an account of it can be found in an earlier blog post by Bryan Sitch. The Lindow Moss Dawn Walk was a second successful initiative, led by Professors John Handley, Anthony Jones and Pippa Tyrrell from the University of Manchester, and that brought together about 60 participants for this two-hour itinerary across the moss, during which we heard different presentations and descriptions of the bog and Lindow Man.
The day began at 4.30am, still before lights, when we met in a car park and started to make our way through the paths of the Lindow Common. We took the track running along the Black Lake, and soon the first reader stopped us introducing the bog’s atmosphere with a short text describing the morning fog on this area close to the lake and the moss. After another few minutes walking, we paused for another reading, which encouraged us to reflect on the environment of the moss and its rich history.
We reached Lindow Moss just in time for the sunrise, and here we had the opportunity to learn more about the bog and Lindow Man. We heard the history of the moss, how it was formed and how much it has changed throughout the years, due to peat-extraction works. After that the focus shifted on the main reason we had walked until there at such an early hour: the following readings introduced us to the phenomenon of bog bodies and to the discovery of Lindow Man. We concluded reading a paper by Richard Turner, the archaeologist who discovered the body: his words recalled the discovery, the first studies, and the importance of Lindow Man for the researches on bog bodies, and reminded us of the importance of protecting the natural and cultural heritage represented by the moss.
We were then ready to walk across the bog and get closer to the exact place were Lindow Man was found. Here, druids from the Wildwood Seed Group were waiting for us, and they welcomed us on site and invited us to take part in a ceremony in his memory. The rite was composed of two parts: a remembrance and an healing sections, aiming both to commemorate the bog body and to encourage a better protection of the moss. Consequently, the first part included a commemoration of the ancestors, and included a druid who spoke for Lindow Man, deprecating the current conditions of the bog and encouraging the presents to take action. Therefore followed the healing part of the ceremony, during which waters of different springs were offered to restore the bog. Concluded this ceremony, flowers were left near the finding site of Lindow Man, and we were then prepared to walk back towards Wilmslow.
Before getting there though, we had the chance to listen to a last reading, which highlighted also the wider landscape we were immersed, there on the top of a small hill, originated from a refilling of the bog, from where we could see Alderley Edge and the Pennines, emerging from the mist.
In conclusion, despite the threatening weather forecast and a very early rising, the event was a success, with many members of the community coming together to remember the discovery of Lindow Man and taking interest in their local natural and cultural heritage. The next event held by Wilmslow Transition as part of their work on Lindow Moss will be a day-school on the 18th October.
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: 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: Poetry | Tags: archaeology and poetry, Bog bodies, human remains, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man, Lindow Man & art, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, Museum Practice, offerings, peat
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”
Filed under: Poetry | Tags: archaeology and poetry, Bog bodies, human remains, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man, Lindow Man & art, Lindow Man comment card, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, offerings, peat
I spent this morning looking at the evaluation of the Comments Cards in the Lindow Man exhibition for October to December 2008 and there, as an example of a reflective comment from a visitor is this poem:-
It started out as a lovely day,
Birds were flittering amongst the hay,
For someone’s satisfaction I was slain,
My life was lost, they didn’t gain.
Distorted and squashed I’m here in the west,
It doesn’t stop the crowds,
I’m not at my best,
Cruel in life,
Crueller in death.
Washed down stream,
Flowing with river,
Caught in the floods,
Settled in moss,
Aged and weathered,
Man of the hills,
The destruction of Cairns and Mounds.
This is one of a number of poems deposited in the exhibition’s offerings box as a mark of respect for Lindow Man.
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: Bog bodies, contested remains, controversial topics, Creating Engaging Displays, human remains, Lindow Man & art, manchester museum body lindow, offerings
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.
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: Bog bodies, Creating Engaging Displays, human remains, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man and art, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, New Vision for LIndow Moss, offerings, peat
A member of staff at the museum in Newcastle, where Lindow Man will be going in the spring/summer, recently emailed me asking about artistic reconstructions of the bog landscape. We didn’t use any landscape images in the Lindow Man exhibition and I know this caused some disappointment to some of the visitors I spoke to last summer. I could only think of some postcards made for one of the earlier exhibitions in 1987 or 1991 that show votive deposits in water. Then I remembered colleague Matthew Hyde’s photocopies from a book called Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape by F.H.A.Aalen, K.Whelan and M.Stout published in 1998. On pages 115-6 there is a sequence of drawings showing the changes in an Irish bog from the Mesolithic through to the present day. I guess Figure D depicting the most active phase of growth durign the Celtic Iron Age is most relevant. It is interesting that the caption to Figure D which shows post 17th century exploitation says the bogland edge attracted settlements of marginal people as turf was the poor man’s fuel (pg 116). There is a direct link here with Lindow Moss. More on this anon.