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: 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: 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: Criticism, Lindow Man criticism, Lindow Moss, Lindow Moss Exhibition | Tags: Bog bodies, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man & art, Lindow Man exhibitions, Lindow Moss, New Vision for LIndow Moss, peat, Stephen Vaughan, Transition Wilmslow
The following comment was written in the comments book in the photographic exhibition about Lindow Moss:-
“dear curator-type guy, although myself and my amazing girlfriend are aware that there is little chance of you actually reading this we feel the need to congratulate you on the wonderful experience we have had of your museum… as avid historians we feel a little more depths to the descriptions would be useful as many questions were left unanswered. However this is only a mild complaint lost in a sea of awe concerning the educational environment which you have constructed. Much love Sammy and Naomi xx (heart) xx’
I can’t claim any credit for the temporary exhibition about Lindow Moss but I love the salutation “curator-type guy” and Sammy & Naomi criticize us so nicely it would be churlish not to share this with others.
Or what about:-
“I was born and brought up at Lindow and played on the moss as a kid. “The Bog” we called it. Back then in the 60s a lot of the cutting was still by hand with neat stacks of cut peat next to each trench. Everything was taken away on the narrow guage railway. We used to paly on the trucks. When I’ve been there recently I hardly recognize it. The industrial scale of the detruction is very upsetting. I wish more would be preserved. Sue S.”
I’ll bet Bruce Mould, who contributed to the Lindow Man exhibition, which closes on 19th April, cut the peat that Sue saw. The recent TV programme about peat also explored the subject of the conservation of bogs ‘v’ use of peat in gardens.
This is great stuff and thanks to all, too numerous to include every one, who have left comments.
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition, Lindow Moss, Peat | Tags: Bog bodies, hallowed ground, human remains, landscape archaeology, Lindow Man exhibitions, Lindow Moss, manchester museum body lindow, New Vision for LIndow Moss, peat
Just been watching the Gardeners’ World programme on BBC1 and was appalled at the complacency of people who make use of peat in their gardens despite knowing that this is damaging a precious and vulnerable habitat.
The presenter rehearsed the reasons why peat bogs are important, one of which was archaeological. At one point the presenter got down in a trench to look at a peat section that went back to the Bronze Age. For me that represents a compelling reason not to use peat compost in gardens. Something that is potentially thousands of years old shouldn’t be extracted on an industrial scale to the detriment of the archaeological record and the wildlife. If this represents a loss to the economy what compensation is there in using the bogs for eco-tourism; and, if another Lindow Man came to light during sustainable extraction, what benefits might there be to the cultural economy?
I have recently been thinking about how we might demonstrate a Lindow Man effect for the cultural economy of the North West. Surely that represents a wiser use of this resource than mindless, immoral extraction. No apologists for the peat industry will convince me otherwise.
To add insult to injury, at the ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’ workshop held at Wilmslow on 3rd April 2014 we learnt that the peat extracted at Lindow Moss isn’t of very good quality. One of its uses historically has been as a growing medium for commercial mushroom growing – but only after it has been mixed with horse manure.
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.