Well-preserved ‘bog body’ discovered in Denmark may be remains of ancient ritual: ScienceAlert

An ancient, well-preserved skeleton – potentially a remnant of a ritual sacrifice performed more than 5,000 years ago – has been discovered by archaeologists in Denmark.

Researchers from ROMU, an organization representing 10 museums in Denmark, had excavated at the site of a planned housing estate in the municipality of Egedal, near Copenhagen.

During their investigation, Christian Dedenroth-Schou, one of the team members, came across a femur sticking out of the mud.

After digging deeper into the earth, Dedenroth-Schou and his colleagues were able to find almost all the bones of both legs, a pelvis and a jaw.

Researchers understood it to be a “bog body” which refers to the dozens of typically male bodies found in bogs across Europe.

The bodies often remain well intact, despite thousands of years, due to the oxygen-poor and acidic environments of peat bogs that make it difficult for bacteria to survive. This process is also how peat forms from sphagnum moss.

One of the most famous bog bodies, the Tollund Man, was also discovered in Denmark.

The skeleton is not complete and there is “no direct evidence of sacrifice”, according to ROMU, but archaeologists believe the bog person was not simply the victim of reckless murder but rather of a planned ritual ceremony.

It is understood that bogs played an important role for the ancient peoples of northern Europe for the resources they provided and were considered “the gateway between the world of mankind and the world of the gods”, according to the National Museum of Denmark.

The bog men unearthed could have been offerings to the gods between 4,300 BCE and 600 BCE – or between the Neolithic and the Iron Age.

A Stone Age flint axe, animal bone remains and ceramics were found near the site of the skeleton found at Egedal, leading researchers to conclude that the items could have been left as part of a ritual.

Emil Winther Struve, the chief archaeologist at ROMU, told LiveScience the ax was never used, lending credence to the theory that the ax was used as an offering rather than a murder weapon.

“The find is part of a time-tested tradition of ritually burying both objects, people and animals in the bog. This was done extensively throughout antiquity, and it is most likely a victim of such a ritual,” Struve said in a press release. .

“Earlier finds show this to be an area where ritual activities took place.”

Much of the skeleton – including gender, where the person lived and when they died – remains unknown.

Emil Struve, the head of the excavations, told LiveScience there was evidence the body was from Neolithic times because “traditions of human sacrifice go back that far”.

The site has now been drained and archaeologists hope to use DNA technology and dig deeper to find the rest of the bones when the ground thaws in the spring.

“You wonder if this person would be happy to be found or if they would have preferred to rest in peace,” Dedenroth-Schou said in a press release, translated from Danish.

“After all, we don’t know much about their religion. Perhaps we are disturbing a notion of the afterlife. But at the same time, we have an important task in ensuring that the remains of a person don’t just get dug up with an excavator and end up in a big pile of dirt.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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