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Mummies: Bodies Talk - PEAT BOG MUMMIES

A body was found in a Danish bog on the 25th of May, 1898.  This image, the first-known photo of a bog body - reportedly taken by Georg Sarauw (1862-1928) - shows the remains as found in the bog near Kragelund (a village located northwest of Silkeborg, Denmark).  Examination of the body led researchers to conclude the male - known today as "Frederiksdal Man and Kragelund Man" - went into the bog, circa 1099 AD.  Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

 

When authors like Emily Bronte and Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to create an eerie setting for a story, they would take their readers to "the moors." They were places where bad things happened to good people. More often than not, the fictional moors (or marshes) were really peat bogs - swampy places where vegetation has been decaying for thousands of years.

Peat begins to form from decaying Sphagnum moss. The decaying, waterlogged vegetation is acidic. In ancient (and modern) times, people cut peat from the bogs to use as fuel.

In 1883, Vincent Van Gogh created a famous painting depicting the harvesting of peat in the Dutch town of Drenthe. Once cut from the bog, peat blocks would often be spread out to dry so they could later be burned.

Because of its acidic content, peat has an amazing capacity to preserve certain organic materials which are buried in the bog. Organic materials like human bodies. Bodies which are thousands of years old but are among the most incredibly well preserved in the world.

Thanks to several European museums, we can view on-line pictures of the bog mummies. And thanks to the University of Manchester's reconstructions, we can see how some of those mummies probably looked while the people were still alive.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Mar 01, 2015


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