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 Lindow Man (fl. 1st cent.?), by unknown photographer Lindow Man (fl. 1st cent.?), by unknown photographer
Lindow Man (fl. 1st cent.?), victim of ritual sacrifice, colloquially named Pete Marsh or the Body in the Bog, was found in Lindow Moss, near Wilmslow, Cheshire, in August 1984. A Celt, probably of the Brigantes tribe, he was a ritual sacrifice whose remains were deposited in a peat bog. The skin, hair, fingernails, bone collagen, and some internal organs had been preserved by the tannins of the sphagnum moss.

Lindow Man died aged twenty to twenty-five years old. He stood about 5 feet 5 inches tall and was of average build. His hair and beard were neatly trimmed, and he was buried face down, naked except for a fox-fur band around his left arm. His unscarred body, smooth fingernails, and possible traces of blue body paint, imply that he was a priest, bard, or prisoner, prepared—perhaps willingly—to act as a sacrifice. The remarkable preservation of the body allows an accurate picture of his last hours to be drawn. Lindow Man's final meal consisted of a coarse wheat and barley griddle bread and he had drunk peaty water. His stomach also contained four pollen grains of mistletoe and he had a bad case of worms. He was killed in a particularly savage way: he received two severe blows to the top of the head, fracturing his skull; an animal sinew was tied tightly around his neck and twisted until his neck broke; his throat was cut and he must have bled forcibly. The body was then carried 200 yards across a treacherous peat bog, stripped nearly naked, and put into the bottom of a peaty pool or under a carpet of moss.

No datable artefacts were found with the body, so the dating of this discovery relies upon the radiocarbon method. For Lindow Man, three date ranges have emerged. His stratigraphic position belonged to the middle Iron Age. Dates taken on samples from the body at Oxford University produced a mean uncalibrated date of 1940 ± 25 bp (which converts to 2 BCAD 119), while those undertaken at the Harwell laboratory produced a mean of 1575 ± 30 bp (converting to AD 410–500). Reconciliation of these dates is problematic. Since the body was buried below the surface of the bog, this stratigraphic position must be older than the corpse itself. The difference between the date ranges for the body must arise from an instrumentation error. Taking these factors into account, a first century AD date for Lindow Man is favoured.

Taken individually, Lindow Man might be explained as the victim of a brutal murder. However, Lindow Moss has produced at least one other bog body. A well-preserved head, Lindow I, was found in May 1983 (and, bizarrely, led to the solving of a modern murder). Most of the body of a naked adult male, Lindow III, was recovered in pieces in February 1987. These two, buried separately, probably belong to the same body, dating to the period AD 25–230. The Lindow bodies can also be compared with other famous bog bodies: Tollund Man and Grauballe Man from Denmark, Damendorf Man from Germany, Zweeloo Man and Yde Girl from Holland, and Gallagh Man from Ireland, all late prehistoric in date and suffering violent deaths. Well-preserved bog bodies have also been found in small numbers, since the seventeenth century, elsewhere in northern England and in Wales. Celtic people were known to venerate peat bogs and other watery places. As well as bodies, these sites have often produced valuable single objects or hoards of tools and weapons from the late Bronze Age into the Roman period. Classical authors, Celtic myths, and English folktales all describe ritual sacrifice and burial in peat bogs. It is these many strands of evidence which confirm that Lindow Man was a religious ritual sacrifice, a special act of propitiation or even divination.

The torso and right foot of Lindow Man have been conserved and are displayed in the British Museum. His buttocks and thighs, recovered in 1988, and the remains of Lindow III, are stored unconserved in the museum.

Rick Turner

Sources  

I. M. Stead, J. B. Bourke, and D. Brothwell, eds., Lindow Man, the body in the bog (1986) · R. C. Turner and R. G. Scaife, eds., Bog bodies: new discoveries and new perspectives (1995) · J. A. J. Gowlett, R. E. M. Hedges, and I. A. Law, ‘Radiocarbon accelerator (AMS) dating of Lindow Man’, Antiquity, 63 (1989), 71–9 · P. V. Glob, The bog people (1969) · M. Green, The gods of the Celts (1986)

Likenesses  

photographs, 1984, BM · R. Neave, wax and bronze medical reconstruction, 1986, BM · hologram, 1988, BM · photograph, BM [see illus.]