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Ancient Bog Body May Have Been Victim Of A Grisly Sacrificial Ritual

This poor soul, whoever they were, was likely slaughtered as a human sacrifice.

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

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An archeologist in a hi-vis jacket digs up bones from the ground
An archeological researcher on the scene in Denmark. Image courtesy of Christian Dedenroth-Schou/ROMU

An ancient murder mystery appears to have been solved. Archaeologists suspect that an ancient body that was preserved in a bog in Denmark may have been placed there as part of a grisly sacrificial ritual. 

While carrying out building work at a peat bog in Stenløse Mose in Egedal Municipality, workers recently stumbled across a human femur bone. Upon digging further, a team of archeologists found another leg bone, a pelvis, and a jaw.

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Based on the presence of other animal bones and relics in close proximity to the body, the investigators believe that this was a site commonly used for rituals. This poor soul, whoever they were, was likely slaughtered as a sacrifice

"We dare to guess that it is a victim, because we have found other things in the area. About a meter [3 feet] away we found a flint ax from the Stone Age, and 10-15 meters [30-50 feet] away we found a concentration of animal bones and ceramics. Taken together, a picture emerges that something has probably taken place that, for lack of a better word, can be called a ritual," Christian Dedenroth-Schou, an archaeologist at ROMU, said in a statement.

Part of a jaw bone and a femur seen poking out the soil during an archeological dig.

Part of a jaw bone and a femur seen poking out the soil. Image courtesy of Lea Mohr Hansen/ROMU.


Researchers are now cleaning and preparing the body to uncover more information about the person's identity, such as their age and gender. 

"You think about whether that person would be happy to be found, or whether they would rather have rested in peace. After all, we don't know much about their religion. Perhaps we are disrupting a notion of the afterlife. But at the same time, we have an important task in ensuring that the remains of a person are not just dug up with an excavator and end up in a big pile of dirt," continued Dedenroth-Schou. 

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Many bog bodies have been discovered in Northern Europe, including some notable examples in Denmark. 

One of the best-preserved bog bodies is known as the Tollund Man, which was unearthed in the 1950s by peat diggers on the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. When investigators first descended on the scene, they thought the body belonged to a local boy who recently went missing, but the remains were much older than this. 

Thanks to the cool, acidic, and low-oxygen conditions of the peat bog, much of his skin and organs remained amazingly intact, complete with a pained expression on his face and a noose still wrapped around his neck. In fact, the body was in such good condition that scientists have even managed to pinpoint his last meal by analyzing his stomach contents.


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