This is obviously a picture of a muddy field with some tire tracks. Why would I put this on my blog? Because the story behind this muddy field is quite fascinating. This is Lindow Moss, also known as Saltersley Common, located in Cheshire, England. No one owns it; under old British law it is common land where people are allowed to use it for certain purposes, most usually cutting peat for fuel. Thirty-two years ago today, on August 1, 1984, a man named Andy Mould who was part of a commercial crew doing exactly that saw a stick that had been churned up by the peat-cutting machine. He grabbed the stick and threw it at his friend, because of course that’s what you do with your mates when you’re on the job. When the “stick” hit the ground both men realized it was a decomposing human foot. They called the police. Ultimately a corpse was excavated in the vicinity. It was a man about 25, with a beard and mustache–the forensic reconstruction resembles a young Burt Reynolds–who had died a pretty horrible death, having been beaten over the head, stabbed, slashed with a knife, and strangled with a cord. But this was no ordinary murder victim: “Lindow Man,” as he was known, died about 2,000 years ago.
There is a long tradition of “bog bodies” being found in places like Lindow Moss. In fact, just the year before, another bog body, a woman, was found just 800 feet from where Lindow Man was exhumed in 1984–and in fact was found by Andy Mould. (One could imagine him thinking, “Oh jeez, another one?”) The discovery of Lindow Woman, who was originally thought to be a modern murder victim, led to the confession of a man who murdered his wife and dumped her body in the area in 1960. When it was discovered that Lindow Woman died about 250 AD, the murdered tried unsuccessfully to recant his confession. I’m surprised this hasn’t been a plot on CSI. (Maybe it has, I don’t watch that show).
After laying under Lindow Moss for nearly 2,000 years, Lindow Man’s face turned out to be rather “squished,” but you can still make out some of his features.
In any event, “bog bodies” are a fascinating phenomenon, mainly because we know so little about them. Dozens of well-preserved corpses dating from the Bronze Age have been found in peat bogs across Northern Europe, most exhibiting bizarre clues like savage wounds, evidence of ritual execution, and even traces of hallucinogenic drugs in their bodies. I actually saw Lindow Man in the British Museum in the year 2000 as well as other similar corpses. As historians and archaeologists puzzle over the clues, there probably remain numerous other such burials still to find. Lindow Moss has already coughed up two ancient victims: who knows what else might be down there?