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Summer 2012 Archaeologist of the Month
Contributed by Haley Scott
Peter Glob (Feb. 20, 1911-July 20, 1985), a Danish archaeologist, has made significant strides in the field of archaeology with a focus on bog bodies. His work includes three books “The Bog People: Iron-Age Man Preserved,” “Denmark: An Archaeological History from the Stone Age to the Vikings,” and “Mound People: Danish Bronze-Age Man Preserved.” His two analyses of Grauballe Man and Tollund Man gave insight into Iron Age Denmark.
Tollund Man, his first naturally mummified corpse, was found in a peat bog in 1950 and Glob was called in as head archaeologist to lead the excavation. The Tolland Man was an adult arranged in a fetal position with a noose drawn around the neck, trailing down his back Silkeborg Public Library, 2004). An examination of his stomach contents revealed relatively wild and cultivated seeds, likely the result of a special occasion meal. Glob concluded that the man may have been hanged as a sacrifice. This statement was a significant contribution to the history of archaeology in the field of bog bodies because it paved the way for understanding the lives of Iron Age societies and their possible religious affinities. Today, only the head remains preserved as the technology wasn’t sufficient enough to maintain the entire corpse.
Glob’s second bog body encounter was in 1952, only eleven miles from where Tollund Man was discovered. Grauballe Man was dated back to approximately the same time as Tollund Man, in the early Iron Age. Glob was determined to preserve the bog-preserved body and did so by ‘pit-tanning’, or creating an artificial bog for the corpse. This process required the body to be immersed in a bath containing a solution of oak bark, to be changed three times a day for a year and a half, followed by a final washing and bath of distilled water and oil combined with glycerine and cod liver oil (Brothwell, 1986). To avoid the risk of shrinkage, collodion was injected into certain parts of the body to retain the shape, which cannot be said for the Tollund man (who reduced by an estimated 12%). Glob made a significant impact on the process of preservation in regards to the Grauballe man, and welcomed the public to viewings which in turn aided in the corpse becoming an important part of the Danish heritage.
Peter Glob has given insight into the lives of Iron Age people and what they wore, ate, and worshipped. He was able to tell the story of how and why these men were killed for sacrificial purposes. Explaining the Grauballe man, Glob stated he “was a magnificent example of strength and size. Probably, he went voluntarily to his death to spare his companions from death from starvation, as it was seen as an honor and a blessing to sacrifice one’s life to a deity (Asingh, 2009: pg. 18).” With the ability to preserve the Grauballe man in his entirety, Glob has allowed future archaeologists to further investigate the past of this individual. “In bog bodies, Glob saw evidence that we once lived in close contact with nature, reconciled with death and in a social fellowship according to the motto: All for one and one for all (Asingh, 2009: pg.24).”
Asingh, P. (2009). Grauballe Man- Portrait of a bog body. Copenhagen: Aarhus University Press.
Brothwell, D. (1986). The bog man and the archaeology of people. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
Silkeborg Public Library (2004). The Tollund Man. Retrieved from http://tollundman.dk