Thought I’d get back to bog bodies again, folks.
This is Haraldskær Woman. She was found in Denmark in 1835 and was one of the first bog bodies studied by archaeologists. Found on her back, she was naked (though a leather cape and some woollen clothes were laid on top of her), and she was pinned down by branches and wooden poles.
Some more gories from Wikipedia:
The complete skin envelope and the internal organs were both intact. The body had a lancing wound to the knee joint area, where some object (possibly one of the sharp poles) penetrated to some depth. Her skin was deeply bronzed with a robust skin tone due to tannins in the peat, and all the body joints were preserved with overlying skin in a state as if she had died only recently. Doctors determined she had been about 50 years old when she died and in good health without signs of degenerative diseases (such as arthritis) which are typically found in human remains of that age.
In 1979, doctors at Århus Hospital undertook a further forensic examination of the Haraldskær Woman. By this time, the body had desiccated, shrunken, and the skin was leathery, severely wrinkled and folded. A CT-scan of the cranium more accurately determined her age to be about 40 years old at the time of her death. The body height now measured only 1.33 m (4 ft 4 in) but doctors used the original 1835 descriptions to estimate she would have stood about 1.50 m (4 ft 11 in).
In 2000, Lone Hvass of the Elsinore Museum, Miranda Aldhouse-Green of Cardiff University, and the Department of Forensic Science at the University of Århus performed a re-examination of the Haraldskær Woman. Forensic analysis revealed stomach contents of unhusked millet and blackberries. Her neck had a faint groove as if someone applied a rope for torture or strangulation. The scientists concluded bog acids caused the swelling of the knee joint and that the woman was probably already dead before the branches pinned her down. Because of her careful placement, and since cremation was the prevailing mode of interment during that period in Jutland, the examiners determined the Haraldskær Woman was a victim of ritual sacrifice.
A case of mistaken identity was perhaps the best thing to ever happen to Haraldskær Woman (at least, in her postmortem life). When she was first discovered, she was believed to be the 10th-century Norwegian Queen Gunnhild, who (according to an Old Norse saga) was ordered bog-drowned by Danish King Harald Bluetooth. Soon after her discovery, Danish royalty had a sarcophagus crafted specifically to house her, and this V.I.P. treatment likely has contributed to her excellent state of preservation (minus some drying and shrinking) today, nearly 200 years after her discovery. (Later research revealed that Haraldskær Woman was not Gunnhild, but actually much older, living during the Iron Age in about 490 B.C.)
Not all bog bodies have been as lucky in their conservation. For instance, Tollund Man: he’s pretty much gone now, except for his head. Alas, poor Tollund Man.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.