P.V. Glob, tr. Bruce-Mitford, The Bog People, 1965/1969.
Without having read it, I’ve been citing this bog (“book” = “bog” in Danish) for years now just for the euphony, and now I can trump that.
Even without the snappy title the book would be intrinsically worth reading, if only for the 64 pages of well-done black and white pictures of ~ 2,000 years old human sacrifices and other relics. Ideal bog conditions (not every bog will do) have preserved many bodies so well that they’re often thought to be recent murder victims, and one body was successfully fingerprinted. Such finds are common in Denmark, neighboring areas of Germany and the Netherlands, and parts of the British Isles (but not Sweden or Norway).
Glob’s archaeology is presumably out of date (too much mutterrecht, for one thing), but his history of how these discoveries have been handled in Denmark over the centuries is interesting. In every era the police have usually been called first, with the local priest called next during the earliest period, either to give the bodies a Christian burial or to exorcise them. During the 19th century bodies were sometimes treated as curiosities and could become circus exhibits, but nowadays everything is routinely handled by scientists.
In 1950s a tabloid newspaper claimed that the recently-discovered Tollund Man was a recent murder victim, but that hooplah died down once the radiocarbon dating came in. In one instance the railway freight agent rather unreasonably insisted on charging the high fresh-cadaver price for the shipment of a bog body, even though it was encased in a much larger quantity of peat, which ships much more cheaply. (This will remind some Americans of an old humor piece, “Pigs is pigs”, in which a railway agent charges the per-hog price for shipping guinea pigs.)
Sinister bogs figure in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, Hamsun’s Mysteries, and presumably many other Scandinavian literary works. And since Christ’s death on the cross was an atonement and substitute for this kind of spring sacrifice, my post is timely.
Back about 80 years ago a similar archeological find was found here in Wobegon, on land owned by a guy I once worked for: the Sauk Valley Skeleton. It was initially thought to have been from the very ending of the American Ice Age and thus one of the earliest human skeletons in North America, but the skeleton has been redated to 2200 BC or so and the chronology of North American settlement revised, so it has lost most of its importance. As in medieval Europe, a priest was the first one called in, and Father Henry Restak of West Union thus became the co-author of an academic monograph. The discovery of the Sauk Valley Skeleton led to new laws protecting Minnesota archeological sites.
Discovery of Sauk Valley Man of Minnesota, with an Account of the Geology, and The Sauk Valley Skeleton. Bryan, Kirk, Henry Retzak & Franklin T. McCann; A. E. Jenks & Lloyd A. Wilford, Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society, 1938.