A very unhappy man was slaughtered, maybe as a human sacrifice, and abandoned in a Danish swamp around 2,400 years ago. For our benefit, his peculiar manner of passing away meant that his remains was naturally mummified and preserved in astonishing shape, giving us distinct insights into his look and way of life. In a recent study, which was published in the journal Antiquity, researchers even succeeded in reconstructing his last meal by examining the intestinal contents, parasitic worms and all.
The bog corpse, also known as the Tollund Man, was found in Denmark’s Jutland peninsula in the 1950s by peat diggers. Much of his skin and internal organs miraculously survived while submerged in the chilly, acidic, and low-oxygen conditions of the peat bog, replete with a pained look on his face and a rope remaining around his neck. Investigations first thought the body belonged to a local youngster who had just gone missing since the man’s features were so well preserved.
Additionally, it was discovered that a sizable portion of his gastrointestinal tract and its contents had been preserved. Researchers from the Museum Silkeborg and the National Museum of Denmark have reanalyzed the stomach contents of the well-known Tollund Man using cutting-edge technology.
They found evidence of grains and wild plants in his digestive tract that were probably consumed as part of a porridge-like meal, including barley, flax, gold-of-pleasure seeds, and seeds of pale persicaria. He may have recently eaten fish as well, based on the presence of proteins. They also found trace quantities of 16 plant species in addition to this meal, however this made up less than 1% of the overall stomach contents.
They believe that overall, his final meal was a pretty normal Iron Age dinner of fish and porridge, most likely consumed 12 to 24 hours prior to passing away.
“We can now pretty nearly recreate the Tollund Man’s last meal’s recipe. A barley porridge with flax and pale persicaria seeds made up the supper, which was highly healthy, according to main research author Dr. Nina H. Nielsen of the Museum Silkeborg in Denmark.
You can virtually picture them making the barley porridge and the fish while they were seated by the hearth, said Dr. Nielsen. “In this manner, we come extremely near to a specific event in the past.”
Hundreds of parasite eggs, including whipworm, mawworm, and tapeworm, were present in his stomach in addition to his most recent meal, which was something considerably less appetizing. Worms are likely certainly a result of undercooked meat or food and water tainted with human waste because this time in history was not recognized for its cleanliness and hygiene.
Despite being hanged, the man’s precise positioning implies that he was not put to death but rather may have been a victim of human sacrifice. In addition, the fact that he was having a substantial lunch just hours before he passed away implies that he was not an oppressed prisoner but rather had a very good existence (at least by the standards of the European Iron Age). The inquiry was fruitless, despite the experts’ hopes that additional examination of the man’s guts might reveal evidence of unique substances that were only utilized on unique occasions like human sacrifices.
The Tollund Man’s demise is still somewhat of a mystery at this time.