On this day in history….1st August 1984

On this day in history : 1st August 1984 – The preserved body of a man who became known as ‘Lindow Man’ is discovered by a peat-cutter working at Lindow Moss in Cheshire….

Lindow Moss, where Lindow Man was discovered – Photo credit : Roger Gittins CC By-SA 2.0

The peat-cutter had the task of keeping a conveyor belt free of debris…. Thinking a lump of wood had got amongst the peat he picked it up and threw it aside…. As the lump hit the ground the dirt fell away….revealing a human leg….

The county archaeologist was called in – who searched the area where the peat had been taken from….and he found a piece of dark skin protruding from the ground…. After a few days of careful excavation Lindow Man was lifted from the ground – encased in a block of surrounding peat….

The British Museum called it “one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 1980s” – and Lindow Man caused quite a media sensation….

Lindow Man on display at the British Museum in June 2010 – Photograph credit: Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net) CC By-SA-4.0

Even after being preserved for nearly 2,000 years it was still possible to make out the man’s facial features…. He had short cropped hair, a trimmed beard and long sideburns…. Although the soil had removed the enamel, his teeth were healthy – and his fingernails were manicured, which gave the impression he would have done no rough or manual work – and would possibly have had social status…. Examination showed him to have been in his twenties; he was well-built, of average height and appeared to have been in good health – although there was evidence that he had suffered from intestinal parasites…. His last meal had included unleavened bread, made from wheat and barley….

Detail of Lindow Man’s face – Image credit : Verity via Flickr

However Lindow Man (also sometimes known as ‘Pete Marsh’) had come to a violent end…. He had suffered blows to the head, had a garrotte of animal sinew around his neck, a broken rib, had swallowed mistletoe and his throat had been cut…. He was then placed face down in the bog…. His lower abdomen and a leg were missing….

There have been several theories as to his death – but one that comes to the forefront is that of a ritual killing or religious sacrifice…. All the classic signs are there:- blow to the head, strangulation and bleeding…. It was also unusual for the time that he had not been buried with any possessions….in fact he was naked apart from a band of animal fur around his arm…. Could it be possible that he may have even of volunteered to die, as a sacrifice? Was he an important member of a tribe trying to protect his people from the invading Romans by offering himself to the Pagan gods?

Lindow Man was not the first preserved remains. To have been found at Lindow Moss….not was he the last…. In May 1983 a well-preserved head had been found – and then in February 1987 over 70 pieces of a headless male…. In June and September 1988 other body parts were found close to where Lindow Man had lain….

Reconstructed face of Lindow Man…. A replica skull created from radiographs was used for the process – Fair use