What is a bog?

What's in a bog?

Why have bodies been found in northern European bogs?

Why did the bodies become so well preserved?

Where to visit a bog

Museums with bog bodies

Books about bogs & bodies

The future of bog bodies


What's in a bog?

Peat CutterBogs are primarily composed of water and peat (which is decaying plants). 

Bogs have different layers of peat. A cross section of a bog shows that the peat layers change color.  The lighter peat (weisstorf in German) is chunkier; the dead plants in it have decomposed less. This peat is called peat moss and is used primarily for gardening (though it has been used in animal pens since it's much more sanitary than straw). The darker peat (schwarztorf in German) is much denser and used for heat and fuel.



This cross section of a bog is exhibited at the Moor and Fen Museum in Elisabethfehn, Germany Mumps A large stack of mumps

Peat is cut in chunks, called mumps. Mumps are stacked, sometimes in elaborate piles, to dry. When dry, the peat can be processed for industrial or medicinal purposes or burned. It is also used to produce charcoal.

In the past, the people of northern Europe (where many bogs were once found)  would go into the bogs to dig peat.  First, they would drain the upper level of water to a lower area. Then they used shovels and special peat saws to cut the peat and dry it for use. After the industrial revolution,  they might build a small rail track so that a larger number of mumps might be hauled at one time. Eventually, they began to use machines to help them cut.  Early machines were smaller; these were followed by huge machines that could cut a great deal of peat. Of course the more peat that was cut, the more bogs were destroyed.  Today very few bogs exist in northern Europe. In Germany, attempts have been made to regrow bogs, but this is a very slow process. A raised bog may grow a millimeter in one year's time. 

Sometimes, as people cut peat in bogs, they found things that had been placed there long ago. They found wonderful objects--necklaces, swords, or even silver cauldrons.  And sometimes they found the gruesome, preserved remains of human beings: men, women, and children.

Note: Preserved bodies have been found only in the bogs of northern Europe.

Examples of the many different types of shovels used by peat cutters, as displayed at the Moor and Fen Museum in Elisabethfesh, Germany

Small cart on rails used to remove peat mumps from a bog, as displayed at the Moor and Fen Museum in Elisabethfehn, Germany
An older peat-harvesting machine Early peat cutters at work, shown in a photograph displayed at the Moor and Fen Museum in Elisabethfehn, Germany


For more information about bogs and bog bodies, read James M. Deem's

Bodies from the Bog



BOG BODY STORIES AT jamesmdeem.com

Bog Body Story 1 (The story of Lindow Man)

Bog Body Story 2 (The discovery of Grauballe Man)





Unless otherwise noted, all contents ŠJames M. Deem, 1988-2013. 

For permission to quote from or reproduce this material, please contact James M. Deem.

Be sure to visit James M. Deem's other website, The Mummy Tombs, for the most mummy information on the Internet.

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