I (known originally as The Windeby Girl), discovered in
northern Germany, is one of the many bodies discussed in
Bodies from the Bog. Photo taken from the cover.
Landesmuseum of the Schloss Gottorf on the outskirts of Schleswig, Germany,
displays an enormous Viking ship and a number of complete bog bodies ("moorleichen" in German)
as well one partially preserved head.
The two most famous bodies are known as Windeby I and Windeby
is an estate near Schleswig that contains a small bog. In 1952, the owners decided to cut
the peat and sell it for fuel. Shortly, workers discovered the body of Windeby I. Although the peat-cutting machinery had already
severed one of the legs, a foot, and a hand, work was stopped immediately to study the
P. V. Glob (who
believed the person to be a female) in The
Bog People described the body's position in the peat:
on her back, her head twisted to one side, her left arm outstretched.... The right arm was
bent in against the chest, as if defensively, while the legs were lightly drawn up, the
left over the right. The head, with its delicate face, and the hands, were preserved best:
the chest had completely disintegrated and the ribs were visible.... The hair, reddish
from the effects of the bog acids but originally light blond, was of exceptional fineness
but had been shaved off with a razor on the left side of the head.
The body's eyes were blindfolded with a strip of cloth woven from brown, yellow, and red threads.
The person had drowned in the first century A.D., and
the death was not an accident--the body was anchored by
a large stone and branches from a birch tree. Glob imagined the person being "led naked out
on to the bog with bandaged eyes ... and drowned in the little peat pit, which must have
held twenty inches of water or more."
scientists concluded that Windeby I had died an unnatural death during the First Century A.D.
The body seemed to have been prepared for death in a number of unusual ways. First, like some
other bog bodies that have been found, half of the head had been shaved of hair.
Second, a woolen headband had been used to blindfold the eyes. Finally, a collar
had been placed around the neck.
As a result of these special preparations, most
researchers agreed initially that Windeby I was not sacrificed to the gods.
they could not find any wounds on the body, scientists suspected that the person
drowned in the bog, held down in perhaps twenty inches of water by some branches
and a large stone. But they had no idea why Windeby I was killed. Could the
been a criminal who was being executed in a gruesome way? Could the person have been
afflicted with some type of disease that may have marked her for an early death?
No one will ever really know, though many theories have been proposed.
1970, when the body was reexamined, so little of it remained that scientists
could not say with certainty that the body was female. They realized that Windeby Girl could
actually be Windeby Boy.
thirty years later (referenced in National Geographic, September
another look at Windeby I revealed more definitive information. A
professor from North Dakota State University tested a DNA sample from
the body and concluded that it was indeed male. What's more, the hair
had not been shaved from half of the head. Rather, the professor
believes that it became dislodged during the careless excavation.
on the body's bones (also in National Geographic, September 2007)
indicates that the young man had been quite sick during his life time
and "may have simply died of natural causes." One German
scholar suggested that Windeby I may have been blindfolded at burial
"to protect the living from the gaze of the dead."
A short time
after the discovery of Windeby I, a man's body (now known as Windeby II) was found sixteen
feet away. Unlike Windeby I, he had been strangled first and then placed in the bog.
Sharpened, forked branches had been jammed into the peat around him to make sure that he
other bodies displayed in separate dioramas at the Landesmusuem of the Schloss Gottorf
are men from Damendorf, Rendswühren, and
Dätgen. All are named for the areas where they were discovered and, like Windeby I and
II, all were sacrificed. But the most interesting item discovered from nearby
peat bogs is probably the one from Osterby: a man's head, which was wrapped in a cape made
of deerskin. Although peat workers searched for its body, none could be found, and
scientists speculate that the Osterby head alone was used as a sacrifice. It has a full
head of hair, arranged in an unusual style: one section of hair was twisted and woven into
a figure-eight knot--without the use of a fastener.
information about bog bodies, visit the Bog
Section at The Mummy Tombs.
M. Deem. Portions of this
account are taken from How to Make a Mummy Talk
(Houghton Mifflin, 1995; Dell, 1997)