Who was Grauballe Man?

Grauballe Man was an Iron Age man of normal height and stature and he was in relatively good health. He did not differ from other Iron Age farmers at the time, but his death and deposition in the bog are unusual.

A normal Iron Age Man

Immediately after Grauballe Man was discovered, P.V. Glob was sure he was dealing with a bog body from the Iron Age. Several dating methods, including pollen analysis samples from the bog and radiocarbon dating of Grauballe Man’s liver, hair and bone confirm that he was right. Grauballe Man lived and died in the Pre-Roman Iron Age, c. 400-200 BC, and most probably around 390 BC. From the detailed examination of his skeleton and body we know that he was a man of about 35 years old and between 165 and 170 cm high. His hair, now red as a result of the time he spent in the bog, was about 15 cm long and may originally have been blonde or dark. Though these disappeared during the conservation of the body, Grauballe Man had a 1.0 cm long beard and moustache on his chin and upper lip when he was found, suggesting that he last shaved about two weeks before he died.

When he died, Grauballe Man was relatively healthy, with no bone diseases. However, he did have whipworm eggs in his guts and his teeth were badly worn. He also suffered from a tooth ache. Before his death, Grauballe Man had eaten a gruel of weed seeds and some cereals. Though nutritious, it was a poor meal and probably not very nice to eat.

Grauballe Man's worn teeth, tooth aches and whipworm infection were fairly common in Iron Age communities at the time. He seems to have been a fairly normal Iron Age farmer. What sets him apart from other Iron Age people is the manner of his death and his place of burial - in a bog. Why was he killed and deposited here, rather than being cremated and buried on dry land? Click here to find out more.