Past investigations

After Grauballe Man had been photographed and documented, Professor Willy Munck, a forensic pathologist from Aarhus District Hospital, came to see him. He carried out a preliminary report, describing Grauballe Man’s body, skin, hair and condition in detail. After this a series of investigations started.


First, two police inspectors took Grauballe Man’s fingerprints. The delicate lines preserved on his hands and fingers were interpreted as evidence that this man had not carried out any manual labour. However, we now know that the outer layer of skin dissolves in the bog, leaving no visible trace of manual labour.


The next day, Grauballe Man was taken to the hospital, where he was X-rayed whilst the entire radiological staff watched in astonishment. The images showed his shrunken brain and his bones, which were soft from their time in the bog, but still clearly present. His broken leg was identified and a fracture to the left temple. Yet is was not until the body of Grauballe Man was turned over later that week that the cause of death was discovered. So far, Grauballe Man had lain on his belly on the peat he had been found in and the gaping neck wound had not been visible.


More X-rays followed and it was decided to conduct an autopsy in which Grauballe Man’s body would be cut open and his organs removed for examination. The decision was probably not taken lightly, but the body would be easier to preserve without the organs. Moreover, there was considerable interest in Grauballe Man’s gut contents. Thus, Professor Munck removed Grauballe Man’s liver, stomach and intestines.

Gut contents

The guts proved to contain 610 cubic centimetres of gut content, presumably representing several meals. Hans Helbæk, a well-known archaeobotanist, spend several months painstakingly sorting through and identifying the plant seeds within the guts under a microscope. He found more than 60 species of cultivated plants like wheat, emmer, barley and spelt, but also many weed species and grasses. Spores of various funghi were also identified and contaminants like charcoal, sand and stones. This suggests that Grauballe Man’s food was a sort of soup or gruel, because if he had chewed solid food, he would certainly have felt and spat out any small stones. As there were no spring, summer or autumn herbs and berries, the meal was probably consumed in winter.


The head of Vendyssel Historical Museum, Holger Friis, was a keen amateur archaeologists and dentist by profession. He and a local dentist visited Grauballe Man and found that several teeth were lying loose in Grauballe Man’s mouth. They decided to take out the rest and took plaster casts of Grauballe Man’s gums. Preliminary examinations showed Grauablle Man had lost one of his front teeth whilst still alive and that he suffered from a tooth ache. Unfortunately, a more detailed analysis of the teeth was not carried out and the teeth were lost for some time. When returned, they had dried out and shrunk, so they could not be replaced. This is why Grauballe Man is toothless to this day.