Grauballe Man's life

Through the various new analyses, it was possible to gain an idea of who Grauballe Man was, how he fitted into his society and what he must have looked like when he was alive.

Age at death

Grauballe Man’s age at death was assessed by looking at his skeleton. Skeletons change a lot as people grow and several markers, including bone length, size, shape and the level of fusion of different bones provide indications of a person’s age. A completely new method of aging was discovered and developed for Grauballe Man as well. A sample of bone was taken from his hip. This were sliced very thinly and examined under a microscope. In this way growth lines similar to those in trees could be counted. They showed that Grauballe Man was 34 years old when he died. Although we would consider him young today, Iron Age people did not live as long as we do. Half of the people who reached adulthood actually died before they reached this age. Therefore, we could say that Grauballe Man was past his prime and did not die younger than most people at the time.

Height and health

From the length of Grauballe Man’s long bones, his height can be estimated as around 160-175 cm. In the 1950s he had been described as well-built and tall, but when we compare him to other known Iron Age skeletons, he is actually of average height. His bones did not show any signs of diseases like arthritis, often caused by repetitive strain or hard physical labour. Thus, Grauballe Man was in relatively good health when he died. He did however, suffer from tooth ache, as he had an infection in his jaw. He had already lost several other teeth due to periodontitis and one of his front teeth was knocked out when he was about five. His heavily worn teeth were no longer well-suited to biting and tearing. Yet once again, Grauballe Man does not divert from the norm here. Prehistoric people generally had heavily worn teeth as a result of a coarse diet and the use of teeth as a ‘third hand’ when making tools and carrying out everyday tasks.