New insights

The new investigations confirmed many of the findings in the 1950s, showing how thorough the examinations had been. However, several new insights were also gained from detailed analyses of Grauballe Man’s teeth, gut content and hair.

Bad teeth and malnutrition

Grauballe Man’s teeth had been removed in the 1950s to prevent them from getting lost. They were never re-inserted into his jaw and were left to dry out. Still, the shrunken teeth provided a lot of new information about Grauballe Man’s health. It showed that his teeth were heavily worn, presumably due to a coarse diet. When he was about 5 years old, Grauballe Man had lost a front tooth. Later in life he lost several molars and he suffered from a jaw infection and a bad tooth ache when he died. Very small, horizontal lines in his teeth show that there had been developmental disturbances in Grauballe Man’s early youth. He may have suffered from malnutrition or he was very ill for a while.

The last meal

Grauballe Man’s gut contents had been examined in depth by renowned archaeobotanist Hans Helbæk in the 1950s. he had established that Grauballe man had eaten a coarse gruel of cereal and weed seeds. He also found some bone fragments, whipworm eggs and the spores of the poisonous ergot fungus, which had led to speculations that Grauballe Man may have been drugged. The new investigations showed that the majority of the meal had actually consisted of weed seeds rather than cereals, indicating that this was a poor man’s meal. It seems these weed seeds were collected and eaten intentionally in the Iron Age. The number of ergot fungus spores was low. They would not have been dangerous to Grauballe Man, nor would they have produced hallucinatory effects. Finally, the presence of rye was confirmed, which is interesting, as this was a relatively new crop at the time Grauballe Man lived.


During the reinvestigations, Grauballe Man’s hair was examined in depth for the first time. It had not been subject to conservation treatment in the 1950s, so it was not contaminated in any way. Therefore, researchers could use a sample of Grauballe Man’s hair to investigate his diet through chemical and isotopic analyses. This indicated that Grauballe Man lived of a terrestrial diet (rather than a marine one) in the last months of his life, with most protein coming from animal, rather than plant resources.