Skin and state of preservation

Before investigations started, Grauballe Man’s skin was examined in detail, to explore the state of his preservation, the structure of the skin and the possibility of body ornamentation like tattoos.

50 years of dust

Throughout the 50 years that Grauballe Man had been on display, he had been checked over at regular intervals. At these times, his skin was treated with a greasy substance, his hair was re-arranged and any cracks in his skin were repaired. Despite these efforts, his body had dried out a bit, which caused it to shrink a little. This is no surprise, as, at the time, neither the exhibition room nor his case were climate controlled. The humidity of the air around him fluctuated, UV-light was not controlled and underfloor heating provided extra warmth. Although conservator Lange-Korbak and others cleaned the surface of Grauballe Man’s skin several times, dust particles had settled in the many cracks and crevasse of his skin.

A good clean

As part of the new investigations Grauballe Man’s skin was cleaned very carefully with a cotton swab dipped in acetone, which removed dust and the uppermost fat layer. After this, a thin layer of lanolin was applied to his skin. Detailed analyses of the oils and lanolin used to ‘grease’ Grauballe Man throughout the years showed that they were stable and would not do any damage to the skin. Researchers concluded that Grauballe Man was in a very good state of preservation, despite the almost 50 years that he had been on display.

Light Treatment

UV-fluorescent light, infrared reflectography and a range of other surface analyses were used to analyse Grauballe Man’s skin. The images could not detect any marks on the skin that might be tattoos, such as had been found on the Stone Age ice mummy Ötzi. The UV-light and infrared images did reveal the extent of Lange-Korbak’s restorations in the 50ies. Large patches of Grauballe Man’s skin were covered with a wax filler that Lange-Korbak had painted to make it blend in with the rest of the skin. He had done such a good job that these repairs were invisible to the naked eye. Otherwise, Grauballe Man’s skin was in a good, stable condition and was unlikely to degrade much in the future.