Many people are fascinated by Grauballe Man and the Moesgaard Museum receives messages from all over the world asking for details about this Iron Age man, his life and death. Here you will find short answers to the ten most frequently asked questions, as well as links to more information on Grauballe Man and his time.

1. Why and how did Grauballe Man die?

Grauballe man was killed by having his throat cut before he was placed naked in the bog. He is not the only person to have been violently killed and buried in a bog and there have been many explanations for the so-called 'bog body phenomenon'. It is most likely that Grauballe Man and others like him were human sacrifices to the gods, either to thank them for something, or to ask them for help. You can find out more about the bog body phenomenon and the various possible explanations here. Here you can learn more about Iron Age beliefs and cosmology, within which human sacrifice took place. If you want to fid out more about his death, click here.

2. When did Grauballe Man live?

Various dating methods show that Grauballe Man lived around 390 BC, in the period that we now call the Early Iron Age. Most people were farmers back then, living in small village communities. It seems Grauballe Man was a very normal man in many respects, despite his violent death and unusual burial in the bog. You can find out more about the Grauballe Man’s time and society here. More information on dating Grauballe Man can be found here and here.

3. How old was Grauballe Man when he died?

Studies of Grauballe Man’s bones show that he was about 35 years old when he died. Today we would say this is rather young, but in the Early Iron Age, when Grauballe Man lived, this was the average age for men. Find out more about Grauballe Man’s age at death here. For information on general health in the Iron Age, click here.

4. Did Grauballe Man have a name?

Yes, he did. Grauballe Man was a person just like us in all respects. Although he is a prehistoric man, he is of the Homo sapiens species with the same body, brains and abilities as us modern people. The society he lived in more than 2000 years ago was very different from ours, and people’s worldviews clearly differed from ours as well. Yet Grauballe Man undoubtedly had a name, given to him by his parents or family. He may even have had nicknames, used by close friends. Unfortunately, despite all the great insights that modern science has given us into Grauballe Man’s life, we will never know what his real name was!

5. Is Grauballe Man real?

Yes, Grauballe Man is a real human body, of a man who lived more than 2000 years ago. He is the first bog body to be fully preserved and displayed in a museum. Despite dating to the Early Iron Age, he is very well preserved by the bog he was buried in. This is why he still looks like us. Read more about Grauballe Man's discovery, preservation and display here.

6. Is the hair on Grauballe Man’s head his own?

Yes, it is. Grauballe Man was exceptionally well-preserved when he was found in 1952. Not only his bones, but also soft tissues like muscle, internal organs and skin were preserved, and even his nails and hair. It is the bog environment in which Grauballe Man was buried that has preserved him so well. When he was found he also had a stubble beard but unfortunately this fell out. You can find out more about the way that bogs preserve bodies and Grauballe Man's hair here.

7. Are Grauballe Man’s hair and skin colour the original colour?

No, they are not. Grauballe Man was buried in a bog, where circumstances are optimal for the preservation of organic materials like wood and textiles, but also (human) bodies. The lack of oxygen, high acidity and a compound produced by bog plants mean that the bog basically tans a body, slowly turning it into leather.  In doing so it colours the skin a dark brown and the hair red. Grauballe Man’s original skin and hair colour are likely to have been different. Click here to find out more about the bog and its preservative qualities.

8. Why is Grauballe Man's body so flat

After he was placed in the bog, the bog continued to grow around and on top of Grauballe Man’s body. Because the bog environment preserves organics materials so well, dead plant material built up layer by layer each year. Over thousands of years, this layer can became very thick. As these dead plant remains were saturated with water, they weighed a lot, pressing down on Grauballe Man’s body. This in combination with the softening of his bones in the bog explain how Grauballe Man became very flat over time. Now, after the conservation process in which all water was removed from his body, he is not only very flat, but also very light. He currently weighs only about 5 kilograms, although he was in relatively good health and of normal weight and size when he died. Click here to find out more about how raised bogs grow and develop.

9. Who can touch Grauballe Man?

Grauballe Man is a unique find and very precious because of the detailed insights he gives us into Iron Age life and thought. He has been successfully conserved and is currently in a stable condition. However, to keep him for the future, it is important that his environment is carefully controlled and that he is not touched by anyone, unless absolutely necessary. Therefore, researchers and conservators are the only ones allowed to touch him and only with gloves. After the first investigations and his conservation, Grauballe Man has only been touched on very few occasions, like when he was investigated around 2002, or to move him. The last time Grauballe Man was touched was when he was placed in his new case in the current Iron Age exhibition at Moesgaard. You can find out more about the investigations and conservation of Grauballe Man here and here. Click here to find out more about the current exhibition.

10. Do you clean Grauballe Man?

Yes, Grauballe Man is cleaned sometimes, but very carefully. After his conservation in the 1950s, when he was basically turned into leather, Grauballe Man’s body was treated occasionally with leather treatment, a mixture of lanolin, cod liver oil and glycerine. His condition was checked regularly once he was exhibited. In 1972 he received a final ‘leather treatment’ and his upper surface was cleaned using a paint brush and a hoover. He was also carefully washed. When Grauballe Man was reinvestigated in 2002, he was very carefully cleaned again with a cotton swab and acetone. You can read more about his conservation and the cleaning of Grauballe Man here and here.