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Station 10: Bog Archaeology

Bog Archaeology

Since the 17th century there have been reports about bodies found in the bog. However, up until the late 19th century they were used for experimental purposes. Incorrect storage, passing on parts of bodies to researcher colleagues and a great number of experiments exploring the conserving qualities of the bog have resulted in few historic finds still being available.

The archaeologist Johanna Mestorf was one of the first women in Prussia who was able to teach using her professorial title. She catalogued and in 1871 published all known bog people finds and it is to her credit that for the first time scientific questions about bog people began to be asked.

Hans Hahne, employed by the Provincial Museum (Provinzialmuseum) of Hannover had an important role with respect to bog people found in Lower Saxony. He wrote such careful and detailed notes about the provenience, body, and articles of clothing that researchers can still review the material today.

A significant contribution to the study of bog people in the Weser-Ems-Region was made by Hajo Hayen. He developed a comprehensive typology for the different types of log roads. This is still used in contemporary archaeology. Hayen was influenced by newer scientific measurement methods especially dating the bog people.

Hortfund Strueckhausen natur und mensch oldenburg
Hoard of Strückhausen

Since the 1960s only a few bog body remains have been found. The industrialisation of peat cutting with its reliance on heavy tools has hindered the discovery of new finds. Research has since concentrated on examining those known bog people and particularly investigating any correlations between individuals.

Hayens advances in the dating of bog bodies were also important and have been pursued using radiocarbon techniques. Today, aging is studied using micro-CT scans and electron microscopes. For these studies only tiny tissue samples or the smallest particle samples are required. The precious bog remains do not suffer any damage thanks to these modern techniques.

Tip
The Provincial Museum of Nature and Mankind (Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch) in Oldenburg has a permanent exhibit called, ‘Neither Sea nor Land – Bogs, a Lost Landscape’ and shows everyday objects from the bogs including bog bodies that are in part up to 2000 years old. Additional information is available online.

Additional Links

Further Reading

  • Fansa, Mamoun; Jopp, Eilin; Püschel, Klaus (Hrsg.): Das Kind aus der Esterweger Dose. Dokumentation einer außergewöhnlichen Skelett-Moorleiche. Schriftenreihe des Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg, Heft 74 (2010), ISBN: 978-3-89995-702-0

  • Both, Frank und Fansa, Mamoun (Hrsg.): Faszination Moorleichen. 220 Jahre Moorarchäologie. Schriftenreihe des Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg, Heft 80 (2011), ISBN: 978-3-8053-4360-2

  • Buß, Melanie; Goltermann, Rainer; Hössle, Corinna; Ritzau, Carsten (Hrsg.): Der Junge im Moor. Eine Zeitreise. Oldenburg (2011), ISBN: 978-3899956573

  • Brock, Thomas: Moorleichen: Zeugen vergangener Jahrhunderte. Stuttgart (2009), ISBN: 978-3806222050