Week 4 – Bog Bodies and Iceman

Both the bog bodies and Iceman cases were very intriguing mysteries to archaeologists.  They both had to do with the murder of ancient humans.  However, just calling them murders doesn’t do the complicated theories justice.

The bog bodies had very strange and gruesome deaths.  It was apparent from their well-preserved wounds.  Some were stabbed and others were drowned or hanged.  Theories of the bog bodies originated in claims that the victims were criminals, and this was their punishment.  However, further examination leads to a very different theory.  With our knowledge of Roman history, we can see that sacrifice was often a tool used to appease the Gods (Week 4, Lecture 2.)  One had to be sacrificed so that many could live (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/09/bog-bodies/bog-bodies-text/1.)  With any sacrifice, there is an expected pattern to come about.  For these bodies, it was their nakedness.  Often they were fully naked or covered in a cloak.  Also, much care was taken when placing these bodies into the bog (Week 4, Lecture 2.)  Sometimes there are very noticeable ritual clues on the bodies.  Oldcroghan Man was a special case.  His nipples were cut off, something that could have shown him as a “rejected ruler” (people in ancient Ireland would suck on a ruler’s nipples to show his power.)  Other indications, like the foods found in his stomach showed sacrifice to the fertility goddess.  Each part of him was honoring the gods in a different way (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/09/bog-bodies/bog-bodies-text/1.)  These bodies demonstrate a very early form of religion.  In order to complete these rituals, they had to hold collective beliefs and be united as a group.

On a totally different side is the case of the Iceman.  Instead of being preserved in a bog, this body remained frozen in ice for over 5,000 years.  Originally, archaeologists believed he died of hypothermia while hiking in the mountain.  Ten years later, with closer examination, came a totally different theory.  First of all, an arrowhead was found in his shoulder, meaning he did not die of hypothermia, but was in fact, shot.  Another key piece of information was the two separate blood types on his arrows and another on his cape.  This information leads archaeologists to believe he and his friend were ambushed and both suffered from wounds but were able to escape into the mountains.  Because of the blood on his cape, it indicated he probably carried his companion to safety (Week 4, Lecture 3.)  More recent information from a CAT scan indicated he had brain damage just before death, either from a blow to the head or a fall (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130610084123.htm.)  Also, the others cuts and bruises on his hands and back were found to have healed for about three days, meaning he was attacked at two different instances (http://www.mummytombs.com/otzi/scientific.htm.)  It seems as though this body was not sacrificed, but murdered.  Competition had apparently become a large part of society in this time period.


European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. “Ötzi the Iceman’s dark secrets: Protein investigation supports brain injury theory.” ScienceDaily, 10 Jun. 2013. Web. 23 Jul. 2013.

Lange, Karen E. “Tales from the Bog.” Tales From the Bog. National Geographic, Sept. 2007. Web. 23 July 2013.

“Oetzi the Iceman, Ötzi the Iceman: Scientific Studies.” Oetzi the Iceman, Ötzi the Iceman: Scientific Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2013.