Week 4 – Bog Bodies and Otzi

When comparing the bod bodies and Otzi, I find myself making the same point more often than not. These are all people and every person has a unique story to tell, especially when they are preserved so well in the archaeological record. When the finer details are preserved, as with Otzi and the bog bodies, we can tell these individual stories, but it almost hinders interpretation at the same time. Does the cut on a person’s neck relate to religious or personal matters? It is easier to tell when there are many deaths in the same manner or with similar characteristics. Still, every body found should be approached with an open mind, letting the evidence speak for itself.

Otzi is most likely a murder victim, according to the class lectures and videos. However, according to this online ‘youngzine’ (http://www.youngzine.org/article/otzi-ice-man-revealed) that may not be the case. It states that recently completed DNA mapping for him shows evidence for heart disease, with a predisposition to a heart condition and thickened arteries. He also had Lyme disease and was lactose intolerant. I have not checked the validity of this new piece of evidence presented a year ago, but it turns what we have just learned on its head. Not only would this comment on the evolution of diseases like heart disease, but also on genetic variations like lactose intolerance. I think that the blood loss and arrow wounds probably had some contribution to his death and not just a bad heart…

The bog bodies are similar to Otzi in the same respect. Elaborate tales about the Windeby Girl being shaved in disgrace, blindfolded and drown near her lover are in fact, tall tales. According to MSU’s very own doctoral student (from two years ago) in mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology (http://bonesdontlie.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/bog-bodies/)

Windeby ‘girl’ is actually a young man who probably died of natural causes and the ‘lover’ was buried 300 years later. The blindfold then turns into a symbol of religious beliefs rather than a sign of punishment.

It appears that these early interpretations of bodies may be far more fanciful and morbid than actually true. It is interesting with such well-preserved finds, the stories seem even more elaborate to fit all of the details.  Do archaeologists have a predisposition to assume foul play because of the idea of ritual sacrifice and religious practices?