Bog bodies in Europe

During the iron age, large parts of North-West Europe were covered in peat moors . The peat or bog was a swamp like terrain. It consists mostly of partly digested plant remains and is a strong preservative. Organic material is preserved in the bog because of the very low oxygen level and high acidity of the bog water. Sphagnum/peat-moss also play an important part.

Peat moss

Peat-moss is antiseptic wherefore it stops the growth of bacteria for the larger part, yet not completely. The substance in the peat-moss that is responsible for the preservation is named sphagnan. It makes the bog bodies look like they were tanned and gives them the characteristic brown colour. The red haircolour that all bog bodies share, is also do to the time they spend in the bog. Many enzymes bind with this sphagnan and stop working as enzymes.


This stops the decay of organic material in the bog. It does not do so completely but the decay is slowed down to a very slow pace indeed. Usually only the bones and the skin are preserved but on some instances soft tissue like organs or hair were preserved as well ans in some cases textiles.

Peat digging

These vast peat moors are almost completely gone because of peat digging in the past, only small patches remain. The men working as peat diggers sometimes found remains from a distant past like jewellery, pottery and textiles. Also remains of roads made of wooden planks, a wooden temple, bodies of animals and food like bread and fruits were found.

Bog bodies

But the most famous finds from the bog are the human bodies., known as bog bodies.
Many of the hundreds of bog bodies found were reburied at the local cemetery after having been discovered. Some were discarded as trash or grinded to a powder thought to be a medicine (Mummica). So many more bog bodies were found then were preserved. Of some finds we have photographs, of others a short mention in an old newspaper….
Not all bog bodies are from the same time period. Some date from the bronze age, others date from the Iron age or Roman period and there is a number of mediaeval bog bodies. Most bog bodies were placed in the bog between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D.


People once thought that bog bodies were the remains of poor souls lost in the bog and drowned. Some suggested they were convicted criminals. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote in his book Germania about the habit of Germanic tribes to sacrifice wapens to the waters in the bog. Many of these objects have been found by archaeologists. But Tacitus also describes how convicted criminals were drowned in the bog. We know believe that most bog bodies were human sacrifices to the gods. Clues are the violent nature of there deaths and the way the bodies were placed in the bog after death. Many had there thoughts cute or were hanged. Some bog bodies were found pinned down in the bog with branches. A remarkable high percentage of bog bodies have some physical abnormality and several had half of there skull shaved…? The exact meaning of this is not known.


In all the bogs of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Great Britain and the Netherlands have revealed over 2000 bog bodies.
These bodies are often thousands of years old and offer us a chance to learn more about the daily life of these people. The smallest details like clothing or even the remains of a last meal are recognizable. But despite of the fact we can learn so much from these bodies from an are that we know so little about, we should not forget that we are dealing with the physical remains of real people, like you and me. They should always be treated with respect.

We hope that nobody is offended by the following list of bog bodies.The different descriptions of bog bodies have been placed on different pages depending on the country where the bog bodies were found. Do you know of a bog body that is not in our list? Let us know!
Chronological list of known bogbodies
In list list you will only find bog bodies that have been dated. For a more complete list I like to refer to the book “Vereeuwigd in het veen” by Wijnand van der Sanden.
Volg het bord Bog bodies van DenBlauwen op Pinterest.

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