Previously published in Examiner
We have looked at the mummification process and how the ancient Egyptians preserved the body after death for the journey into the afterlife. We have also looked at how nature can preserve a body in sand.
Mummies are corpses, which have been preserved over time with their skin and organs still intact. Mummies can be preserved through human intervention or can be preserved by nature.
Now we will focus on bog bodies, another way nature preserves a body long after death.
The Natural process of mummification
The natural process of mummification occurs when the human body has been preserved somehow as a result of natural forces. Bodies could have been preserved due to chemicals, humidity, very cold conditions (such as frozen bodies in a glacier), high humidity, and even lack of air (which aids in the putrification process). This last condition occurs when bodies have been found in bogs, Swamps, fens (a wetland that is made from rainwater, different from the acidic bog), and marshes.
Bogs are wetlands covered with decomposing plant life and they are abundant in our Northern Hemisphere. The lack of air below the surface makes it ideal for preserving corpses. The water is acidic and the decomposition process is very slow. Human bodies have been found preserved in these bogs all over Europe. “Because of the preservative qualities of the bog, tissues, even soft organ tissue, stomach contents, hair, nails, and clothing are often in good enough condition for forensic analysis”. Remarkably some of the bog bodies are well over 1,000 years old.
“The stomach contents and traces of pollens, and the teeth and nails can be used to provide information about diet, health, age, and the time of year and location of the body when the person died.”
These bodies provide valuable health and historical data about the way of live of people of the past that may not be determinable through historical data. The bodies themselves become a mecca for forensic scientists to be able to determine first hand the health conditions associated with people from the past rather than relying upon historical data which carries its own bias.
Several fictional works on bog people have been produced including works by Canadian writer and poetess Margaret Atwood, who taught at Montreal’s Sir George Williams University between 1963 – 1968.
http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/bog/ http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/01/0117_060117_irish_bogmen.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/human_sacrifice_02.shtml