More Bodies from the Bog: Grauballe Man

Grauballe Man

Another Bog body that I find fascinating is ‘Grauballe’ man.   When I first read ‘The Bog People’ by Professor PV Glob, this was the body that frightened me the most.  Over time though I don’t seem to see the horror any more – just the near perfect preservation of a man who was murdered all that time ago in history (not a nice subject I know) and I feel such pity for that poor man and what he must have suffered  – his throat cut and his skull fractured.

the hand of Grauballe Man

Grauballe man has the best preserved  Iron age body.   Carbon dating places him as living about 55 B.C !   He lay in the peat which preserved him until he was found in 1952 in the village Grauballe in Denmark.  His hair is remarkably spectacular, though the chemicals in the peat have turned it red.   His nails are perfect and his wonderfully preserved fingerprints have been taken!  Was he sacrificed?  No one knows for sure.  His age was about 30 and studies have discovered that he was in the early stages of gout and suffered from arthritus.  Grauballe man was naked apart from a strange cord around his neck.

The Bog Bodies by P V Glob

Tests have also revealed his last supper, still in his intestines, a kind of porridge made of many different grain.

gauballe man

This poem was written about him.  The poet is Seamus Heiney, a well known Irish poet who had a strange fascination for things found in bogs – just like me.

The Grauballe Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

There are lots more of Heaney’s poems on this excellent site HERE

More facts about Grauballe from his resting place in Moesgard Museum

Another of my posts about bog bodies HERE

Want to see a reconstruction of how he may have looked? HERE

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8 Responses to “More Bodies from the Bog: Grauballe Man”

  1. I had never heard of these before your writing of them.Thank-you for the information. Yes, it is interesting.

  2. Thanks Leslie, I’ve always had an interest in the preservation of the dead – I don’t know why, probably something to do with ‘Life’ after death. These bog bodies can tell us so much. They can even tell us the season when the person died – by the amount of polllen and the different grains contained in the stomach.

  3. I like that poem by Seamus Heaney – and it is amazing that these bodies have been preserved for so long.

  4. Hi Thanks for visiting Judy! he’s wrote one about each of the most famous bog bodies including of course the Irish ones!
    I still say that they should bottle those peat properties and make a face cream out of it – I would buy it!

  5. […] I have other posts about bodies found in bogs here and here […]

  6. I find the history of the Bog Bodies very fasinating. The way their bodies were naturally preserved is quite amazing!

  7. Me too Arya – the fact that they are preserved in time and we can look upon those faces that once lived like us is wonderful! thanks for visiting Arya (lovely name by the way 🙂

  8. […] Another earthy poem by Heaney is simply called ‘Digging’ and is about the poet’s father.  Heaney has also wrote poems about the Bog men (see my Bog men posts over on Echostains)   Bog Bodies speak beyond the grave, Preserved in Time – Otzi the Iceman, More Bog Bodies –  Ireland, Preserved in Time – Peruvian Mummies,  More Bodies from the Bog – Grauballe Man, […]

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