Tollund Man was found in the Bjældskovdal bog (approximately 10 kilometers west of Silkeborg) in 1950 and has been at Silkeborg Manor since 1952 where thousands of people from around the world flock to see him. The Tollund Man looks like he just fell asleep, offering us a window into an age long passed.
The discovery of Tollund Man
On May 8, 1950 the police in Silkeborg received an alarming message. During a peat digging two days earlier a body had been discovered in a bog close to Bjældskovdal. The body was so well preserved that the finders believed they had found a murder victim and consequently notified the police. Once the police learned that the body had been discovered 2 1/2 meters into the peat and that there were no signs of recent digging they were almost certain that it was more a case for the archaeologists and anthropologists. Still the Danish police made a fingerprint analysis, making Tollund Man's thumbprint one of the oldest prints on record!
Who is Tollund Man?
A meeting with Tollund Man is a meeting with the past – literally face to face. Tollund Man has been C14-dated several times it revealed that he is between 2,400 and 2,200 years old. This means he lived in the early Iron Age, also called pre-Roman or Celtic Iron Age. When somebody died in the Iron Age, the body was cremated in the funeral pyre, the ashes and the bones were placed in an urn and buried. However, this is not what happened to Tollund Man or the other bog bodies discovered in Denmark. It is a strong indication that they were sacrifices to the gods, according to Doctor Glob, then in charge of the excavations. Apparently, Tollund Man was hanged or strangled – a leather string was still round his neck when he was found. He was wearing a loin cloth and a hat, otherwise the body was naked. We will never know for sure what story is behind his execution, but it has been speculated that he may have been a human sacrifice. The contents of his stomach were also well preserved and so it could be determined that he hadn't eaten for at least 12 hours before his violent death. Scientists identified the man's last meal as porridge or gruel made from grains and seeds (approximately 40 kinds), both cultivated and wild. He was carefully placed in the bog in a fetal position.
The Silkeborg museum
Learn more about the Iron age at the Silkeborg museum, where the Elling woman—discovered in the same bog, is also on display. The Silkeborg Museum is the city's oldest building, partially built of materials from Silkeborg Castle. This off-the-beaten-track museum, is a perfect interactive introduction for understanding Denmark's early history (Bronze and Iron Age).