The Landscape Archaeology of Bog Bodies

Principal investigator: Zena Zein Elabdin
Level: PhD level research

PhD research at the University of Birmingham.

For the past two years, we have been researching the landscape context of bog bodies to understanding the positioning of bodies within the contemporaneous bog. Factors such as distance from the edge of the bog, as well as surface wetness at the time have clear implications for the interpretation of the circumstances relating to the final moments of these individuals. The focus of this work has been on the modelling of the palaeolandscapes of bogs, building on previous research combining borehole survey, radiocarbon dating and palaeoenvironmental analyses (e.g. Chapman and Gearey 2002; Gearey and Chapman 2004; Chapman and Gearey 2013). Up until now, the project has focused on the site of Lindow Moss in Cheshire, UK. Following a preliminary investigation using archive data (Chapman 2015), research at Lindow Moss has focused on a comprehensive borehole survey across the whole of the bog, targeted sampling for palaeoenvironmental analyses and radiocarbon dating aimed at modelling the evolution of the landscape from initial wetland inception onwards. To date, this research has demonstrated that Lindow II (Lindow Man) and the other bodies from the Moss were deposited (and perhaps killed) in locations far from the contemporaneous wetland edge, almost equidistant from all areas of adjacent dryland. Given that previous research indicates that, just prior to Lindow Man's deposition, surface conditions at Lindow Moss were becoming wetter and hence harder to cross (Barber 1986), it seems significant that the bodies were deposited in such relatively inaccessible places. The particular focus of our project is understanding the landscape context at the time of the deposition of the bog bodies. Due to extensive peat cutting on many bogs, such as Lindow Moss, we are very much aware of the limited survival of peat layers contemporary with the bodies. However, by understanding the three-dimensional shape of the original peatland basin and dating the inception and spread of wetlands, it is often still possible to establish an understanding of the earlier landscape development. From this, it is possible to generate predictions on the likely level of peatland spread within the basin by the time of bog body deposition. Using this approach, we believe that there is considerable potential in understanding landscape development even where contemporaneous peat deposits are no longer present. The above is a brief overview of my project. In addition to carrying out fieldwork to obtain data on the bog topography I am collecting data of all cultural monuments and artefacts within a 10 mile radius of Lindow moss bog in Cheshire, in particular during the Iron age and early Roman period. This enables to place Lindow man in context within his cultural landscape. It would be very valuable to gain a higher research level if possible. Lindow man is my main case study and Tollund man is my comparative case study. I have carried out fieldwork on Bjaeldskovdal bog in Denmark (Tollund man's place of deposition) and at Lindow Moss.

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