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The freeze-dried body of Lindow Man

Lindow Man, also known as Lindow II and Pete Marsh, is the name given to the naturally-preserved bog body of a Late Iron Age man, discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss, Mobberley side of the border with Wilmslow, Cheshire, northwest England, on 1 August 1984 by commercial peat-cutters. Lindow Man is not the only bog body to have been found in the moss; Lindow Woman was discovered the year before, and other body parts have been recovered.

Lindow Man was a healthy male in his mid-20s. He may have been someone of high status, as his body shows little evidence of heavy or rough work. The nature of his death was violent, perhaps ritualistic; after a last meal of charred bread, Lindow Man was strangled, hit on the head, and his throat was cut. His body was deposited into Lindow Moss, face down, some time during the 1st century AD.

The body has been preserved by freeze drying.[1] It is on display at the British Museum, London, having been recently on display at the Great North Museum, Newcastle Upon Tyne and Manchester Museum, Manchester.




Lindow Moss

Lindow Moss (53°18′59″N 2°17′12″W / 53.3165°N 2.2866°W / 53.3165; -2.2866 (Lindow Moss (site from which Lindow Man was recovered))[2]) is a peat bog in Mobberley, Cheshire, used as common land since the medieval period. It originally covered over 600 hectares (1,500 acres), but has since shrunk to a tenth of its original size. The bog is a dangerous place; an 18th-century writer recorded people drowning there. For centuries the peat from the bog was used as fuel, and it continued to be extracted until the 1980s, by which time the process had been mechanised.[3]

Lindow Woman

On 13 May 1983, two peat workers at Lindow Moss, Andy Mould and Stephen Dooley, noticed an unusual object about the size of a football on the elevator taking peat to the shredding machine. They took the object off the elevator for closer inspection, joking that it was a dinosaur egg. Once the peat had been removed, their discovery turned out to be a decomposing, incomplete human head with one eye and some hair intact.[4] Forensics identified the skull as belonging to a woman, probably aged 30–50.[5] On hearing the news of the discovery of the remains Peter Reyn-Bardt, who lived near Lindow Moss, believed it was the body of his wife. Mrs Reyn-Bardt had disappeared in 1960 and was the subject of an ongoing investigation by police. Peter Reyn-Bardt confessed to the murder of his wife and was tried and convicted.[6] The skull was later radiocarbon dated, revealing it to be nearly 2,000 years old. "Lindow Woman", as it became known, dated from around 210 AD.[6]


The area of Lindow Moss where Lindow Man was discovered

A year later a further gruesome discovery was made at Lindow Moss, just 250 metres (820 ft) to the south west of the Lindow Woman. On 1 August 1984, Andy Mould, who had been part of the discovery of Lindow Woman in 1983, took what he thought was a piece of wood off the elevator of the peat-shredding machine.[7] He threw the object at Eddie Slack, his workmate. When it hit the ground, peat fell off the object and revealed it to be a human foot. The police were called and took the foot away for examination.[3] Rick Turner, the Cheshire County Archaeologist, was notified of the discovery and succeeded in finding the rest of Lindow Man's body. Some skin had been exposed and had started to decay, so to prevent further deterioration of the body, it was recovered with peat. The complete excavation of the peat block containing the remains was performed on 6 August. Until it could be dated, it was moved to the Macclesfield District Council Hospital for storage.[8] At the time, the body was dubbed "Pete Marsh" (a pun on "peat marsh") by Middlesex Hospital radiologists, a name subsequently adopted by local journalists.[9] Lindow Man's official name is Lindow II as there are other finds from the area; Lindow I refers to two human skulls, Lindow III to fragments of a headless body, and Lindow IV to the upper thigh of an adult male, possibly that of Lindow Man.[10]

Remains and interpretation

In life, Lindow Man would have measured between 5'6" (1.68 m) and 5'8" (1.73 m) tall and have weighed about 11 stone (154 lb, 70 kg). Only the top half of the body was recovered, but from that it was possible to ascertain it was that of a man in his mid-20s. The body retains a trimmed beard, moustache, and sideburns of brown/ginger hair as well as healthy teeth with no visible cavities and manicured fingernails, indicating he did little heavy or rough work. Apart from a fox-fur armband, Lindow Man was discovered completely naked.[11] Green deposits were found in the hair, originally thought to be a copper-based pigment used for decoration, however it was later revealed to be the result of a reaction between the keratin in the hair and the acid of the peat bog.[11] When he died, Lindow Man was suffering from slight osteoarthritis and an infestation of whipworm and maw worm.[12] Dating Lindow Man is problematic as samples from the body and surrounding peat have produced dates spanning a 900-year period. Although the peat encasing Lindow Man has been radiocarbon dated to about 300 BC, Lindow Man himself has a different date,[13] between about 20 AD and 90 AD.[10]

As the peat was cleaned off the body in the laboratory, it became clear that Lindow Man had suffered a violent death. There was a 3 centimetres (1.2 in) wound in the middle of the right collar bone, a broken jaw, a broken neck, a sinew thong wrapped around a cut throat, and xeroradiography revealed he also had his skull fractured by a blunt object. Although some of the damage to the body could have occurred post mortem, the strangulation (as proven by the thong and broken neck), cut throat, and head injury suggest Lindow Man was murdered.[14] According to Brothwell, it is one of the most complex examples of "overkill" in a bog body, and possibly has ritual meaning as it was "extravagant" for a straightforward murder.[15]

Lindow Man's last meal was preserved in his stomach and intestines and was analysed in some detail [16]. Analysis of the grains present revealed his diet to be mostly of cereals. He probably ate slightly charred bread although the burning may have had ritual significance rather than being an accident.[17] Some mistletoe pollen was also found in the stomach, indicating that Lindow Man died in around March or April.[18]

Dr Anne Ross and Don Robins have suggested that Lindow Man was a high-status druid, which would explain the evidence of minimal hard labour. They proposed that he was sacrificed, possibly during the feast of Beltane, to invoke three Celtic gods against the Romans in the 1st century AD.[19] Ross has also suggested that the triple-death was intended to affect three gods, as different modes of death were meant to influence different gods.[20] An alternative view is suggested by the writer John Grigsby who suggested he met his death as a "sacrificial king" in a fertility cult, perhaps similar to the cults of Atys and Osiris in ancient Greece and ancient Egypt.[21]

With more than 100 similarly executed bog bodies having been discovered across Europe, there is the possibility of a widespread ritual practice.[21]


Once Lindow Man was removed from the peat, it was possible that it might begin to decay. After rejecting methods used to preserve other bog bodies, such as "pit-tanning" as used on Grauballe Man which took a year and a half, freeze-drying was settled on. The body was frozen solid and the ice vaporised to ensure Lindow Man did not shrink. Before it was freeze-dried, the body was covered in a solution of 15% polyethylene glycol 400 and 85% water to prevent the body from becoming distorted. After freeze-drying, Lindow Man was put in a specially constructed display case to control the environment and carefully maintain the temperature at 19 °C (66 °F).[22] Lindow Man is in the care of the British Museum,[10]. The Guardian described it as one of the best preserved ancient bodies found in Britain.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Conserving the Lindow Man, British Museum,, retrieved 12 November 2009 
  2. ^ "The Megalithic Trackway". 
  3. ^ a b Brothwell 1986, p. 13.
  4. ^ Brothwell 1986, p. 11.
  5. ^ Brothwell 1986, pp. 11–12.
  6. ^ a b Brothwell 1986, p. 12.
  7. ^ Brothwell 1986, pp. 13–14.
  8. ^ Brothwell 1986, p. 14.
  9. ^ Stead, Bourke & Brothwell 1986, p. 12, 16.
  10. ^ a b c Lindow Man,,  Retrieved on 22 September 2008.
  11. ^ a b Renfrew & Bahn 2006, p. 456.
  12. ^ Renfrew & Bahn 2006, pp. 456–457.
  13. ^ Brothwell 1986, pp. 16–17.
  14. ^ Brothwell 1986, pp. 25–27.
  15. ^ Brothwell 1986, pp. 28–29.
  16. ^ Holden, T G 1986 preliminary report on the detailed analysis of the macroscopic remains from the gut of Lindow Man, instead, I M, Bourke, J B & Brothwell, DR (eds), Lindow Man: The Body in the Bog. London: British Publications. 116-125
  17. ^ Brothwell 1986, pp. 90, 94.
  18. ^ Brothwell 1986, pp. 95–96.
  19. ^ Malcome W. Browne (17 June 1990), Back from the bog, New York Times,  Retrieved on 22 September 2008.
  20. ^ Brothwell 1986, p. 96.
  21. ^ a b Richard Morrison (12 April 2008), Lindow Man - the body in the bog - goes home to Manchester Museum, The Times,  Retrieved on 22 September 2008.
  22. ^ Brothwell 1986, p. 23.
  23. ^ Maev Kennedy (28 January 2008), First-century Lindow Man goes back to his roots, The Guardian,  Retrieved on 22 September 2008.

Further reading

  • Ross, Anne; Robins, Don (1991), Life and Death of a Druid Prince, Touchstone, ISBN 0671741225 


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