Grauballe Man is one of many mummified bodies discovered in the peat bogs that dot Denmark and northern Europe. The highly acidic bogs have extremely low oxygen content and the combination allows for the remains of individuals to remain in a remarkable state of preservation for thousands of years. Various dating methods have shown that Grauballe Man lived in the Iron Age of Europe sometime around the 3rd century BCE. He is widely known for his distinctive ginger hair.
Known collectively as “bog people,” bodies such as this one have been found by digging the peat used as fuel and building material for hundreds of years. Grauballe Man was discovered in 1952 and was the subject of what were then unprecedented efforts to preserve the body intact. A decision was made to subject the body to a further “tanning” process that allowed for continued preservation of the body after removal from the protective bog.
Like other bodies recovered from the bogs, Grauballe Man shows signs of violence indicating that he was killed rather than dying of natural causes. In this case, the Iron Age man had his throat cut in what is theorized to have been a ritualistic sacrifice, bogs and marshes were considered by Iron Age cultures as portals to the world of the gods through which offerings could be left. The unclothed body today is noted for its striking red hair, a color that is the result of immersion in the bog and not the natural color of hair Grauballe Man had during his life.
Today the body is on display at the Moesgaard Museum near Aarhus, where it can be viewed by visitors.