Beware the Bog Body!
There's a good chance if you're a weekly reader of Soulless, this probably isn't the only site you follow that shares stories and images of the macabre. In doing so, you probably have come across photos at some point in your online life of bodies that seem to have a dried out look to them. These bodies are known as bog bodies, and they are both fascinating and haunting at the same time!
Bog bodies are human bodies that have been mummified in a peat bog. Bogs are wetlands that accumulates peat, which is dead plant material such as moss. Bogs arise in areas where the water at the ground level is acidic and low in nutrients. Bog water is typically a shade of brown and is pretty unappealing. These bog people are scattered throughout the globe, and have a wide range of ages. The thing that unifies the bog bodies is the natural preservation of the body due to the atmosphere of the bog.
The bog helps the body retain its skin and even internal organs, thanks to the acidic water, low temperature, and the lack of oxygen. Together, these conditions preserve the body but tend to tan the skin of the corpse. Strangely enough, the bones of the body are usually not well preserved due to dissolving. Modern forensic and medical technologies help researches determine the approximate age of bog bodies that are discovered. In some cases, these researchers are even able to identify the cause of death of the person, which is crazy - just think, you could determine the cause of death of someone more than two hundred years after it happened. Nuts. Scientists are able to study the skin found on the body and can reconstruct the appearance of the person and even determine what the persons last meal was by the stomach contents, since the bog peat can preserve tissues. Teeth can help identify age and even what type of food the person ate.
But where do the bog bodies come from?! It is widely believed that the first bog body that was discovered was in 1640 in Germany. Humans have been harvesting peat from bogs since the Iron Age, and it is during these harvests that bog bodies have turned up over the years. Subsurface radar helps archaeologists determine if these is a bog body hidden beneath the peat before they begin harvesting it for its fuel use. These bodies have been found all over the world - Ireland, Denmark, Scotland, and Sweden are just a handful of examples. There are hundreds of bog bodies cataloged over the years, but it is believed that only 45 or so of the bodies remain fully intact today. These bodies serve as artifacts of humanity's past, and their preservation continues to teach us about the people who came before us. These people surely didn't know that their bodies would essentially be donated to science, but as we continue to learn from them, we are discovering more about ourselves. So here's a toast to the slightly horrifying but equally intriguing bog bodies!