Science

The discovery of Tollund Man

Illustration Niels Bach

Monday morning on May 8, 1950, the police in Silkeborg received an alarming message. On the previous Saturday, May 6, a body had been discovered in a bog close to Bjældskovdal, an area located approximately 10 kilometers west of Silkeborg. The body was discovered by two brothers and their family who were digging for peat to be used for fuel. They believed that it must have been the victim of a recent murder since it appeared so fresh. At around the same time a school boy from Copenhagen had gone missing in the central part of Jutland and the finders assumed it was his body they had discovered. When the police were told that the body had been discovered 2 ½ meters into the peat and there were no signs of recent digging they were almost certain that it was more a case for the people at Silkeborg Museum than the police.

Tollundmanden endnu liggende på sin plads. Man skimter akkurat omridset af ham.

However, the police went right away to the scene together with the people from the museum – and sure enough – lying in the bog approximately 60 meters from solid ground, was a body cuddled up as it was sleeping. Even though you could only see a small portion of the body, it was possible to tell it had a rope around its neck. It didn’t take long for the people present at the site to realize that an important discovery had been made and therefore the famous archaeologist, Professor P. V. Glob from Aarhus, was sent for. John Kauslund was 11 years old when Tollund Man was discovered in 1950. He is the son of Grethe Højgaard who, along with her husband and his brother, discovered Tollund Man. Actually, John Kauslund explains, it was his mother who first became aware of something unusual in the peat. The brothers were skeptical of the idea that it might be a bog body they had come across, but… Mother rolled up her sleeves and started digging in the mud. She dug into the cliff where people were standing cutting peat and said: “You can say whatever you want but there’s something strange here”. She kept digging, and then stuck her fingers in between the forehead and the cap on Tollund Man’s head, John Kauslund tells us.

The local newspapers were excited to bring the news of the discovery of the body in the bog. Some of the newspapers call him “the man from Bogville”, whereas others thought it was a woman. P. V. Glob was consulted and he was probably the one who came up with the name Tollund Man. It was an obvious choice seeing that the two finders came from the small village of Tollund located close to the bog. The very next day they started preparing for the excavation of Tollund Man. At the time nobody knew all the valuable information he held for the people of our time.

P. V. Glob in the bog. Presumably he named Tollund Man.

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