About 2,200 years ago, a man was murdered and thrown into a peat bog, but why? Lindow Man is an ancient Celt whose mummified remains were discovered in the summer of 1984. Found in the peat of Lindow Moss, near Manchester in the United Kingdom, Lindow Man presented a great deal of mystery to archaeologists. Was he a criminal, a hapless victim of murder? Or did clues such as his ritualized execution, his last meal and no signs of struggle or resistance point to a sacrifice volunteer?
The conclusion of most is that Lindow man was not only a voluntary sacrifice, but likely a prince or priest of the highest orders of ancient Celtic social status. Lindow man went to his brutal death to propitiate three ancient gods of the Celts. Teutates, Esus and Tarainis were gods that required sacrifice through drowning, a cut throat and bludgeoning or beheading, respectively.
These findings, among others, were presented by Dr. Don Brothwell, Dr. Don Robins and Dr. Anne Ross. All agreed that clues found in review of Lindow Man's body support varying sources of evidence from other bodies and sites indicating the victim was probably an aristocrat among the Celts. He simply drew the unfortunate honor of an ancient lottery, and went willingly to his own death.
The brutal murder, throat slitting and crushed windpipe, though grisly sounding to the modern ear, are no more torturous than the crucifixion required of many Christian saints and martyrs. Clues to his manner of death and the contents of his stomach point to a ritual use of bannock, ground barley and a lottery that allowed the Celts to murder just one man for the three deities rather than to kill three separate people. Also, if Lindow man was a high-ranking individual, his status would make his value and sacrifice that much more meaningful. No major past injuries (other than the death blows) or signs of hard labor indicate that this man was not likely to be a common citizen or soldier. And the stomach contents are consistent with a ritual involving burned bannock that still has cultural remnants practiced today in regions surrounding the location where Lindow man was discovered.
The body is well preserved because iron-rich bog water and sulfur replace soft tissue with leathery flesh. Lindow man's body lay safe from deteriorating affects of oxygen and rot for over 2,000 years in the peat. Now preserved by scientists chemically, it is studied along with several "bog bodies" found across western Europe. These human remains offer many insights into ancient Druid and Celtic life. They also provide vital information that speaks to the culture in an unbiased way compared to the documentation left by the conquering Romans, who, after all, had negative views of those they considered savage and barbaric.
The ancient Romans called the Celts Gauls. Roman records and artifacts speak to the fact of a hope to wipe out Druidism and replace it with loyalty to the Roman Empire. Artifacts, human remains, signs of settlements and even bogs provide physical clues that shed new light upon such ancient cultures and later interactions with invaders.
What about Lindow man's life? The story of Lindow Man fascinates for many reasons. His body is presumed to be less than thirty years old at the time of death. He was likely a privileged member of society perhaps with a family and children. His body was stripped naked except for a well preserved fox fur arm band. His facial expression is serene. How could he so willingly participate in his brutal fate? Mysteries such as these persist. The Druids knew about mummification. Perhaps Lindow Man sensed the implications of his own importance, not just then, but thousands of years thereafter.