A Human Sacrifice

On a cold winter’s day, a small group of people gathers on the edge of the bog where they have been cutting peat last summer. Amongst the villagers are a priest and a young man, who, despite the cold, is not wearing anything but a thin cloak. He is shivering as the priest prays to the gods to accept the offering the villagers are about to give them...


When the priest is done, someone steps forward and takes the cloak of the shoulders of the young man. He stands in front of the naked man, and without looking him in the eye, swings a heavy wooden club, breaking the young man’s left leg so he is forced to his knees. As he shouts out in pain, the priest grabs his hair, draws back his head and quickly cuts his throat from left to right with a sharp knife, instantly silencing the man’s moaning. Bleeding heavily, the man loses consciousness within minutes and then dies. The villagers watch in silence as his life’s blood flows into the waters of the bog. Then, two men lift the naked body and place it in one of the summer’s peat cuttings. They cover it with turfs to stop it from floating up and step back as the priest raises his arms in prayer once more, beseeching the gods to be merciful and provide for their people. The villagers join him in prayer and then head back to their homes in the village, leaving the bog, where nothing stirs anymore besides the birds and the wind rustling in the branches of the trees.

Of course, the above description of what happened more than 2000 years ago in the Nebelaard Bog is fictional, but it is based on facts. From detailed investigations of his body, we know that Grauballe Man, who was about 35 years old when he died, received a blow to his leg which broke his shin bone. He was killed by having his throat cut and placed naked in an old peat cutting in the bog, where he was found by a modern peat digger more than two millennia later. His discovery leads to many questions, such as: why was he killed and thrown in a bog, when others were cremated and respectfully buried on dry land? Why was he selected? And what did people hope to achieve by making this ultimate offering? Click on the headings below to find out more about Grauballe Man, bog bodies and human sacrifice in the Iron Age