Archaeologists discover remarkable bog

The bog contains human and dog sacrifices

Aarhus, October 14 2015

Archaeologists discover remarkable bog containing human and dog sacrifices

During extensive archaeological excavations at Skødstrup, north of Aarhus, archaeologists have found unusually well-preserved remains of an entire Iron Age community dating from around the birth of Christ. Several bogs containing the remains of sacrificed humans and dogs have been discovered in a low-lying area below a village. In particular, a human sacrifice and sacrificed dogs lying beside tethering stakes reveal a new aspect of Iron Age religion.

Four metres below the surface of a field north of Aarhus, archaeologists from Moesgaard Museum are currently excavating a sacrificial bog from the Iron Age. In the Early Iron Age, the bog was extensively used for peat cutting, and several centuries later a quite remarkable sacrificial practice arose, whereby people and dogs were killed and placed in the old peat cuts as offerings to the gods. So far, one human skeleton and eight dog skeletons have been found – the dogs lay next to three tethering stakes.

“We expected great things of the excavations because a settlement, a burial ground as well as extensive offerings and sacrifices in the bogs around Skødstrup have previously been found. But these new discoveries more than live up to our expectations and the finding of a human skeleton is the crowning touch,” says archaeologist and excavation director Per Mandrup from Moesgaard Museum.

The skeleton was found as a heap of bones in the bog, together with two stakes, one of which was sharpened to a point. Of the head, only the jaw was found, which suggests that the rest of the skull had been separated from the body at some point.
It can be seen from the bones already now that the sacrificed individual was a young woman in her twenties. Her remains have been taken to Moesgaard Museum, where further investigations will be carried out.

In a nearby bog, only 150 metres away from the present investigations, several remarkable offerings of weapons (swords, lances and parts of shields), a human sacrifice, burnt human bones in a layer of charcoal, a wooden phallus and 13 dog skeletons have been found since the 19th century.

Apart from the sacrificial bogs, archaeologists are also excavating the remains of a large village, including a cobbled road and preserved house floors. An associated burial ground was investigated in previous excavations.

“At Skødstrup, we have the whole spectrum of an Iron Age community: A well-structured village with an associated burial ground and sacrificial bogs. It gives us a unique insight into the life of Iron Age people in war and in peace, and not least a glimpse into their religious universe,” says Per Mandrup.

For more information, please contact archeologist Per Mandrup, Moesgaard Museum, mail:, mobile +4528728522