Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Bog Bodies: Archaeological Narratives and Modern Identity.

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posted on 2021-12-08, 22:57 authored by Stewart, Lydia

Lindow Man, the British Bog Body discovered in 1984, and the Danish examples Tollund and Grauballe Men, discovered in 1950 and 1952, represent quite literally the violent face of a confrontational past. But what exactly do the archaeological narratives say? When presented with the forensic evidence can we explicitly conclude they were murdered as human sacrifices to appease the Germanic and Celtic gods and goddesses during times of affliction? Or are they simply an example of our own imposition of modern assumptions onto the past in a flare of sensationalism and mystical dramatization of the tumultuous affairs of noble savages? How have these narratives played out in the public sphere, particularly museum and heritage, and in modern culture such as the Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s bog poems. Do they reinforce harmful myths of an excessively violent past dominated by innately uncivilized natives? Who does the past really belong to and who has the authority to voice it? Many facets of bog body scholarship remain hotly contested including the human sacrifice interpretation, the usage of Tacitus as the only remaining historical source and Heaney’s use of the bog victims as a metaphorical analogy for the Northern Ireland sectarian violence. My contribution is precisely to present these interpretational narratives from a critical perspective and question scholarly assumptions of ritualism. Further, I will explore how archaeological narratives are presented to the public through the unique heritage that bog bodies embody. Lastly, I will investigate the conceptualization of the “other” through Tacitus’ Germania and Heaney’s bog poems.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Literary Translation Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Sonzogni, Marco; Burton, Diana