How Tollund Man lived

5Pløjning med ard

Illustration Niels Bach

Tollund Man lived in the Early Iron Age, approximately between 400 and 200 BC. A significant number of excavations have shown that most of Jutland was populated during the Early Iron Age.

Their houses were rectangular and placed with one end facing east and the other facing west and were as long as 20 meters. They had mud-and-wattle walls or turf walls and the roof was covered with straw or heather. In some cases, the houses were placed seperately, but most often they were placed in regular villages.

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Photo Ole Nielsen

A house was typically divided into two halves – one half was a stable where the livestock were kept in stalls – the other half was the family residence. The fireplace was the center of most of the indoor activities. The women would cook or roast the food at the fireplace, which also provided the room with heat, and along the walls were sleeping Places. Everyday life in the Iron Age was busy. People would get out of bed with the sun. They probably started the day by feeding the livestock. Everybody would have help and they must have been tired by sunset after which they would sit around the fireplace and listen to stories before going to bed.

We know that Tollund Man’s last meal was a porridge or gruel made out barley, linseed, seed of knotweed, gold-of-pleasure and oat. However, people did eat other kinds of food, too.

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Photo Ole Nielsen

When cultivating the fields the iron-age farmer used an ard – a special kind of plough, pulled by oxen. He had cows, sheep, goats, pigs and horses, and the dog was his trusted companion. People worshipped many gods, but we do not know for certain exactly who the gods were. Sacrifices were made to the gods in the bogs in order to stay on good terms with them. Usually the sacrifices were earthenware vessels containing food, but also livestock or parts of the livestock was sacrificed. Maybe they carried out special celebrations and rituals in honour of the gods. Discoveries of bog bodies are, among other things, interpreted as human sacrifice.

When somebody died in the Early Iron Age, the body was cremated in the funeral pyre. Ashes, bones and grave gifts were placed in an urn and buried. However, this is not what happened to Tollund Man and the other bog bodies that were found, which tells us they did not get a normal funeral.

During the time of Tollund Man, a significant number of wars took place in Europe, and violence and war were part of people’s lives in Denmark. We have discovered numerous weapons and armaments, which were sacrificed in bogs after regular battles.

6Krigsscene

Illustration Niels Bach