From the Publisher
"The high "ick factor" here will attract cursory attention." School Library Journal, Starred
"The text is both engaging and accessible, and the starkly dramatic photographs are given dignity by the spacious and understated page design." Horn Book
For budding archaeologists, or any child interested in exploring scientific mysteries, James Deem's straightforward text and superior choice of photographs (many of them taken at the sites where naturally mummified bog bodies have been found) unfold a compelling story of Iron Age Man.
Those fascinated by mummies will be taken with Bodies from the Bog. Enriched with color photographs of gruesome human remains from bogs in Ireland, England, Germany, Denmark, and Holland, Deem's text includes both the history of these human remains and relics as well as a scientific explanation of why after thousands of years the bodies are still in such remarkable shape. For example, bodies lost in fens deteriorate, but peat bogs full of sphagnan, a substance in sphagnum moss, prevent the growth of microbes. Mysteries still surround these ancient remains. Who were they? Why were many of them put into the bogs in the first place, some with their throats slit and others with ropes around their necks? Were they criminals, or deformed children, or witches, or human sacrifices? This brief but tantalizing book with its bibliography and index will prove irresistible to young readers who will find the science accessible and clearly explained. KLIATT Codes: JS-Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998, Houghton Mifflin, 42p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 12 to 18.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
If the cover doesn't grab kids then the pictures on the inside will. This fascinating book tells about the various bodies that have been recovered from the bogs of Northern Europe. The book explains the differences between fen peat and bog peat and the reasons why the latter can preserve human remains. What scientists have learned from these preserved bodies makes for interesting reading. For example, they can tell what the last meal was, whether the person died of natural causes or was a sacrificial victim, and with the use of computers, the faces and bodies of these bog mummies have been reconstructed. It is eerie, especially the pictures, but it also tells much about life in the past. As scientific skills increase, we may learn even more. Pair this with related books about other mummies such as Tanaka's The Buried City of Pompeii and Discovering the Iceman; Reinhard's Discovering the Inca Ice Maiden; Getz's Frozen Girl and Bunting's I am the Mummy Heb-Nefert. There is a bibliography and index.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8Much of life in northern Europe during the Iron Age is terra incognita to scholars and scientists due to a lack of written records and physical artifacts. However, like some sort of gruesome signposts, "bog bodies" have appeared as peat bogs were cut for fuel, and these sometimes well-preserved corpses (when investigated with cutting-edge forensic methods) have provided murky windows to that ancient past. Deem's carefully researched photo-essay examines the newest information on these remarkable finds and pieces it with other known facts to present as clear a picture of these people as possible under the circumstances. Some are obviously sacrificial victims; others may be guilty of some crime or act punishable by death. The bodies themselves, in various stages of preservation and decay, whisper down the ages in half-heard, almost indecipherable voices, hinting at religious beliefs and justice codes unknown to us. A chapter on the bogs themselves gives readers a clear understanding of this unusual preservation process, and the whole is lavished with crisp full-color photos (and sepia-toned historical ones). Obviously, the high "ick factor" here will attract cursory attention, but united with Donna Jackson's eloquent The Bone Detectives (Little, Brown, 1996) and Janet Buell's Bog Bodies (21st Century Bks., 1997), which focuses on Lindow Man I, these books should motivate some intense and extremely interesting research.Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Horn Book Magazine
A fascinating, if gruesome, look at the history and science of preserved human remains uncovered in peat bogs in Ireland, England, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. Discoveries of bog mummies, skeletons, and body fragments are described, as are the scientific methods of investigating them. One chapter also details other items found in the bogs (jewelry, a wagon, a cauldron), while another describes the ecology of the bogs. Although the dating and causes of death are difficult to ascertain precisely, various clues enable scientists to assign specific periods between 4500 b.c. and 1500 a.d. during which the bodies were deposited in the bogs, and to make likely guesses about the nature of the deaths. Some of the victims seem to have been sacrificed, while others show signs of stabbing or hanging. The text is both engaging and accessible, and the starkly dramatic photographs are given dignity by the spacious and understated page design.
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 1: "On the last Saturday of April 1952, near the village of Grauballe, Denmark, a group of men were digging in a raised bog they had partially drained. They dug past the upper layer of peat moss into a rich layer of compact dark-brown peat perfect for fuel, their shovels slicing brick-sized chunks. They stacked the peat on the surface. When it had dried, it would be burned for heat in a fireplace or furnace.
"That afternoon, though, the men made an unexpected discovery. About three feet below the surface their shovels struck the head of a dead man. His eyes were closed, his face partially flattened by the weight of the peat. His skin was as brown as the earth that surrounded him. The peat cutters quickly reported their find to a local doctor who wondered if it might not be a bog body, that is, a type of natural mummy: the preserved body of a person who was buried in the bog perhaps thousands of years ago. A number of such bodies had been found in Denmark, so the doctor called an archaeologist at the Moesglrd Museum of Prehistory in nearby Aarhus.
"The next morning Professor P. V. Glob arrived at the site and examined the body of what has come to be called the Grauballe Man...."