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6 September 2012
Danish bog army revealed

On the edge of the shoreline of Lake Mosso in Denmark (as it would have been 2,000 years ago), archaeologists have uncovered a macabre site. The area is now a bog, formed as the lake retreated, which has made the excavation much harder, as water needs to be constantly pumped away. The macabre nature is not due to the boggy location but to the sheer quantity of potential remains to be found.
     The dig is a combined effort by archaeologists and geologists from Skanderborg Museum, Moesgard Museum and Aarhus University. Although the team has been working on the site throughout the summer, the difficulties of working in a bog means that, so far, only about 90 square metres, out of a potential 3,600 square metre, has been excavated. Even so, it is believed that the remains of over 1,000 bodies lie buried in the murk.
     But not just any bodies. All remains found so far are of young to middle aged men, covered in sword and axe marks. So was this a battlefield site? Ejvind Hertz, curator at the Skanderborg Museum, believes that this may have been a sacrificial site which lay alongside a battlefield. He draws this conclusion from a study of the condition of some of the remains. Bite marks and evidence of gnawing of joints have been found, which leads to the conclusion that the dead bodies were left unburied for a while, allowing scavengers and predators to do some damage before the remains were thrown into the lake.
     This theory is also borne out by historical records from no less a person than the Roman historian Tacitus, who recorded that the Teutons of Northern Europe carried out a type of ritual sacrifice of the survivors of a defeated enemy (in this instance the Roman army). These records are contemporaneous with the age of the Danish site. But with nearly 40 hectares still to be explored it is certain that a lot more will be reported from this site over the next few years.

Edited from ScienceNordic (22 August 2012)

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