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The last meal of Tollund Man: new analyses of his gut content

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2021

Nina H. Nielsen*
Affiliation:
Museum Silkeborg, Denmark
Peter Steen Henriksen
Affiliation:
Environmental Archaeology and Materials Science, National Museum of Denmark, Denmark
Morten Fischer Mortensen
Affiliation:
Environmental Archaeology and Materials Science, National Museum of Denmark, Denmark
Renée Enevold
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeological Science and Conservation, Moesgaard Museum, Denmark
Martin N. Mortensen
Affiliation:
Environmental Archaeology and Materials Science, National Museum of Denmark, Denmark
Carsten Scavenius
Affiliation:
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, Denmark
Jan J. Enghild
Affiliation:
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, Denmark
*
*Author for correspondence ✉ nhn@museumsilkeborg.dk

Abstract

The last meal of Tollund Man, a bog body from Early Iron Age Denmark, has been re-examined using new analyses of plant macrofossils, pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs, steroid markers and proteins found in his gut. Some 12–24 hours before he was killed, he ate a porridge containing barley, pale persicaria and flax, and probably some fish. Proteins and eggs from intestinal worms indicate that he was infected with parasites. Although the meal may reflect ordinary Iron Age fare, the inclusion of threshing waste could possibly relate to ritual practices. This re-analysis illustrates that new techniques can throw fresh light on old questions and contribute to understanding life and death in the Danish Early Iron Age.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd.

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