Jonathan Salem Baskin

Pete Marsh

Today, a body was found in a bog.

When peat-shredder Andy Mould picked up what he thought was a piece of wood on this day in 1984 in Lindow Bog in Northwest England and playfully threw it at his workmate, it turned out to be a foot. So began the excavation of Lindow Man, or “Pete Marsh” (get it?), a well-to-do area resident of the 1st century. The completeness of his remains allowed scientists to study his looks — trimmed beard and moustache, no cavities in his teeth, and manicured fingernails — as well as what he’d last eaten (charred bread and some flower pollen), and what he wore (other than a fox-fur armband, his copper-painted body was naked). Oh, and it was obvious that he’d been viciously murdered.

Pete’s injuries were many: A one-inch+ slice on top of his head that likely sent skull fragments into his brain; another whack mark to the back of his head; a cord wrapped around his neck, as if he’d been strangled (his neck was broken); a stab wound in his chest, and a fractured rib. The best guess is that he was killed in some ritual sacrifice, even though there’s little evidence for such practices in that period of the Iron Age. Perhaps he was the victim of a robbery. What also defies explanation is why over 1,800 similar bodies have been discovered in bogs across Europe, nearly 150 of them in the UK. Most of them bear the marks of repeat trauma, wear little to no clothing and, also like Lindow Man, were found dropped face-first in the swampy marshes. They all seem to have been well-off aristocrats.

Is it possible that bringing down the high and mighty is a longstanding tradition?