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In her book Bog Bodies Uncovered, archaeologist Miranda Aldhouse-Green argues in favor of human sacrifice, theAtlantic reports. Forensic examinations of the bodies, the writings of classical authors, and other evidence all come together to suggest that the victims were ritually murdered and left in bogs to appease the gods, she writes. Some 1,000 bodies have been recovered from bogs, according to Nautilus. Because they contain little oxygen and have a plant called sphagnum that inhibits bacteria, bogs offer a perfect preservative environment.
Many of the bog bodies had physical deformities—a cauliflower ear, dwarfism, extra thumbs—leading Aldhouse-Green to speculate that “visually special people” may have been selected for sacrifice. The elaborateness of the killings—Lindow Man apparently took a blow to the head and then had his throat cut as he was being strangled with a cord, notes this BBC story—indicates they weren’t ordinary murders.
Also, cremation, rather than interment in bogs, was common during the Iron Age, and Roman historians describe human sacrifice among the denizens of Northern Europe. However, even Aldhouse-Green concedes that classical historians are biased sources. Uncertainties notwithstanding, per the Atlantic, “the bog bodies are still with us, living a life they couldn’t possibly have imagined in death.”