Presentation Title

Bog Bodies as Watery Votive Deposits

Moderator

Dr. Robert Jeske

Location

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Start Date

28-5-2015 11:30 AM

End Date

28-5-2015 12:30 PM

Abstract

Roman authors such as Strabo, Lucan and Tacitus who describe the religious practices of the tribal people of northwestern Europe all refer to the Celts practicing human sacrifice. These authors also describe the Celtic ritual practice of casting votive offerings into watery places. Given the sacred nature of rivers, springs and lakes in Celtic pagan worship, it has been suggested that some of the naturally preserved bodies found in the bogs of northwestern Europe were victims of human sacrifice and their bodies functioned similarly to other votive deposits. While not every body found in a bog is evidence of ritual sacrifice, many of the bog bodies that date to the first two centuries BC and AD show evidence of ritualized deaths. Also found deposited in a bog, the images on the silver Gundestrup caldron could be interpreted as representing a god or druidic priest drowning a sacrificial victim in a cauldron, a practice described by Lucan. The La Tène style iconography on the cauldron dates it to the same period as a majority of the bog bodies that exhibit signs of ritualized death, which could provide a link to human sacrifice and the sacrifice of other types of votive deposits in watery places. There seems to be a similarity between the extreme violence evident in several bog bodies, including the votive deposit site of La Tène, Switzerland or Llyn Cerrig Bach, near Anglesey, in Wales. These votive offerings were bent, twisted or broken before being deposited, possibly to keep a sacrifice from returning to the physical world. I will argue that the violent overkill exhibited by some Iron Age bog bodies could have served a similar function. While not every bog body has such excessive wounds, many that do not show signs of being staked or weighed down at the bottom of the bog. Regional variations among the known bog bodies could be due to the geographically limited nature of the place-bound, animist rituals of these cultures.

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May 28th, 11:30 AM May 28th, 12:30 PM

Bog Bodies as Watery Votive Deposits

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Roman authors such as Strabo, Lucan and Tacitus who describe the religious practices of the tribal people of northwestern Europe all refer to the Celts practicing human sacrifice. These authors also describe the Celtic ritual practice of casting votive offerings into watery places. Given the sacred nature of rivers, springs and lakes in Celtic pagan worship, it has been suggested that some of the naturally preserved bodies found in the bogs of northwestern Europe were victims of human sacrifice and their bodies functioned similarly to other votive deposits. While not every body found in a bog is evidence of ritual sacrifice, many of the bog bodies that date to the first two centuries BC and AD show evidence of ritualized deaths. Also found deposited in a bog, the images on the silver Gundestrup caldron could be interpreted as representing a god or druidic priest drowning a sacrificial victim in a cauldron, a practice described by Lucan. The La Tène style iconography on the cauldron dates it to the same period as a majority of the bog bodies that exhibit signs of ritualized death, which could provide a link to human sacrifice and the sacrifice of other types of votive deposits in watery places. There seems to be a similarity between the extreme violence evident in several bog bodies, including the votive deposit site of La Tène, Switzerland or Llyn Cerrig Bach, near Anglesey, in Wales. These votive offerings were bent, twisted or broken before being deposited, possibly to keep a sacrifice from returning to the physical world. I will argue that the violent overkill exhibited by some Iron Age bog bodies could have served a similar function. While not every bog body has such excessive wounds, many that do not show signs of being staked or weighed down at the bottom of the bog. Regional variations among the known bog bodies could be due to the geographically limited nature of the place-bound, animist rituals of these cultures.