Lindow Man: meet Pete
He’s at the centre of 2,000-year old murder mystery. He was alive when the Romans ruled nearby Manchester and Jesus walked the Earth. And he too died a brutal and violent death. Meet Pete Marsh – aka Lindow Man.
Murder victim: Lindow Man aka Pete Marsh
Lindow Man, nicknamed ‘Pete Marsh’ is Britain’s best known and best preserved Iron Age bog body. And 24 years after he was pulled from the peat on Lindow Moss near Mobberley, Lindow Man has returned to Manchester Museum in a new exhibition.
His death is a real-life murder mystery: ‘Pete Marsh’ was clubbed over the head, garrotted, his throat was cut and his body dumped in a bog.
But who was he? What do we know about him? And how and why was he killed?
Lindow Man: facts
How he may have looked
Lived during the Iron Age, close to Lindow Moss, near Mobberley, Cheshire in the mid 1st Century AD. [This was the same time as the Romans had established their fort on the banks of the River Irwell (78 AD]. Radiocarbon dating shows that he died between 20 AD and 90 AD.
Age/ height/ weight:
About 25 years of age when he died. Was approx. 168 cm tall (5ft 7in) and weighed 60-65 kg (9½st – 10st)
His torso, head, arms were discovered in 1984 in a peat bog on Lindow Moss – though his body below the waist is still missing apart from his right leg. The grim discovery was made by a commercial peat-cutter called Andy Mould who was extracting peat from the Moss for use in gardens. Lindow Man was lying on his back, leaning to his right, with his head on his right shoulder.
The acidic, oxygen-free conditions in the peat bog meant that the man’s skin, hair and many of his internal organs were extremely well preserved, Since the discovery, Lindow Man has been freeze dried for preservation and his cabinet is the most climate controlled in the British Museum.
A leathery skin with a yellowish hue and wrinkles clearly visible. His head, distorted over time, gives his face a slumped appearance with an anguished expression. Unusually for a bog body, Lindow Man sported a beard and moustache trimmed with shears. Otherwise naked except for a fox fur armband.
Judging by his well-manicured fingernails, it’s unlikely that he did much manual labour – leading to suggestions that he held a respected position such as a Druid priest.
There is no evidence that he was unwell when he died, but he was suffering a severe case of parasitic worms. Also suffered from a condition called Schmall’s nodes in his back which may have been caused by a fall from a horse.
His last meal probably included unleavened bread made from wheat and barley, cooked over a fire on which heather had been burnt. He had consumed a drink containing some mistletoe pollen (said to be sacred to the Druids) and other ingredients shortly before his death.
Cause of death:
Suffered a violent and brutal ‘triple death.’ He was struck on the top of his head twice with a heavy object, perhaps a narrow bladed axe, driving a sliver of bone into his brain. He had a thin cord tied around his neck which was used to strangle him and break his neck. By now he was probably dead, but then his throat was cut. Finally, he was placed face down in a pond in the bog.
There are many theories that have been put forward to explain Lindow Man’s death. Some people have argued that he was the victim of a ritual murder and sacrificed to the Gods by Druids. It’s also possible that Lindow Man was a scapegoat of his local community who blamed him for the failure of crops, disease or famine.
A skull fragment also found by Andy Mould, and also at Lindow Moss prompted a murder investigation in 1983 - the year before Lindow Man was found. Thinking that it belonged to his wife who he’d killed 25 years previously, a local man Peter Reyn-Bardt then confessed to her murder. However, tests revealed that the the skull was that of a man who died almost 2,000 years ago. Based on the strength of his confession, Mr. Reyn-Bardt was convicted of murder. Mrs Reyn-Bardt’s body has never been found.
last updated: 18/04/2008 at 17:19
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