Monday, 9 March 2020

Iron Age and the Bones of the Dead

A macabre discovery rewrites what we knew about the rituals and beliefs of Iron Age man.
In 2012 ancient remains were discovered in a bog in Denmark. Archaeologists are piecing together what happened to the dozens of dead warriors found at Alken Enge. Researchers were startled by what appeared to be desecration of the skeletal remains.

Protohistoric cultures had many traditions of ensuring the respect of their ancestors, and protection from their dead enemies.
At least six months after the warriors died, their bones were collected, scraped of remaining flesh, sorted and dumped in a lake. Some were handled in a bizarre manner; four pelvises were found strung on a stick. Researchers guess that the desecration of the body parts was an ancient ritual.

Were these grisly desecrations a barbaric ritual of triumph over defeated enemies, as Roman records suggest? There have been Iron Age rites of warding, ensuring the ghosts of a fallen enemy wouldn’t return from the grave to wreak revenge.
Norse folktales included the mythology of the draugr, an undead creature, literally meaning “again-walker”. The draugr was a corpse risen from the grave, a decomposed body. It would seek out and attack those who had wronged it in life.
So horrifying was the prospect of creating a draugr that special care was taken to ensure a proper burial of the dead.