What was Tollund Man’s life like in the Early Iron Age?
The Iron Age lasted from approximately 500 B.C. until 800 A.D. The name “Iron Age” is connected with the fact that after the end of the Bronze Age a method for extracting iron for tools and weapons was discovered. Tollund Man was alive during the first part of the Iron Age. The Iron Age has been subdivided and given names according to the peoples, which had the biggest influence on the different time periods. The time of Tollund Man, the first part of the Iron Age, is called Celtic Iron Age or pre-Roman Iron Age.
Celtic Iron Age lasted from approximately 500 B.C. till the birth of Christ. The time period was named after the Celts who lived in Central Europe – mainly in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Southern Germany, Switzerland, Northern Italy, France and England.
The time period from 1 A.D. till approximately 400 A.D. is called Roman Iron Age after the Romans who had conquered most of Europe, right from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean to the Rhine in Northern Germany.
The following time period is the Teutonic Iron Age from approximately 400 till 800 A.D.
Teutons lived in Germany and Northern Europe, and after the fall of the Roman Empire, they were the dominating power in Northern Europe. A significant number of excavations have shown that most of Jutland was populated during the early Iron Age.
The houses were rectangular; they were placed with one end facing east and the other facing west and were as long as 20 meters. They had mud-and-wattle walls and the roof was covered with straw or heather. In some cases, the houses were placed far from the other houses, in other cases they were placed close to each other, thus forming regular villages.
A house was typically divided into two halves – one half was a stable where the livestock were kept in stalls – the other half was where the family resided.
The fireplace was the center of most of the indoor activities. The women would cook the food at the fireplace, which also provided the room with heat and along the walls were sleeping places.
As the discovery of Tollund Man shows, the people of the Iron Age did not look that different from the people today. Clothes and fashion played an important role in people’s lives during the Iron Age too.
Everyday life in the Iron Age was marked by activities. Clothes and fashion played an important role in the Iron Age. They probably started the day by feeding the livestock. Everybody had to help and they must have been tired by sunset after which they would sit around the fireplace and listen to stories before falling asleep.
In the basement of the iron-age houses, we have discovered supplies of harvested grain, and from studies on Tollund Man’s last meal, we know that during the Iron Age, people ate a special kind of gruel or porridge made of barley, rye and oat. However, people did eat other kinds of food, too.
When cultivating the fields the iron-age farmer used an ard – a special kind of plough, which was pulled by oxen. He had cows, sheep, goats, pigs and horses, and the dog was his trusted companion. People worshipped gods, but we do not know for sure exactly what gods they worshipped. People would make sacrifices to the gods in the bogs in order to stay on good terms with them. Usually the sacrifices were earthenware vessels containing food, but also livestock or parts of one of the livestock was sacrificed. Maybe they carried out special celebrations and rituals in honour of the gods. Sometimes they sacrificed humans, which the discovery of Tollund Man shows.
When somebody died in the Iron Age, the body was cremated in the funeral pyre, the ashes and the bones were placed in an urn and buried. However, this is not what happened to Tollund Man or the other bog bodies, which have been discovered. It is a strong indication that they were sacrifices to the gods.
During the early Iron Age, a significant number of wars took place in Europe, and violence and war were part of people’s lives in Denmark. We have discovered numerous weapons and armaments, which have been sacrificed in bogs after regular battles.