What did Tollund Man look like when he was found?
The examination of Tollund Man at the National Museum of Denmark in 1950 revealed an unusually well-preserved body of an adult male who was approximately 30 to 40 years old when died. Tollund Man is probably the most well-preserved body from pre-historic times in the world. Only the side of the body which had been turned upwards in the peat bog showed signs of decomposition. On his right side, which had been turned downwards in the grave, the skin was well preserved, whereas the body itself had shrunk, thus making folds in the skin. Measurements showed that by the time of the excavation his height was 161 cm but it is very likely that he shrank during his stay in the bog. His arms and hands were almost skeletonized and partly ruined due to the peat digging in the bog - only the feet and one finger were completely intact. The head was almost shockingly well-preserved. The eyes were closed and so was the mouth – the look on his face was peaceful and solemn as if he was just sleeping. The hair was cut short, 1-3 cm long – the red colour of his hair is due to the influence of the bog water. We don’t know his original hair colour. The hair on his head was covered by a crafted, pointed leather cap made of sheepskin. It was secured with two thin leather straps attached near the temples and tied together und his chin. A loop made it easy to put the cap on and remove it again.
The belt was tied around the hips of the body. It measured 77 cm in circumference and was made of thin pieces of hairless leather. One end was equipped with an ‘eye’ or a cut, through which the other end had been threaded and bound with a loop knot that could be loosened by a slight tug. The leather cap and the leather belt were his only attires but around his neck was a braided leather rope tightened in a noose. The leather rope gives us the answer to one of the most interesting questions in connection with Tollund Man: How did he die?
The rope had left a clearly visible furrow in the skin on the sides of his neck and under his chin, whereas there were no marks on the back of his neck where the knot was placed. The rope was strong enough to hold the weight of a grown man. The loose end, which was approximately 1 meter long, was rolled up and placed under Tollund Man and had clearly been cut with a knife. The forensic examiners had no doubts when they decided on the cause of death: Tollund Man had been hanged.