Sacrificed to the fertility goddess Nerthus

On April 26th 1952 bog workers cut blocks of peat for fuel in Grauballe near Silkeborg in Jutland/Denmark. One of the men, Tage Busk Sørensen, put his spade in the ground and hit something he immediately knew was not a stone or a root. It felt like rubber, and when he put his spade down again, the head of a man emerged from the ground.


Tage called upon his boss, who called the doctor Ulrik Balslev, who on his side contacted professor P.V. Glaub from Aarhus.

The professor was at another excavation in Belgium but arrived in Grauballe the day after. By then lots of people had been down in the bog to see the dead man, and unfortunately one of them had come to close to the body and had stepped on its face so it had become disfigured.


P.V. Glaub took a closer look – not at the body but at the ground surrounding it, and found that this body was approximately 2000 years old.

The block of peat around the body was cut out and brought to the prehistoric museum in Aarhus.

Back in those days preservation of bodies was in its infant shoes, and during the first days all the conservators could do was to water the body to keep it intact.

Most earlier findings of bodies from prehistoric times had crumbled away and disappeared, so it was decided to exhibit the body – which was called Grauballemanden early on – for the public to see.

He was placed in a room on the ground floor of the Prehistoric museum in Aarhus, and within the first days he was visited by more than 20.000 people, which was an enormous amount at that time.


When P.V. Glaub initially looked at the Grauballemanden, he imagined him to have been hanged and sacrificed to the fertility goddess Nerthus, but it later turned out that he had been hit in the head and that his throat had been slid and his shin had been broken.

Over the years there have been several attempts to radiocarbon date the Grauballemanden, and the results have been varying, but the last, most reliable dating has shown that he died 30 years old in 290 BC.

Gravballemanden, som man mener han har set ud This is how Grauballemanden looked when he was alive

To be continued …

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