The Tollund Man is not the only bog body that has been discovered in Bjældskovdal - at least three have been discovered over the years. One was discovered in 1927 and covered again shortly after the discovery when the peat bank collapsed over it - remnants of it might still be found in the bog.
In 1938 a local farmer named Jens Zakariassen was digging peat. He struck something which he first thought was an animal that had drowned in the bog. "The animal" turned out to be wearing a belt of woven wool around its waist and that is when he realized that what he had discovered would be of interest to archaeologists.
The National Museum was sent for and the body was moved in the same way as the Tollund Man and transported to Copenhagen to be examined. The back of the body was very well-preserved whereas the front of it was in such poor condition that it was even impossible to tell whether it was a man or a woman.
However, it was possible to tell that the well-preserved hairstyle consisted of a long pigtail tied into a knot. The body was dressed in a skin cloak and a blanket or a cloak of cowhide had been wrapped around her legs.
Elling Woman was discovered only 80 metres from where the Tollund Man was to be discovered 12 years later, but at the time the discovery did not cause much of a stir. This is primarily due to the fact that it was impossible to date the body at the time. It was not until 1976 that the archaeologists, forensic examiners, radiologists, forensic dentists and the Carbon-14 laboratory of the National Museum started to examine the body which had been brought out from its hiding place in the archive.
The X-rays revealed that it was a woman who was approximately 25 years old - a conclusion which was supported by the forensic dentist.
By studying photographs taken in 1938 the forensic examiners could tell that there was a clearly visible furrow around the neck - she had been hanged like the Tollund Man.
At the same time the carbon-14 method revealed that she had died at approximately the same time as the Tollund Man - 280 B.C. - However, the uncertainty connected with the method makes it impossible for us to say if Elling Woman and the Tollund Man were placed in the bog at approximately the same time or if the sacrifices took place with an interval of 100 years.
Among the things that the National Museum had collected in 1938 was a rope made of skin that had been sown together - it is most likely the rope that was used for hanging her.
The cloak she was wearing was partially ruined but it was possible to examine it. It had been made by using a very fine thread just like the one used for the Tollund Man's cap. In a few places it had been repaired with a thick leatherstring - probably a repair that had been done in the village. The delicate stitches shown on the photo can only be done by someone who had received special training.
Take a look at the delicate stiches in
the cape. Big picture.
The neck band of the cloak was very well-preserved, and it was possible to tell that it had had some kind of clasp or fastening. Based on many other finds we know that this kind of cloak was the most common item of clothing during the early Iron age. It was used by both men and women. They would often wear two on top of each other - the one next to the skin would have the fur side turned inwards whereas the other one would have the fur side turned outwards. Thus, the two cloaks would keep the person both warm and dry when it rained.
Reconstruction of Elling Woman's
hairstyle and cloak. Big picture
The way her hair had been was examined closely. It was possible to tell that it was a pigtail and that the braiding had started at the top of the head and had gone down to the neck where it had been tied in a knot. The hair is red which is probably because it has been dyed by the bog water. However, it is darker than the Tollund Man's, and that is an indication that her hair must have been darker than his. Judging by the hairstyle her hair must have been approximately 1 metre long.
If you want to recreate the hairstyle you have to start by making a regular pigtail with the hair from the top of the head. At the hairline on the back of the neck you braid the rest of the hair into the braid which is then divided into seven parts. You braid these together two, two and three. At the end the pigtail is divided into two twisted pigtails.
On the day the woman was hanged, the pigtail had been tied into a knot at the back of her kneck - just like in the photo. If the pigtail was not tied into a knot, it could hang loose down her back and it would have been approximately 90 centimetres long.
Once she was dead she was buried in an excavation in the peat bog. A piece of a cloak of a blanket made of cowhide was wrapped around her feet. The woman was placed on her left side with her head facing north and her feet pointing south.