Was the Tollund Man Hanged?
The Tollund Man was examined as if he was the victim of a murder. The examination took place at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark shortly after he was discovered.
The Tollund Man with the rope
around his neck. Big picture
The forensic examiners's report states among other things that "the robe, judging by the way it was placed around the body's neck, was most likely not used for strangulation, and because of that it is of less importance that the cervical vertebras were undamaged since that sometimes happens when a person is hanged".
X-rays had revealed that the Tollund Man's cervical vertebras were not broken but despite of that the forensic examiner was certain that the man had been hanged. Later examinations done by other doctors proved that he was right.
New examinations reveal among other things that his tongue had become distended - a characteristic often seen in a hanged person.
At the time of the Tollund Man there were various burial customs in Denmark, but the one thing they had in common was that cremation was part of them all - except for the small group of people who were sacrificed. They were placed in the bogs without being cremated. That is also why it's most likely that the Tollundmanden was sacrificed to the gods.
The entire village probably witnessed the hanging of the Tollund Man. Maybe people even came from the surrounding villages. A human sacrifice was probably something that might be of importance to everybody from near and far. Were the gods going to accept the sacrifice? Were they going to let the people live in harmony with nature and each other in the years to come? Would they be friendly disposed towards them, when they used the gods' sacred bog?
After the hanging the Tollund Man was cut down from the tree and carried to the bog. In the peat bog an excavation had already been emptied of water. The grave was located right next to a pathway paved with planks which cut across the bog. Tollund Man was carefully and respectfully placed in the grave because now he belonged to the gods. His eyes and his mouth were closed as if he were asleep. Within a short period of time the water rose in the grave and it soon covered him. The gods had accepted their sacrifice.