Human Sacrifice in Iron Age Northern Europe: the Culture of the Bog People

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Human Sacrifice in Iron Age Northern Europe: the Culture of the Bog People

Type: Master thesis
Title: Human Sacrifice in Iron Age Northern Europe: the Culture of the Bog People
Author: Iping-Petterson, Maximilian
Issue Date: 2012-02-01
Keywords: Human
Abstract: This paper attempts to answer the question of why sacrificial rituals were present within the cultures of Iron Age Northern Europe and to what extent human sacrifice in particular was a part of such rituals. The assertion is made that sacrificial rituals as a concept represent a common thread woven into the fabric of human culture which manifests itself in different ways but can be observed cross-culturally and throughout time. Human sacrifice, although it represents the most extreme example of the ritualized sacrifice phenomenon can be observed in cultures around the globe. An in depth analysis of the concept of ritual is explored along with an attempt to define the parameters of the phenomenon in terms of how it applied to the culture of Pre-Roman Iron Age and Iron Age Northern Europe. This paper also explores the environmental conditions needed in order for a bog body to be preserved, with specific interest in the key element in the equation of preservation: sphagnan moss. The methods of dating bog bodies are analyzed, with radiocarbon dating usually being the most reliable and accurate. The cultural and spiritual characteristics of the ancient Germanic peoples are also examined as they are related to and give considerable insight into the reasons behind the practices of human sacrifice. A description is made of the various bog bodies which have been discovered and categorized as victims of this behavior and an analysis of the suspected reasons behind their deaths is also presented. Finally, along with the probable reasons behind the question of why a culture might practice human sacrifice and why the ancient Germans in particular engaged in such rituals, an assessment of the various approaches taken to study such things and archaeology in general is also presented.
Supervisor: Fokkens, Harry
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archaeology (Master)
Specialisation: Prehistory
ECTS Credits: 20

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