Open Access (free)
Face to face with the past
Author: Melanie Giles

The ‘bog bodies’ of north-western Europe have captured the imagination of poets as much as archaeologists, confronting us with human remains where time has stopped – allowing us to come ‘face to face’ with individuals from the past. Their exceptional preservation allows us to examine unprecedented details of both their lives and deaths, making us reflect poignantly upon our own mortality. Yet this book argues that they must be resituated within a turbulent world of endemic violence and change, reinterpreting the latest Continental research and new discoveries in this light. The book features a ground-breaking ‘cold case’ forensic study of Worsley Man: Manchester Museum’s ‘bog head’ and brings the bogs to life through both natural history and folklore, as places that were rich, fertile, yet dangerous. Finally, it argues that these remains do not just pose practical conservation problems but philosophical dilemmas, compounded by the critical debate on if – and how – they should be displayed, with museum exemplars drawn from across the globe

Open Access (free)
Melanie Giles

Mossbawn Mossbawn is the name of Seamus Heaney’s family home: a farm in Co. Derry, located at the edge of bogland near Lough Beg (Heaney 1980 ). Though ‘bawn’ is the anglicised word for a cattle enclosure, the notion of his being ‘moss-born’ seems fitting. Of the bogs he once said, ‘It is as if I am betrothed to them’, remembering an earthy ‘initiation’ of swimming in a moss hole, from which he emerged steeped in the peat, marked from then on by ‘this hankering for the underground side of things’ (Heaney 2002 : 5–6). If the iconic work by Glob ( [1969] 1971

in Bog bodies
Open Access (free)
Melanie Giles

correspondence between two men of science alludes to the bog bodies that have become known (somewhat ironically) as the ‘Hope couple’ (van der Sanden 1996 : 19). While a historic case, whose tragic end on the upland peat bog of Hope Woodland was well documented by the local vicar, Wormald, this telling line in Balguy’s letter alludes to a phenomenon of peat preservation that was apparently well known by the locals. Balguy had grown up in the parish of Hope; his forebears were ‘Overseers of the Poor’ and their signatures litter the accounts of small payments to widows and

in Bog bodies
Interpreting deposition in the bog
Melanie Giles

Introduction: things in bogs Having conjured a sense of what people were doing in bogs, what they took from them and some of the experiences they had while doing so, this chapter turns to what they left there. If we are to understand the presence of bog bodies they need to be situated within the range of other non-human objects, materials and substances that people lowered into the moss (Burmeister 2013 ). A few of these served as wrappings or accoutrements to the human remains but most of them were stand-alone deposits in their own right: things given up out

in Bog bodies
Open Access (free)
Displaying the dead
Melanie Giles

Introduction: ‘exposed for a sight’ The first attested ‘exhibiting’ of bog bodies appears to be the Hope couple, who died in a snowstorm in the Peak District of northern Britain in 1674 (see Chapter 2 ). Following their burial on the spot when the snow had melted, they lay undisturbed in the ‘peat moss’ for ‘twenty-eight years and nine months’ when the curiosity of the locals got the better of them. Dr Charles Balguy, the medic from Peterborough who had grown up in Hope, attributes this interest to the parishioners’ knowledge of peat’s preservative properties

in Bog bodies
Open Access (free)
Melanie Giles

Once upon a time, these heads and limbs existed in order to express and embody the needs and impulses of an individual human life. They were the vehicles of different biographies and they compelled singular attention, they proclaimed ‘I am I’. Even when they were first dead, at the moment of their sacrifice or atrocity, their bodies and their limbs manifested biography and conserved vestiges of personal identity: they were corpses. But when a corpse becomes a bog body, the personal identity drops away; the bog body does not proclaim ‘I am I’; instead it says

in Bog bodies
Open Access (free)
Melanie Giles

Haunting auras From the earliest antiquarian letters to the poetic evocations of Heaney, the words used to describe bog bodies conjure their remarkable yet unsettling power. They are ‘entire and uncorrupted’ (Leigh 1700 : 65), found as ‘in a common posture of sleep’ (de la Pryme 1870 : 983), ‘as fresh as if death had occurred the preceding day’ (Gear 1883 , cited in Cowie et al. 2011 : 8). Yet the bog has inevitably altered and stained these remains; they are described by Low as ‘rolled up in their own leather’ (cited in Anderson 1879 : liii) or ‘tanned

in Bog bodies
Open Access (free)
Creative legacies
Melanie Giles

our lives. His point is that archaeology is not some neat, systematic endeavour uncovering history in a sequential manner. It is messy, confusing and disconcerting. It comes at us in the midst of our own lives where we must make sense of it; thus the past is always in dialogue with the issues and concerns of the present. This book has taken that moment of irruption as its starting point, following the afterlife of the bog body: how it was reburied or revived, investigated and interpreted. It has followed how the meanings of these remains have changed through time

in Bog bodies
Open Access (free)
Melanie Giles

Introduction: a biographical approach to life, death and deposition The lives of the people who were buried or interred in the bog used to be defined by how they died. While that is of interest here, developments in archaeological techniques now enable us to examine much more about the lives they lived before that point, encompassing both fleshed and skeletal remains (e.g. Pestka et al. 2010 ). In particular, light stable isotope analysis has enabled us to examine their origin and mobility or (as we shall see) the distance that some of their clothing or

in Bog bodies
Foregrounding the body and performance in plays by Gina Moxley, Emma Donoghue and Marina Carr
Mária Kurdi

Gentlemen (1995) and By the Bog of Cats . . . by Marina Carr (1998). On the one hand, these works are found representative of the bulk of female-authored writing in the mid- to late 1990s for the ways they deploy, reshape and forge resources and strategies to probe into the corporeal dimension of experience. What these texts conspicuously foreground is the socially inscribed body with its potential for change, while they also enhance awareness of the element of performance 9780719075636_4_004.qxd 16/2/09 9:24 AM Page 63 Foregrounding the body and performance 63 in

in Irish literature since 1990