A re-analysis of the abdomen contents belonging to a naturally mummified Iron Age man is offering new insights into his surprisingly nutritious ultimate meal and compromised state of well being.
Tollund Man died round 400 BCE in what’s now the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. He died by hanging, in what’s believed to be a ritual sacrifice. His physique was preserved in a Danish bathroom for two,400 years, permitting for an evaluation of his abdomen contents.
The brand new findings, revealed in Antiquity, counsel Tollund Man ate his ultimate meal some 12 to 24 hours earlier than his dying and that it consisted of porridge and fish—each widespread dishes throughout the Danish Early Iron Age. It was a nutritious, probably tasty meal, however Tollund Man was not in the perfect of well being, as he was contaminated with a number of parasites. The brand new analysis was led by archaeologist Nina Nielsen from the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark.
The well-preserved stays of Tollund Man have been unintentionally found in 1950. A forensic evaluation was carried out the identical yr, wherein his digestive system—together with its contents—have been studied and documented by scientists. The post-mortem revealed the substances of Tollund Man’s ultimate meal—barley, flax, gold-of-pleasure seeds, seeds of pale persicaria, and the remnants of 16 different plant species.
“Since information of plant macrofossils and the strategies for analysing intestine contents have improved significantly since 1950, we determined to re-investigate the intestine contents of Tollund Man,” Nielsen mentioned in an emailed press launch.
Revisiting Tollund Man’s digestive tract with new eyes proved to be a sensible concept. Naturally preserved mummies supply a singular glimpse into the previous, revealing particulars like an individual’s bodily look (actually the case right here!), clothes, well being, weight loss program, amongst different issues. On this case, Nielsen and her colleagues sought to higher doc what the person ate, decide how the meals was ready, and verify his intestine contents for indicators of illness. By quantifying the substances of the person’s ultimate meal, the staff hoped to flag any uncommon meals linked to ritual sacrifices.
For the evaluation, which befell from 2019 to 2020, the staff analyzed supplies taken from Tollund Man’s massive gut, together with macrofossils, pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs (also referred to as NPPS—these are issues like microscopic bits of crops, spores, and eggs of parasites), proteins, and fats.
“We will now just about reconstruct the recipe of the final meal of Tollund Man,” mentioned Nielsen. “The meal was fairly nutritious and consisted of a barley porridge with some seeds from pale persicaria and flax.”
Some 20 plant species have been detected, however at lower than 1% of the full content material, the researchers determine these have been merely incidental substances. The protein evaluation suggests fish was a part of the meal, but it surely’s not identified if the fish was added to the porridge. The post-mortem from 1950 did not detect this ingredient. Additionally, the brand new proof suggests the porridge was cooked in a clay pot.
“On this method, we get very near a particular state of affairs prior to now—you possibly can virtually think about how they have been sitting by the hearth getting ready the barley porridge and the fish,” mentioned Nielsen.
Tollund Man’s ultimate meal doesn’t seem like something out of the atypical, and it’s probably consultant of a typical dish served in northern Europe throughout the Iron Age. That mentioned, the presence of seeds from pale persicaria was thought of to be a bit unusual. Persicaria is a weed, and it grew alongside barley and flax however was harvested along with the grains. Its seeds have been usually eliminated throughout threshing, however on this case, the threshing waste that fell to the bottom—seeds included—together with grains of sand and charcoal, was picked up and thrown into the porridge, in response to the analysis.
“As for now, we don’t know whether or not the usage of threshing waste within the Iron Age delicacies was regular observe or whether or not this ingredient was solely used at particular events like human sacrifices,” Nielsen famous.
Regardless of the extraneous substances, this meal was fairly nutritious, offering Tollund Man with half a day’s value of energy.
“Our research reveals that it may be useful to re-analyse bathroom physique intestine contents saved in museum collections, and that combining pollen, NPP, macrofossil, steroid and protein analyses can yield additional helpful knowledge,” conclude the scientists of their research. “Our quantification and identification of the totally different substances in Tollund Man’s final meal at a brand new stage of element can be utilized for comparability in future tasks.”
Tollund Man was not in excellent well being, because the staff discovered proof of intestinal parasites, particularly whipworm, tapeworm, and mawworm. He probably received contaminated with tapeworm cysts after consuming uncooked or undercooked meat. Whipworm and mawworm are transmitted by eggs in human poop, so Tollund Man’s an infection could possibly be as a consequence of poor sanitation and/or poor hygiene. His a number of infections is also an indication of individuals dwelling shut along with animals and restricted entry to scrub water.
So, loads of contemporary insights revealed within the new paper, and all supplied by 2,400-year-old supplies stuffed into an historical massive gut. However such is the essence of archaeology, wherein scientists tease out element from the tiniest scraps of proof. Like this analysis from earlier this yr, detailing the unusual trek taken by an historical, defleshed human cranium.