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Tollund Man so well preserved guts reveal alarming last meal from 2,400 years ago

Tollund Man so well preserved guts reveal alarming last meal from 2,400 years ago

The body was so well preserved that researchers have been able to identify his shocking final meal

A miraculous study of a 2,400-year-old corpse, referred to as the Tollund Man, has found out exactly what this ancient person's final meal was.

The mysterious story of the Tollund Man has been the centre of mass fascination for archaeologists, scientists and, well, pretty much everyone else since the remains were first discovered in a Danish bog back in 1950.

The naturally mummified corpse - who was found with a leather noose around his neck - is believed to be man who once lived during the fifth century BC, during the period characterised as the Pre-Roman Iron Age.

The remains were first discovered in a Danish bog back in 1950.
Ian Dagnall/Alamy Robin Weaver/Alamy

While many questions surrounding the Tollund Man are still left unanswered after seven decades since its discovery - there have been a few findings that researchers can settle on.

Weirdly enough, scientists have been able to find out the precise contents of Tollund Man’s last meal - and brace yourselves - it is not what you'd expect.

To do so, we've got to go back 73 years to when scientists initially looked at Tollund Man's innards, taking a closer peek into the contents of his immaculately-preserved intestines before simply popping them back without too much further inspection.

While researchers at the time looked at the well preserved grains and seeds, they did not study the very fine fraction of the material itself.

Flash forward until a couple of years ago and new technology has allowed researchers to study the fossil in a whole new light.

New technology has allowed researchers to study the fossil in a whole new light.
Silkeborg Museum

In a 2021, a study published by Cambridge University Press titled, The Last Meal of Tollund Man, reported on the corpse's gut content and brought to light new concrete information about the corpse's cause of death that has wowed archaeologists since.

Using new analysis of plant macrofossils, pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs, steroid markers and proteins found in his gut - the experts were able to deduce what Tollund Man consumed 12-24 hours before he was killed.

The study, published in the journal Antiquity, reveals: "He ate a porridge containing barley, pale persicaria and flax, and probably some fish."

So, there you have it, the fossil find of last century's final meal was nothing more than a bowl of porridge.

"Proteins and eggs from intestinal worms indicate that he was infected with parasites," the study adds.

What made the find so alarming, however, was the presence of the pale persicaria seeds, as such seeds were usually removed from the grain as threshing waste.

Reconstruction of the ingredients in Tollund Man's last meal.
P.S. Henriksen / The Danish National Museum

It's true that researchers have remained fairly iffy on the exact circumstances of Tollund Man's death over the decades, but experts 'tend to agree that [his] killing was some kind of ritual sacrifice to the gods,' according to journalist Joshua Levine via Smithsonian magazine.

The study explains: "Although the meal may reflect ordinary Iron Age fare, the inclusion of threshing waste could possibly relate to ritual practices."

So, while it is still a theory, it's widely considered that the corpse is believed to have been the victim of a brutal religious sacrifice.

Therefore, discovering the seeds in the porridge can potentially confirm decades of theories attempting to figure out Tollund Man's cause of death.

The researchers noted that this re-analysis 'illustrates that new techniques can throw fresh light on old questions and contribute to understanding life and death in the Danish Early Iron Age'.

Featured Image Credit: Ian Dagnall/Alamy Robin Weaver/Alamy

Topics: Weird, Science, Food And Drink