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The Bocksten Man (Swedish: Bockstensmannen) is the remains of a medieval man's body found in a bog in Varberg Municipality, Sweden. It is one of the best-preserved finds in Europe from that era and is exhibited at the Varberg County Museum. The man had been killed and impaled to the bottom of a lake which later became a bog. The bog where the body was found lies in Rolfstorp about 24 kilometres (15 mi) east of Varberg on the west coast of Sweden, close to the most important medieval road in the area: the Via Regia. He was recently reconstructed to show what he may have looked like when he was alive.
In the 1880s a farm called "Bocksten" was established near a bog. The bog was then regularly drained, and a harrow used to gather peat. Albert Johansson had previously found a leather shoe in the wetland and gave it to the Varberg museum. A shoe sole was found in the bog in summer of 1934, but the curator of the local museum, Albert Sandklef, did not recognize its importance.
The body was found while gathering peat on 22 June 1936 by Johansson. His harrow apparently caught on sackcloth. On examination Johansson saw parts of a skeleton. The next day, Johansson and his father contacted the local police and a doctor. On investigation, they realized it was too old to be of criminal interest.
Sandklef was contacted again. He took charge, inviting others — among them the well-known geologist Lennart von Post. The group visited on 24 June. They measured and photographed the find before excavating it. The upper parts of the man had passed through the harrow and were badly damaged while the lower parts were intact.
The Swedish Museum of National Antiquities was consulted after the midsummer weekend to assist with conservation. Curator Gillis Olson and their textile expert Agnes Geijer took part in the conservation and evaluation. They came to Varberg on 9 July, assisting Sandkelf in the documentation and giving conservation advice.
The Bocksten Man has been part of the museum's exhibition since 1937.
The man was 170–180 centimetres (67–71 in) tall and of slender build. There is an injury covering about 8 by 5 centimetres (3 in × 2 in) on the right side of the cranium. Of the inner organs, parts of the lungs, liver and brain as well as cartilage are preserved.
The tunic is among the best-preserved medieval tunics in Europe, and made of woollen fabric. He was wearing a gugel hood with a 90 centimetres (35 in) long and 2 centimetres (0.79 in) wide liripipe ("tail"). On his upper body he wore a shirt and a cloak, while his legs were covered by hosiery.
Apart from the clothing he had a fabric bag, foot coverings, leather shoes, a belt, a leather sheath and two knives.
The leather sheath was 40 millimetres (1.6 in) wide and 62 millimetres (2.4 in) long, composed of three layers with a combined saltire and St George's Cross (thus giving a pattern similar to Union Jack) carved on the outer layer. On the inner layer a similar pattern was carved, though this time a pole was added to the symbol.
Several people have evaluated the finding, among them Albert Sandklef, Margareta Nockert and Owe Wennerholm.
The find is generally dated to the 14th century. The dating is based on the clothing, especially the type of hood he wore. Albert Sandklef specified the date of the find to the 1360s, while Margareta Nockert suggests the 1330s. Owe Wennerholm argues that the hood he wore was used over a much larger time frame and only limits the date of the find to between 1250 and 1520. He does however put forward the hypothesis that the man might be Simon Gudmundi, a 15th-century priest, known to have died in 1491.
A bit of the cloth was radiocarbon dated in the late 1980s. It gave as result a 68 percent likelihood of a date between 1290 and 1410 and a 95 percent likelihood of a date between 1290 and 1430. Some uncertainties do however arise as the conservation process might have affected the result. The fact that the find came from a bog is also of concern, as bog finds are known to be hard to date.
Based on the teeth, forensic odontologist Gunnar Johansson has concluded that the man was between 25 and 35 years old when he died. Osteologist Nils-Gustaf Gevall has, based on the skeleton, come up with an age of between 35 and 40 years, though the man might have been up to 60 years old.
Depending on the interpretation of the clothing, and in particular the hood, different conclusions can be made about the man's social background.
The hood he wore was usually worn by the more prosperous classes and it has therefore been suggested that he was a tax collector or a soldier recruiter.
The type of hood was also used within the church. Based on this and a symbol on a shield-shaped pendant, it has been suggested by Owe Wennerholm that the man belonged to the Ordo Sanctus Spiritus.
Some days after the find was revealed a local farmer (Karl Andersson) told Albert Sandklef of a legend he had heard as a child. Two old people from Åkulla had told his father about a man who was recruiting soldiers in the area. He had been killed by the peasants and buried in a bog. He would start haunting late at night, and in order to stop this, poles were struck through his body, whereafter the haunting stopped. As far as the farmer could remember they mentioned Store Mosse, a bog about 10 miles from the find, close to Nackhälle village, though he acknowledged that his memory might fail him as he had grown up in the vicinity of that bog.
The farmer and Albert Sandklef went to Nackhälle and questioned several older people in the area. However, nobody recognized the legend.
Cause of death
It has been a matter of some discussion what actually caused the death of the man. In January 2006 a professor and a doctor at Sahlgrenska University Hospital performed an "operation" on a plastic model of the body, based on computed tomography of the body. As a result, they concluded that he had first been hit at the lower jaw, then at the right ear and finally a lethal hit further towards the back of his head.
A hypothesis has been presented that the person was Simon Gudmundi, the dean of the Diocese of Linköping who died on 12 May 1491. In his 1998 book, Vem var Bockstensmannen? (Who was the Bocksten Man?), Owe Wennerholm reasoned that Gudmundi's name fit with what might be initials found on what might be a micro shield. It is also likely that Gudmundi visited the area. He worked with a group which tried to get Catherine of Vadstena canonized. One of her reputed miracles had taken place in the neighboring village. Speculation was that he was killed by order of Hemming Gadh so that Gadh could assume the post of dean of the Diocese of Linköping.
The bog in which the man was found is close to the border between Himle and Faurås hundreds. It is also close to the border between Rolfstorp, Sibbarp, Köinge and Svartrå parishes. The hundreds were responsible for the handling of murders, which meant that in this case there might be some confusion over the correct hundred to handle the case, to the advantage of the killer(s). It has therefore been assumed that the killer(s) had good local knowledge.
Media related to Bockstensmannen at Wikimedia Commons
- Bockstensmannen at Hallands kulturhistoriska museum (Swedish)
- Swedish bog man murdered - 700 years ago. The Local. 24 January 2006.
- Nockert, Margareta (1997). Bockstensmannen och hans Dräkt (in Swedish). Borås: Ländsmuseer, Museet i Vrdberg och författarna. ISBN 9185720-30-5. ISSN 0083-5536.
- Wennerholm, Owe (1998). Vem var Bockstensmannen? (in Swedish). Fjärås: Bokförlaget Carse. ISBN 91-971061-7-8.
- Sandklef, Albert (1985). Bockstensmannen. Fyndet, konserveringen, dateringen, dräkten. ISBN 91-7842-056-3.