The Koelbjerg Man, formerly known as Koelbjerg Woman, is the oldest known bog body and also the oldest set of human bones found in Denmark, dated to the time of the Maglemosian culture around 8000 BC. His remains are on display at the Møntergården Museum in Odense, Denmark.
In May 1941, a human skull and some bones were discovered. On 21 May, the find was reported to the Fyns Stiftsmuseum. The museum staff were able to reconstruct the original position of the bones only because the blocks of peat containing the bones could be matched to the holes where they were removed from the bog. The skull and two bones were found at a depth of 2.5 metres (8 ft), but the majority of the bones were found in a depth of 3 to 3.5 metres (10 to 11 ft), at a distance of 7 to 8 metres (23 to 26 ft) from the other bones. A thigh bone was found a further 2 metres (7 ft) to the southeast.
Study of the remains
The complete skeleton of the man was not found. The anthropological investigation revealed by study of the bones, that the man was 155 to 160 centimetres (61 to 63 in) tall and 20 to 25 years old. No signs of disease or malnutrition could be identified on the bones and the preservation of the original full set of teeth also had no pathological signs such as tooth decay. An isotope analysis showed that the man fed mainly on crustaceans, land plants, and marine animals such as fish or shellfish. An analysis based on samples from the bones pointed towards a diet of plants and land-based animals, with little or no seafood. A strontium isotope analysis revealed that he likely grew up in Funen, the island where the remains were found.
An early DNA analysis revealed no useful results. The few found DNA traces were probably from contamination by people handling the remains. Later DNA studies based on samples from the molar teeth revealed in 2016 that the person, long considered a women, was in fact a man. The sex had occasionally been questioned earlier because of the relatively robust bones.
The distribution of bone over a larger area is explained by the fact that the man possibly drowned in the lake, and while the soft parts of the corpse decayed while adrift in open water. It was only after a large part of their soft parts had passed, the remaining bones were enclosed by the silted Lake Lucerne.
In July 1941, a pollen analysis was performed from the inside of the skull. The bog body could be dated to the time of Maglemosian culture around 8000 BC. In October 1943, at the site a bore sample was taken for further investigations. A Carbon 14 test, confirmed in 1983, dated the time of death to the Maglemosian culture.
Approximately 2.5 kilometres (2 mi) southwest, near the Nerverkær-Moor, remains were found of settlements dating back to the Maglemosian culture. Koelbjerg Man may have lived in this settlement.
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- J. Troels-Smith (1943). Geologisk Datering af Koelbjerg-Skelettet (in Danish).