One of the topics that I quite enjoy teaching in Year 11 Ancient History is Preserved Human Remains. The Year 11 students have just completed their School Certificate, not unlike the ‘O’ levels in the United Kingdom and they are preparing for their matriculation year, known here in NSW as the Higher School Certificate.

It is during Year 11 that we share with the students the skills of history. They discover how to interpret historical sources, gather together evidence, formulate convincing historical arguments and exhibit an empathy with the past.The Preserved Human Remains topic is an investigation into bog bodies, mummies and famous discoveries such as the Iceman.

During the course of the study students explore the following topics.

  • Lindow Man, Grauballe Man, Windeby Girl, Tollund Man โ€“ places of discovery, dating of finds
  • Events surrounding discovery of the bodies: preservation of the bodies in the peat bogs, possible causes of death, various hypotheses based on forensic evidence and other sources
  • Reconstructing the lifestyle of these individuals: physical appearance, clothing, evidence of the environment; possible cause of death; associated rituals
  • Comparison with other finds of a similar nature: Ice Man, mummified Scythians, Inuit boy, Peruvian mummies, Egyptian examples
  • Religious beliefs and customs associated with burial practices of this nature
  • Role of science and written sources in reconstructing the past.

There are a number of web sites that deal specifically with bog bodies and the Iceman. One in particular is quite interesting. The Perfect Corpse. This site was created to support a documentary that was shown on the PBS Network in the USA. This web site includes specific sections that include:

There is also a transcript of the documentary and a guide for teachers. Each section features excellent photographs and interactive components.

The site is not designed for students engaging in pre-matriculation studies however it is suited for Year 11 students to gain an insight into a variety of preserved bodies from around the globe and from a range of historical eras. The site is easy to navigate, well written and nicely illustrated. The site is also included among a set of links for my students that are focused on the study of Ancient History.