Bodies from the Bog

Deem, James M. Bodies from the Bog. 1998.  Available in paperback. 48pp. Lexile 1100.

Most of us think of Egyptians when the topic of mummies arises, knowing they carefully mummified dead bodies.  But nature has also preserved a number of bodies in Western European waterlogged areas called bogs.  Outstanding photographs, some of which readers may find gruesome, offer many examples of the bog mummies.  Most bodies are shown in the sites where they were found; others are in museums or labs. The six chapters discuss why the bodies last, the role of bogs in preserving them, how they are discovered, how they died, and how scientists go about studying them.  One chapter focuses on cauldrons, jewelry, and other artifacts also found in the bogs.  An excellent combination of great topic, effective writing, and arresting photographs.

Fiction tie-in  For sophisticated readers, pair this with the excellent novel, Bog Child, by Siobhan Dowd about a teenage boy in 1981 Ireland whose uncle discovers a girl’s body in a peat bog, apparently killed by violence 2000 years earlier.  The compelling narrative about the boy and the effects of the Irish “Troubles” on his life alternates at points with a story about the dead girl’s life. Readers also learn about the process of excavating such a body when an archaeologist is called in.