Tollund All You Can Eat (2015-Ongoing)
Edited found text
The specialist found numerous traces of barley and flaxseed, false flax and knotgrass. The last two grow in the wild, whereas barley and flaxseed were cultivated in fields. Traces of other weed seeds were also found in the contents - some of them had probably been gathered, whereas others may have been mixed in by happenstance. The specialist was able to recognize approximately 40 different kinds of seeds.
To sum it up, the meal consisted of some kind of porridge or gruel made primarily of grain and seeds - flaxseed had probably been added in order to increase the amount of fat in the meal. As already mentioned, the contents showed no traces of meat.
The specialist in plants found many traces of barley, flaxseed, false flax and knotgrass. The last two grow in the wild , whereas barley and flaxseed were cultivated in fields. Traces of other seeds were also found in the contents - some of them had probably been gathered, whereas others may have been mixed in by coincidence. The specialist was able to recognize approximately 40 different kinds of seeds.
From other examinations we know that seeds from flax and weed seeds from shepherd's purse, common plaintain and several other species were also mixed in with the gruel people ate in the Iron Age.
Through modern paleo-CSI analyses, investigators were able to determine the source of the water Tollund Man drank (one abundant with sphagnum moss), what the fire that heated his food was fueled with (heather), and even how hot it was when it finished cooking (98°, like my second-favorite boy band).
But more interesting was what they learned about his eating habits. For starters, no trace of animal flesh could be found amongst the bogman's stomach contents—his last meal was entirely vegetarian. Even more peculiar, there were no green vegetables to be found, everything in his gut was either seed or grain. And not just any seeds or grains, his last meal was very probably a gruel made with over 40 varieties of weedseeds, dense chaff, low-yield grass cereals, and hard-to-harvest runt grains. There's nothing wrong with eating weedseeds per se; in fact some of the seeds were wild relatives of buckwheat and quinoa. However, as Richard Mabey writes in Weeds, the bother of gathering weedseeds as a food would hardly be worthwhile; it can take more energy to collect them than one can recover in consuming them.
Astonishingly, our bogman's grain binge is consistent with the gruel diets of other recently unearthed bog bodies like Lindow Man, Grauballe Man, Windeby girl and dozens more. To ratchet up the intrigue, it now seems that all of these bog bodies were the victims of murder (the plot, like weedseed gruel itself, thickens). What's the correlation between these ancient bodies and their diet? Were they victims of an Iron Age witch hunt for vegetarians? Were they sacrificed by their own people and given a ritualistic last meal rife with earthen seeds? Perhaps they were early advocates of biodiverse polycultures and perished before anyone could figure out how to make harvesting 40-plus unique seeds a viable alternative to hunting small game. Archaeologists are still debating, but one thing we do know is the approximate recipe of our bogman's weedseed gruel. I have adapted this soon-to-be favorite family dish from an old Viking recipe and a Roman treatise on nature. Enjoy!
BOGMAN'S WEEDSEED GRUEL
- bog water: water infused with sphagnum moss works best - 10-15 cups
- cultivated grains:
pearl barley - 2 cups
wheat kernels (soak overnight) - 2 cups
flax - ¼ cup
willow herb seeds - ¼ cup
gold-of-pleasure seeds - ¼ cup
knotweed seeds (may cause photosensitivity) - ¼ cup
- with smaller amounts of:
fat hen (a relative of quinoa) seeds - ½ tsp
corn spurrey seeds - ½ tsp
black bindweed (a relative of buckwheat) seeds - ½ tsp
violet seeds - ½ tsp
hemp nettle seeds (potentially poisonous) - ½ tsp
mustard seeds - ½ tsp
dock seeds - ½ tsp
green bristle-grass (related to millet) seeds - ½ tsp
corn chamomile seeds - ½ tsp
redshank seeds - ½ tsp
greater plantain seeds - ½ tsp
clover seeds - ½ tsp
rye-grass seeds - ½ tsp
Yorkshire fog seeds - ½ tsp
buttercup seeds (may cause blistering of the skin) - ½ tsp
lady’s mantle seeds - ½ tsp
yarrow (may cause rashes) seeds - ½ tsp
smooth hawksbeard seeds - ½ tsp
fine sand - ½ tsp
1. Mix all ingredients into a bowl.
3. Cook over fire (preferably one using heather as a fuel) for 1 hour, adding moss water as needed until gruel has reached desired consistency.
4. Salt4 to taste.