ISBuC (v7) 2012
Peat Stories

'Body of Evidence'
The airless and, as already mentioned, highly acidic nature of peat bogs means that animal and solid vegetable remains become pickled for posterity. The roots of old trees, remains of pre Bronze Age primaeval, are commonly visible. In Scandinavia numerous leathery remains of Bronze Age people that have been executed and thrown into bogs have been uncovered - leathery being the right word because the acidic conditions tans their skin as if it were a cowhide.

Interestingly, a peat bog has even been instrumental in bringing a murderer to book. In 1983 workers extracting peat commercially from Lindow Moss in the English county of Cheshire spotted a curious object. Hosed-off it turned out to be a human skull with hair still clinging to the scalp. The workers called the police and the police, when forensic scientists identified the skull as that of a European female aged between 30 and 50, arrested local man Peter Reyn-Bardt for murdering his wife some 20 years earlier. Faced with apparently incontrovertible evidence, Reyn-Bardt confessed to the killing, dismemberment and burial of his wife, not realizing that the remains would turn out to be one of the UK's few peat bog burials, Lindow Man who met his untimely end at around 500 BC. Mr. Reyn-Bardt was convicted of murder on the strength of his confession.

During World War II, after the foundering of cargo ship The Politician off the Southern tip of South Uist, numerous bottles of whisky destined for the Caribbean are supposed to have been hidden in the peat. Because others were consumed more promptly the wherabouts of many interred were forgotten.

No such luck on Skye. But we do have bog butter burials found in the North, on Trotternish and in the South, towards Kyleakin. These strange interments are carved wooden bowls, complete with carved wooden lids, containing a butter-like residue. Their purpose is unknown but is either of religious or superstitious significance or, arguably, remains of preserved foodstuffs whose locations, like that of the aforementioned whisky, were forgotten.

Courtesy of Geoff Holman