The Peat Of Northern Europe

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The peat bogs of northern Europe have become home to people who have been dead for centuries. These bogs are formed due to limited plant varieties that are largely dominated by sphagnum moss. Within this moss is a polysaccharide called sphagnan, whose antibiotic properties are important in the preservation of the bodies. Most often bog bodies range from 900 BC to 1800 AD. Whether it was an accidental fall, the dumping scene of a murder, or a ritualistic sacrifice, the chemical makeup of these bogs allows researchers to uncover the fully intact bodies of the dead. Natural preservation techniques keep soft tissues almost entirely undamaged. Tissue survival depends on how fast the body is immersed in water, temperature, time of year,…show more content…
This excavation allows researchers to assess age through Accelerator Mass Spectrometry dating, as well as possibly determine what their last meal was. Following the excavation, in order to keep the bog bodies in a state where research can continue, it is essential to conserve the bodies. For this step novel approaches are put into use in order to keep the body the way it is. Peat bogs are ideal for human preservation for a variety of reasons. Proper human preservation in this setting calls for anaerobic, acidic, and wet conditions to be present in order for the skin to be preserved. The bogs of Europe house all three of the aforementioned conditions. It is also suggested that bodies are preserved in sphagnum peat bogs because they are tanned by sphagnan- a pectin like polysaccharide from the cell walls of sphagnum mosses. Additionally sphagnum aids in preservation by “reacting with the digestive enzymes secreted by putrefactive bacteria and immobilizing them on the surface of the peat.” Sphagnan binds with proteins on the surface of microorganisms in a way that immobilizes them whilst removing them from the water. Sphagnan’s highly reactive carbonyl groups can alter the chemicals and nutrients necessary for the decomposition of a piece of organic matter. The groups found in sphagnan essentially connect collagen molecules, this preserves them from degradation. By linking the collagen fibers,
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