Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4-1 (October 2012)Raffaella Bianucci; Don Brothwell; Wijnand van der Sanden; Christina Papageorgopoulou; Paul Gostner; Patrizia Pernter; Eduard Egarter-Vigl; Frank Maixner; Marek Janko; Dario Piombino-Mascali; Grazia Mattutino; Frank Rühlis; Albert Zink: A possible case of dyschondrosteosis in a bog body from the Netherlands
6 Possible archaeological significance

6.1 Zweeloo Woman today (2011)

Zweeloo Woman was an adult female who lived some time between the late 1st and early 3rd century AD. She died at an age between about 35 and 50 years. Under normal circumstances a local woman would have been cremated and the remains buried at the local cemetery. Her final resting place, however, was a pit in a bog in which she was disposed of probably naked in a somewhat foetal position. Her last meal most probably consisted of a gruel based mainly on millet, perhaps also containing the blackberries whose pips indicate a death in late summer-early autumn.

The new series of investigations carried out on this bog body confirm the previous tentative diagnosis of dyschondrosteosis as the cause of the disability that affected Zweeloo Woman during her life. Zweeloo Woman was of short stature, and may have appeared somewhat bizarre to others due to her physical deformity. Whether she died an unnatural death it is not known with certainty because no unambiguous signs of external violence are visible on her skin, but the fact that her hair was cut not long before her death may indicate that her death was not natural (Asingh 2007, 293). Her unusual burial may well be connected with her deformity having afforded her a specific place in society. It is very tempting to associate her physical appearance with her unusual treatment, i.e. being buried in a bog. There are other bog bodies showing body defects or anomalies: Bolkilde Man was crippled, the Døjringe Men had defects in their upper arms, Yde Girl suffered from scoliosis and Lindow Man (III) had a hand with an extra digit, to name only a few examples spanning a period of several millennia (see Van der Sanden 1996, 138-143). However, because our dataset is so small and deficient, the possibility that the physical condition played a role in the selection process by which people were earmarked for an unusual death/burial in a bog will probably continue to remain an attractive hypothesis.