The Arnish Moor Bog Body

Of all the the things you can study as a historian, surviving original items can be some of the most accurate and helpful sources there are. I am aware of four bog bodies have been uncovered thus far in Scotland, dating to periods within or likely close to those featured on this blog. One was found in Gunnister, Shetland; another in Quintfall Hill, Caithness; and this fellow here, found on Arnish Moor in the Isle of Lewis. Also very common in Ireland, these types of bodies are often the victims of murder or exposure, and met a regrettable unceremonious death in a bog one way or another, only to be effectively mummified by the bog and found by peat-cutters centuries later.


Everything I’ve learned about this body stems from the in-depth writeup about this find, by Helen Burnett. That article can be found here.

I will however note some takeaways for living historians of this period. It’s up for speculation whether this man wore breeches, that possibly disintegrated in the bog; a plaid, which may have been stolen from him upon his burial; or simply by linen drawers alone, worn under the long shirt you see in the image above. The point is that this image probably does not paint the full picture of this man’s day-to-day outfit, as creasemarks were present on his undershirt, suggesting a garment with a waistband of sorts was worn. Remember that the climate of the Hebrides was colder than it is even today!

Also, tartan is scarce to be found on this man–only on the inner fabrics of his pocket. So yes, these are the Highlands and the Islands, but let’s not be afraid of making those solid wool garments, folks!

One other notable mention: cloth strips were used as garters to hold up his stockings, as opposed to a wool or linen twill tape.


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