bog bodies

Denmark: Silkeborg Museum


I’m going to be brutally honest here: no one is going to Silkeborg Museum because they’re desperately keen to see an exhibition on the colour blue, or some antique tables.  If Silkeborg is on your itinerary at all, it’s because you want to see Tollund Man.  And why not?  He is the best preserved bog body that’s ever been discovered, so if you’re into that kind of thing, this is the place to come.  My boyfriend and I had a busy day ahead of us, so upon arriving shortly after they opened, we paid our DKK 50 admission, and headed directly over to Tollund Man, who is kept in the new museum building, across a courtyard from the old one.


I’ve seen other bog bodies at the National Museum of Ireland, but those were just sort of shrivelly things wrapped in cloth, with half the body missing in most of the cases.  To be honest, they kind of looked like people who’d been crushed by steamrollers.  Not Tollund Man, though.  As you can tell from the picture at the start of this post, he is superb (and positively plump by bog men standards!).  According to a sign in the museum, his body had to be reconstructed because the condition deteriorated, but the head is original, and the detail is incredible, especially considering he died, oh, about 2400 years ago.  Tollund Man gets his own special room, one of those ones where the light slowly flickers on when you walk in, which adds to the anticipation.  The Silkeborg Museum is also home to Elling Woman, but she’s one of those smashed-looking bog bodies, and as such is thrown in with the rest of the Iron Age collection, which, in a bizarrely literal interpretation of the term “Iron Age” also includes a set of chain mail that you’re welcome to try on if you can lift it off its hanger.  I was afraid I’d fall over if I did manage to get it over my head, so I left it.

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As I stated at the beginning, the rest of Silkeborg Museum wasn’t terribly memorable.  I did in fact go have a look at the blue things (blue is my favourite colour after all), which mostly consisted of fabric and blue kitchenware (seemingly quite common in Denmark, and I totally want some). The rest of the museum appeared to be devoted to local history, and the only English to be found was in the form of a laminated sheet of paper that briefly described the theme of each room.

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I’m struggling to recall what else was in there;  I think the obligatory mention of Vikings, and some stuff on local crafts and trade, and the history of Silkeborg Castle.  To be fair, the museum was under construction when we visited, so I think a couple of rooms were closed off.  I do remember the glass collection (largely because I have the picture of it) and a few rooms done up Victorian style – I think one of them had a table owned by Hans Christian Andersen in it.


So to sum up (and so quickly today too!), Tollund Man is fabulous, and well worth seeing if you’re nearby (but probably not worth a significant detour), but I don’t think you need to spend more than about half an hour at the rest of Silkeborg Museum.  The main attraction is Tollund Man, and I think they know it – whilst the Iron Age gallery was fairly informative, and appeared reasonably thoughtfully put together, everything else just kind of seemed like an afterthought.  2/5 for the museum as a whole, but Tollund Man gets 5/5.