Peat… moss…

In the north of England, marshy swampy areas are known as mosses, and they are often exploited for their peat; peat is compressed, decayed vegetation which has often been laid down over thousands and thousands of years. When dried it can be used as a fuel, and it can also be used to enrich garden soil, especially in areas where it is full of clay and without all the lovely organic material which ensures a good crop.

We have a lot of peat in Somerset, but the area where it is, isn’t called the moss, but the levels; similarly the peaty landscape of East Anglia is called the Fens. Because this material is so ancient, peat diggers often come across things which were buried centuries and millennia ago. This can be tools or weapons or remains of old trackways or boats or houses… and even people.

The bog people are well-known and there has been a huge amount of research into these preserved bodies which allow us a glimpse into the past. The state of preservation is so good that even their fingernails are discernible and their faces too… and they look just like us (of course, I can never understand why people are surprised by this.) Their stomach contents can be analysed, the clothes examined by textile experts and all sorts of amazing facts and details revealed by the technology we have now.

We used to live in the north of England and there was great excitement when a bog body was discovered in Lindow Moss; I remember the excavators being interviewed about their find and they kept referring to a guy called Pete, who I assumed was a fellow worker. The interviewer ended the clip by remarking, “…and back to the studio from us all here at Lindow, and especially Pete Moss.” I was puzzled who this might be… I did feel foolish when I discovered that it was the workers’ nick-name for the bog body, they’d called him Peat Moss!

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_prb/l/lindow_man.aspx

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