In an earlier Blog I wrote about scanning the head of Worsley Man as part of a research project carried out by a team of specialists from Manchester and Nottingham universities and other organisations .
One of the new findings to emerge from the recent study was the discovery of a previously undocumented third cervical (neck) vertebra, which had a section created by the chopping action of a sword, or, just possibly, the action of a saw. The team wanted to study the section in more detail using a high resolution scanner to verify how the head was removed from the body. This may appear macabre but there is evidence that some bog bodies were dismembered and parts disposed of in different locations, possibly marking the boundaries of a territory or for other reasons that we can only speculate about.
Last week Sam Sportun, Senior Conservator at Manchester Museum, and I went over to the Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility on the university campus to speak to staff about the practicalities of scanning Worsley Man’s head. We’d like to know whether the section of the damaged vertebra was cut or sawn; whether the cord buried in the flap of soft tissue that survives does indeed go around the neck as a garotte; and what is the composition of anomalous material in a tooth? But the technology will investigate more nuanced questions which we are only just beginning to appreciate.
However, before we reach that point we’d like to gather any comments about the proposed work. Human remains in museums are an important source of information for learning about life in the past. We accept that material of this kind has different meanings to different people and we’d welcome any comments in advance of scanning Worsley Man.
When John Connelly came across the human head whilst was stacking peat blocks on Worsley Moss in August 1958 little can he have imagined the long-term research ramifications of his discovery. The head has been the subject of a Coroner’s Inquest, an exhibit in a Pathology display, a museum specimen and now the proposed subject of a detailed scanning.
Incidentally if anyone knows of Mr Connelly or his family we’d be really interested to hear from you.