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Perfect Corpse, The

Viewing Ideas

Before Watching

  1. Have students share what they know about bogs from firsthand experiences or depictions on TV or in the movies. What do they think bogs are like? Discuss with students what bogs are. (Bogs are spongy, water-soaked areas that have layers of moss and peat and layers of other organic compounds such as organic acids and aldehydes). How might the bodies discovered in bogs be different from the human remains found at dry sites? (Bog environments—which are characterized by a lack of oxygen in the peat—prevent bacteria from growing and contain acids that make skin leathery and can preserve the soft tissue of bodies. Bones often dissolve. The eyes, hair, skin, and inner organs are sometimes well preserved, and the contents of the stomach can often be analyzed. In a dry, open, aerobic environment, soft tissue decomposes over time, and bones remain.) What can preserved bodies tell us? (The bodies can potentially reveal information about when the people lived, how they lived, and how they died.)

  2. Have students research and map some of the regions where bogs are common and where bog bodies have been found. (Some regions include North and Northwest Europe, including the Netherlands, England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, and Germany.)

  3. In the program, the bog bodies are dated to the Early Iron Age. Have students research the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. Students should briefly describe each period, when it occurred, why dates for each age are not uniform worldwide, and how its name may have been derived. (The ages reflect growth and development. Dates differ in Europe and the Americas. Ages and dates are best applied in relation to specific locations. The Stone Age generally dates from about 2 million years ago to 4000 B.C. in Europe and 30,000 B.C. to 2500 B.C. in the New World. The Bronze Age dates to around 1500 B.C. in Europe. The Iron Age dates to about 1000 B.C. in southern Europe and later in northern Europe. Cultures outside of Europe are not easily categorized in this three-age system as they developed at different rates and, at times, through different stages. Each age was named for the material that was primarily used during that time to make tools and weapons.)

  4. Organize students into six groups, three to take notes on information about the bog body Oldcroghan Man and three to record information about Clonycavan Man. Assign each set of the three groups one of the following topics: physical characteristics of the body, techniques used to analyze the body and conclusions drawn, and the possible reasons the body was put in the bog.

After Watching

  1. Have students who took notes on the same topics meet, compare their notes, and share what they learned.

  2. Have each of the six groups meet, compare their notes, and share their information with the class about their assigned topics. Discuss the conclusions scientists drew about the bog bodies. Which conclusions did students have the most confidence in? Why? Which conclusions did students have the least confidence in? Why?

  3. In the program, Oldcroghan Man's height is estimated to be almost two meters. The estimate was obtained by measuring the body's arm span. Pair students and have them measure each other's arm span and height. (When measuring height, shoes should be off; when measuring arm span, measurements should be taken across the back from fingertip to fingertip of outstretched arms.) How do the two measurements compare? How consistent is the ratio of the two measurements across the entire class? Have students compile and graph class data in a scatter plot and show the best fit line.

  4. Oldcroghan Man and Clonycavan Man were the subject of an 18-month investigation by a team that included international scientists, museum conservators, and historians. Make a chart or list on the board of each of the kinds of scientists featured in the program, and have students describe the different types of information each type contributed to this investigation.


Type of Information

Marie Cassidy, state pathologist

used modern forensic pathology to analyze injuries; measured height; noted skull injuries

Rolly Reed, head of conservation at National Museum

reproduced burial conditions in bog; took carbon-14 samples to date the bodies

Isabella Mulhall, Ned Kelly, and Tim Taylor, archeologists

reported on overall condition of the body; had bodies scanned (both CT and MRI) to study damage; read ancient writings to understand reasons for the deaths

Patrick Doyle, museum conservator

compared condition of bodies to other bodies at the National Museum in Ireland; made sure bodies didn't deteriorate during the investigation

Don Brothwell, soft tissue remains expert

provided information on age and condition of tissue; analyzed hair along with archeologists and conservation experts; analyzed stomach contents

Michael Macken, detective

participated in fingerprint analysis

Dr. Andrew Wilson, paleodietary expert and bioarcheologist; Dr. Joan Fletcher, professor

analyzed fingernail growth to learn about season of death; analyzed hair and diet to understand lifestyle

Paul Mulachy, archeologist

used X-ray fluorescence of metal to find and date its chemical composition

Valerie Hall, environmental archeologist

analyzed inhaled particles

Miranda Green, historian

offered insight into sacrificial rituals

Teacher's Guide
Perfect Corpse, The
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