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Questions about early man

How does a bog preserve the bodies and object? What preserves best in bogs, and why?
   Adam, Web Post

Dr. dig responds:
Peat bogs are acidic wetlands, where plants grow and die at a faster rate than they rot. Below the bog surface, the dead but undecayed remains of the plants are transformed into peat, a useful fuel and garden soil. Because the peat is waterlogged (full of water), it holds very little oxygen, and so the microorganisms that cause decay cannot survive. The acidity of the bog also helps to prevent the development of the rot-causing microorganisms. Scientists have recently realized that sphagnum moss, a type of moss often found in bogs, also contributes to the preservation process by extracting calcium from bones, giving the micro-organisms less on which to feed. This means that if a body is completely submerged in the peat bog soon after death, it will not rot and its soft tissues—skin, hair and internal organs—will be preserved. But the action of the sphagnum moss means that the bones of these bodies are often decalcified (lacking in calcium), which makes them floppy and even occasionally causes the bones to vanish, while their skin is tanned an unnatural dark brown.


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