When we look at Lindow Man, we are looking at the present, not the past. This man's death is happening now, before your eyes, you can see him suffer. His face has the power of some howling horror mask painted by Rubens, but pain and time, not art, made this. The way the skin has aged in its peat prison enhances, rather than confuses, the man's contorted features. His eyes are clenched and lowered in infinite sadness, his neck bent so his head rests hopelessly on his chest, as if in final surrender. He gives up the ghost as they take him out to kill him. And killed he was: around his throat is the tight cord that was used to garrotte him, left tied around his torn neck when they threw him in the bog. When the bog man was forensically examined, this turned out to be just one of the brutalities perpetrated on him. First, his head was savagely beaten, then he was garrotted, then his throat was cut. In his stomach was a last meal of wheaten griddle cakes and mistletoe. That last item betrays his killers - and they're still around.
Happy summer solstice, indeed. There's also a nice riff in the article on how dreaming prehistory as an Other World can do some anticolonial work:
Like today's archaeologists who argue that Britain had its own sophisticated culture before the Roman invasion, [18th- century archaeologist William] Stukeley was an anti-imperialist. In arguing that all Britain's megalithic art was created by the druids, he turned Roman propaganda on its head, since they claimed their conquest of Britain was justified to suppress this supposedly savage religious order. "An incalculable debt is owed to the Romans who destroyed their monstrous practices," wrote Pliny the Elder. The first Roman observer of the druids, Julius Caesar, was not only a great general but a pungent writer: his own account of his campaigns in Gaul and Britain is still sensational reading not least because of what he says about the druids. He accuses them of human sacrifice: sometimes they even put their victims inside a gigantic wicker man, he says, and burned them alive.
Stukeley turned the savage druids described by Caesar, Pliny and other Roman writers into philosopher-bards; indeed, Caesar admits the druids held long discussions about the nature of the universe. For an 18th-century radical like William Blake, the druids and Stonehenge represent a lost British utopia, and the tradition lives at the solstice.
We now know, of course, that Stonehenge is far more ancient than the druids. Yet we academics are still taking part in Stukeley's mission: arguing that the societies of the distant past were not less complex than contemporary ones, that they (like us) mixed their barbarism with artfulness and achievement. The British Isles have been home to sophisticated peoples for millennia. We're still decoding the complicated messages they sent into a future so distant that they could not possibly have imagined it, a megalithic version of the Long Now. So add this to our list of humanisms: the enduring desire to send beyond the horizon of our own mortality messages to be received and interpreted by future peoples whom we want to know that we lived, we were here, we did something in this land and at this time.