Kid #2, however, gazed into the darkened case that houses his remains and her eyes grew large. "Is he going to be OK?" she whispered.
"No," replied her brother confidently. "He's dead."
"I don't want him to be dead!" she said. "I want him to be OK."
"We all die. He's dead. He isn't going to get any better."
The news wounded her. "I want Lindow Man to be OK! I don't want him to be dead!" These last repetitions were accompanied by profuse tears. Lindow Man's corpse was too much for a three year old to accept. In life this person had been savagely beaten. He'd been given mistletoe to drink. His throat had been slit. The British Museum website reads like a True Crime! report:
The man met a horrific death. He was struck on the top of his head twice with a heavy object, perhaps a narrow bladed axe. He also received a vicious blow in the back – perhaps from someone’s knee – which broke one of his ribs. He had a thin cord tied around his neck which was used to strangle him and break his neck. By now he was probably dead, but then his throat was cut. Finally, he was placed face down in a pond in the bog.Now Lindow Man is encased in glass, the resident of a museum display where hundreds look at his head, torso and arm every day, remarking upon how uncannily alive he looks but not feeling all that much for him. (I was told that he is the third most popular item in the BM, after the Rosetta Stone and Elgin Marbles).
Looking into the case, holding Kid #2's hand and running my hand through her hair, I suddenly wondered if anyone had ever grieved Lindow Man's passing. I wondered if my daughter, with her mind that cannot yet comprehend mortality but is beginning to see that all human lives end, I wondered if she was the first to mourn for Lindow Man.
(for an earlier post on Lindow Man, go here. Eileen's post on Time Forks got me thinking about this)
EDIT July 12
Here are some of the questions I've been contemplating as part of my research on this trip, questions that brought me to Lindow Man in the first place: Can the ancient past send legible messages to an uncertain future? Or is the future the people of history imagine simply a projection of their own present into eternity? Can an architecture or artifact really endure beyond such an inhuman temporal horizon, or are they destined to crumble, disaggregate, become mute? (Most dolmens and megalithic architectures -- the things we think will really endure -- tend to be reconstructions). Can the past communicate to us in a language of its own? In a transhistorical language? Or can the past be heard only in the auditor's language, an impoverished kind of listening? (Is Stonehenge Theirs, Ours, or Everyone's?) How do we treat ancient messages? As quarries for some quotidian uses? As sites in which to enact similar but related rites -- as in "numinous" areas that keep alive their sacrality in the movement from pagan to Christian? As museum exhibits? What is sacred about the past, or is reverence an impediment? At what point does a body interred in a grave (or thrown in a peat bog) become suitable for excavation and display? Under what conditions can a body be an object, and when is it a person? When is it sacred? When does it cease being human? Is a body buried with artifacts a message to the future, a letter to an uncertain receiver, a time capsule -- or instead a missive to lost gods and never to be opened by human hands? What happens to objects and people when they have become temporally enfolded? Can the older stories survive? How ought they to be commemorated, if at all?