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NOVA: Ghosts Of Murdered Kings

Airs Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 9 p.m. & Sunday, July 6 at 3 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Tollund Man, an Iron Age bog body, found in 1950 in a peat bog on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. The man's physical features were so well-preserved that he was mistaken at the time of discovery for a recent murder victim.

Courtesy of © National Museum of Ireland

The NMI team excavate Cashel Man.

Courtesy of © National Museum of Ireland

Old Croghan Man, (Seanfhear Chruacháin in Irish), is a well-preserved Iron Age bog body found in an Irish bog in June 2003.

Courtesy of © National Museum of Ireland

Close-up of Old Croghan Man's hand showing the remarkable preservation of the skin and nail.

Explore the science behind the headlines in PBS’ premier science series. With compelling stories and spectacular visuals, NOVA programs demystify science and technology for viewers of all ages and spotlight people involved in scientific pursuits.

"Ghosts Of Murdered Kings" - In the hills of Ireland’s County Tipperary, a laborer harvesting peat from a dried-up bog spots the remnants of a corpse — a headless torso almost perfectly preserved and stained dark brown by the bog.

Archaeologists recognize it as one of Europe’s rare bog bodies: prehistoric corpses flung into the marshes. The corpse eventually will be dated to the Bronze Age, more than 4,000 years ago. Forensic evidence reveals a shockingly violent death.

NOVA follows archaeologists and forensic experts in their hunt for clues to the identity and the circumstances of this and other violent deaths of bog body victims.

A new theory emerges that they are ritually murdered kings, slain to assure the fertility of land and people. NOVA’s ancient detective story opens a tantalizing window on the beliefs of Europe’s long-vanished prehistoric peoples.

10 Ways To Make A Mummy

For many people the word "mummy" conjures up images of linen-wrapped royalty from ancient Egypt. But for scientists it describes any body that retains soft tissue—most often skin, but sometimes even eyes and internal organs—long after death. Peat bogs in Europe made mummies, and so did a cave in Greenland and a mountaintop in the Alps. In this slide show, examine both natural forces and artificial techniques that have created mummies around the world. (Courtesy of Susan K. Lewis, 2006)

Past episodes of NOVA are available for online viewing. NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Video

NOVA: Ghosts Of Murdered Kings Preview

Above: Bronze age bog bodies reveal the strange beliefs of the long-vanished peoples of Europe.