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The Egtved Girl: The incredibly well-preserved remains of a Nordic Bronze Age girl found in a barrow in Denmark in 1921

Neil Patrick

The Egtved Girl was a Nordic Bronze Age girl whose well-preserved remains were discovered outside Egtved, Denmark in 1921. Aged 16–18 at death, she was slim, 160 cm tall (about 5 ft 3 in), had short, blond hair and well-trimmed nails.

Her burial has been dated by analysis of to 1370 BC. She was discovered together with cremated remains of a child in a barrow approximately 30 metres wide and 4 metres high. Only the girl’s hair, brain, teeth, nails and a little of her skin remain preserved.

 

Egtvedpigen at the National Museum in Copenhagen. Bronze Age corpse, died in summer 1370 BC Source

Egtvedpigen at the National Museum in Copenhagen. Bronze Age corpse, died in summer 1370 BC Source

 

Treetrunk coffin of the Egtved Girl at the National Museum of Denmark.Source

Treetrunk coffin of the Egtved Girl at the National Museum of Denmark.Source

The barrow was excavated in 1921, and an east-west aligned coffin was found. It was transported in sealed conditions to the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, where it was opened and the Egtved Girl discovered.

 

Barrow and museum near Egtved..Source

Barrow and museum near Egtved..Source

She was buried fully dressed on a cowhide in the coffin. She wore a loose bodice with sleeves reaching the elbow. She had a bare waist and wore a short string skirt.

She had bronze bracelets and a woolen belt with a large disc decorated with spirals and a spike. At her feet were the cremated remains of a child age 5–6. By her head there was a small birch bark box which contained an awl, bronze pins and a hair net.

 

Barrow and museum near Egtved Source

Barrow and museum near Egtved Source

Before the coffin was closed she was covered with a blanket and a cowhide. Flowering yarrow (indicating a summer burial) and a bucket of beer made of wheat, honey, bog-myrtle and cowberries were placed atop.

Her distinctive outfit, which caused a sensation when it was unearthed in the 1920s, is the best preserved example of a style now known to be common in Northern Europe during the Bronze Age. The fantastic state of preservation of Egtved girl is due to the acidic bog conditions of the soil, which is a common condition of this locale.

Remains of the Egtved Girl. Source

Remains of the Egtved Girl. Source

 

Replica of the Egtved Girl's outfit.Source

Replica of the Egtved Girl’s outfit.Source

 

Analysis of strontium in her hair, nails and teeth indicate that she probably originates from the Black Forest, and had traveled a lot. Her outfit was reconstructed for the National Museum of Denmark by the Lejre Experimental Centre and is on display there. A reconstructed set of clothes, as well as details of the excavation, are on display in the Egtved Girl’s museum at the excavation site.