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The Haraldskaer Woman is one of the only human remains from the pre-Roman Iron Age

Marija Georgievska

The Haraldskaer Woman is a body found naturally preserved in a bog in Jutland, Denmark. The body was found by workers in 1835 while excavating peat on the Haraldskaer estate. She was one of the first bog bodies studied by archaeologists. Excavators found the body in an excellent state, preserved in a supine position.

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Haraldskaer Woman. Image by: Wikipedia/Public Domain

She was naked, and her clothes (a leather cape and three woolen garments) had been placed on top of her. The body was pinned down by branches and wooden poles. The entire skin envelope and the internal organs were both intact.

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Haraldskaer estate, 1857. Image by: Wikipedia/Public Domain

When the body was re-examined in 2000 by the Department of Forensic Science at the University of Aarhus, they found that her stomach content revealed a diet of unhusked millet and blackberries.

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Her skin was deeply bronzed with a robust skin tone due to tannins in the peat. Image by: Wikipedia/Public Domain

Some believe that the remains are those of the Norwegian queen Gunhild. According to history, she was killed and drowned in a bog at the instigation of the Danish king Harald Bluetooth. However, no one has proved the Haraldskaer Woman has any royal lineage.

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Her teeth were analyzed. It shows that she grew up in the same area as she died. Image by: Nationalmuseet/CC BY 3.0

In 1977, scientists settled disputes about the age and identity of this well-preserved body; they determined that the woman’s death occurred around the 5th century BCE during the pre-Roman Iron Age, predating the period in which Queen Gunhild lived by some 1,500 years.

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Haraldskaer Woman on display in a glass-covered sarcophagus in Vejle. Image by: Hideko Bondesen/CC BY-SA 2.5

 

 

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St Nicolai Church, Denmark. Image by: Hideko Bondesen/CC BY-SA 2.5

A CT-scan of the cranium more accurately determined her age to be about 40 years old. She died in good health without signs of degenerative diseases (such as arthritis) which are typically found in human remains of that age. The body of the Haraldskaer Woman is on display in a glass-covered sarcophagus in the northern transept of St Nicolai Church in Vejle, Denmark.