Where Was She Journeying From? Yet Another Far-Traveling Bronze Age Teenage Girl is Discovered in Denmark
It must have been an exciting trip all those millennia ago when a 16- to 18-year-old girl traveled from elsewhere in Europe to Jutland in Denmark, only to die not long after. The tall teen was given an elite burial, and her remains were preserved somewhat by an oak coffin and burial mound.
Researchers are studying the Skrydstrup woman to determine exactly where in Europe she came from. Possibilities include Germany, the Czech Republic, France, or Sweden.
She is not the only far traveler to be found in Jutland, an area that shows evidence of Bronze Age wealth for its residents. The Egtved girl, who also died around age 16 to 18, also came from far away, analysis of the amount of strontium in her bones and teeth has shown.
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Strontium is an element that absorbs into teeth, bones and hair from foods and water. Scientists can examine the different isotopes of strontium in human remains and compare them to known amounts of the element from around Europe, in this case, to determine where the two women had lived.
“We can’t say with 100 per cent certainty where she [the Skrydstrup woman] came from, and we may never be able to, but she definitely wasn’t Danish. It gives us so many new perspectives. Now we know that Egtved Girl was not an isolated case,” archaeologist Karin Frei of the National Museum of Denmark told ScienceNordic .
The Skrydstrup woman’s oak casket helped preserve her remains for about 3,200 years. (Photo: National Museum of Denmark )
The Skydstrup woman’s remains were found in 1935. She is thought to have arrived in Skydstrup at age 13 or 14. She and the Egtved girl, who was found not far from Skydstrup, were buried in oak coffins in burial mounds, which the ScienceNordic article says was how the elites were laid to rest.
The stories of the two women do diverge somewhat. While the Skydstrup woman made just one long journey and then stayed there in Jutland, the Egtved girl apparently traveled a lot and was in Egtved only a few months before she died. She was buried with two men nearby, a further indication of her high status.
Neither of the teens had indications in their bones of a long illness. They seemed healthy and probably wanted for nothing, which prompts Dr. Frei and others to assume they were overtaken by a lethal infection, such as influenza. Any disease would have shown up in blood, but time and decay eliminated the blood in their bodies long ago.
Dr. Frei said the Skrydstrup woman probably cut an impressive figure at about 170 centimeters (5 feet 6 inches), with her hair piled on top of her head, adding about 10 cm (4 inches) to her stature. Her body was dressed in embroidered clothes, and gold hoop earrings adorned her ears.
“I see a very elegant woman. A queen-like figure. I’ve no doubt that when she came in through the door, people thought ‘wow’,” Frei told ScienceNordic.
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Hair and clothing found in the coffin of the Egtved Girl. (Credit: Karin Margarita Frei, National Museum of Denmark )
Researchers published results of a study a couple of years ago in the journal Nature detailing the results of modern tests on the Egtved girl, whose remains were found in 1921 in what is now a peat bog. Strontium isotope analysis on Egtved Girl’s molars, hair, and fingernails, combined with examination of her distinctive woolen clothing, have revealed she was born and raised hundreds of miles from her burial site in Egtved, in modern Denmark. Findings now show she likely came from The Black Forest of southwest Germany, and she traveled between the two locations via ship frequently in the last two years of her life.
Researchers say they expect the bodies, attire, and other oak-coffin and burial-mound graves of Bronze Age women in Denmark will help them better understand the role of women in that society.
Top image: Analysis of the remains of the Bronze Age Skrydstrup woman shows she traveled from elsewhere in Europe to Denmark around age 13 or 14 and died there a few years later. She was an important, physically attractive figure and was accorded an elite burial. (Photo: National Museum of Denmark )
By Mark Miller