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Haraldskær Woman

    Image:Haraldskaerwoman.jpg|thumb|180px|Haraldskaer Woman in glass covered coffin Velje Denmark
    The Haraldskaer Woman is a well preserved Iron age mummy naturally preserved in a bog in Jutland Denmark The body was discovered by labourers in the year 1835 by peat excavation work on the Haraldskaer Estate For well over a century there was a dispute regarding the age and identity of thi mysterious well preserved body until radiocarbon testing in 1977 determined conclusively her death to have occurred around 500 BCHaraldskaer Woman: Bodies of the Bogs Archaeological Institute of America December 10, 1997
    The body of Haraldskaer Woman is remarkably preserved due to the anaerobic conditions of the peat bog in which whe was found Not only the intact skeleton was found but also the full skin and internal organs Her body lies in state in an ornate glass covered coffin allowing viewingDenmark 2006 Fodor of the full frontal body inside the Church of Saint Nicolas in central Velje Denmark

    Mistaken identity

    Saint Nicolas Church Velje Denmark

    After discovery of the body early theories of her identity centered around the persona of the Norwegian Queen Gunhilde who lived at around the time of 1000 AD. This archaeological find was actually one of the earliest bog bodies discovered the other two most well known being Tolland Man (Denmark) and Lindow Man (United Kingdom) Therefore the radiochemical dating methods did not exist in any form in the 19th century Most of the specimens recovered indicate the victim died from a violent murder or ritualistic sacrifice These theories are consistent with the body being hurled into a bog as opposed to burial in dry earth
    From the Jomsvinga saga Queen Gunhild was supposedly murdered and then drowned in a bog her death having been ordered by the Danish King Harald Blatand Based upon the belief of her royal personage King Frederick VI commanded an elaborate sarcophagus be carved to hold her body This royal treatment of Haraldskaer Woman’s remains explains the excellent state of conservation of the corpse as of 2006; conversely Tollund Man a later discovery was not properly conserved and most of the body has been lost leaving only the head as original material in his display
    A young 19th century archaeologist named JJA Worsaae held the opposing theory that Haraldskaer Woman derived from the Iron Age Radiocarbon testing in the year 1977 revealed Haraldskaer woman died about 500 BC, and thus could not possibly be Queen Gunhild This vindication of the early age of origin was a posthumous victory for Worsaae and other scientists who held that view over a century earlier Even though she is not now connected to any royal lineage her body is in state within a display of high honour in the north nave of Saint Nicolas Church

    Details of Haraldskaer Woman

    The body of Haraldskaer woman has the complete skin envelope intact as well as internal organs She is estimated to have died at the age of approximately 50. She is noted to have a lancing would to the knee joint area where some object (possibly a sharp branch) penetrated at depthHvass (1998) Whether she was a murder victim or a ritualistic sacrifice is not clear In any case the body is in a remarkable state of preservation Haraldskaer Woman exhibits a breathtaking state of preservation with fewer skin wrinkles than many 21st century living humans Her skin is deeply bronzed with robust skin tone and all the body joints are preserved with overlying skin in a state as if she died a year ago albeit slightly desiccated
    Forensic analysis was performed on Haraldskaer Woman in the year 2000 revealing stomach contents of undehusked millet and blackberries Her neck had markings as if a rope may have been applied for torture or strangulation A determination was made that death was a form of ritual killing as indicated by forensic data and also since cremation was the prevailing mode of interment in that age in Jutland
    Haraldskaer Woman was likely a member of the Cimbri tribe which is more closely related to Celtic rather than Germanic peoples The Cimbri are thought to have engaged in ritualistic sacrifice a practice which may have included Haraldskaer Woman as a victim This tribe has been analyzed to have a Y-chromosome genetic marker known as S28 which is a unique indicator of Cimbri people This genetic marker is known to be associated with certain Iron Age inhabitants of Jutland around the time of Haraldskaer Woman’s lifetime

    Bog chemistry

    There are a limited number of bogs which have existed for millenia that have the correct conditions for preservation of mammalian tissue Most of these bogs seem to occur in England and northern EuropeBog Bodies: Reluctant Time Travelers University of Texas El Paso (2005) These bogs are formed in areas which lack meaningful drainage and hence have little freshwater exchange; they are also characterized by virtually completely anaerobic conditions This environment devoid of oxygen denies the prevalent subsurface aerobic organisms any opportunity to initiate the tissue decay process Modern experimenters have been able to mimic bog conditions in the laboratory and demonstrate the preservation process well albeit over shorter time frames than the 2500 years Haraldskaer Woman has survived
    The bog chemistry environment involves a completely saturated acidic environment where considerable concentrations of organic acids and aldehydes are presentCM Hogan Chemistry of Acidic Bogs and Mosses of Northern Europe Lumina Press Aberdeen July 15, 2006 Layers of aphagnum and peat assist in preserving the cadavers by enveoping the tissue in an immobilizating matrix impeding water circulation and any oxygenation

    Relation to other bog bodies

    Approximately 700 ancient bodies have been discovered as of the year 2006 although most of them have some aspects of decay or else were not properly conserved When such specimens are exposed to the normal atmosphere without special conservation techniques they may rapidly begin the decomposition process As a result of such mishandling many specimens have been effectively destroyed An additional feature of anaerobic preservation by acidic bogs is the ability to conserve hair clothing and leather items An excellent example of the complete scalp hair as well as clothing attire being preserved is for the Iron Age Egtved Girl also recovered in Jutland Denmark
    Geographically the principal locations where bog bodies have been discovered are Denmark the United Kingdom Germany Holland and Ireland Many of the bodies have been recovered in the routine extraction of peat for fuel and soil amendment uses The oldest of these bodies dates to about 8000 BC, while the majority of specimens derive from the Iron Age to Roman era (about 800 BC to 400 AD) Major excavations have occurred in Jutland following the discovery that systematic conservation of Iron Age bodies and buildings were attributed to acidic anaerobic bog habitatsHelena Hamerow Early Medieval Settlements: The Archaeology of Rural Communities in North-West Europe 400-900 Oxford University Press ISBN:0199246971

    Haraldskaer Woman in literature

    The first literary reference to Haraldskaer Woman was in the 1845 work of Danish playright Jens Christian HostrupJens Christian Hostrup The Sparrow and the Crane Dance (1845) This dramatic work The Sparrow and the Crane Dance portrays Queen Gunhild as a mysterious personage who vapourizes before a tailor to present him with a magical ring The gift alters the way people perceive the beneficiary and transforms him into a heroic figure The play ridicules the bourgeoisie's inability to engage the realities of the mid-nineteenth century and the work indirectly discredits the theory that the Haraldskaer Woman was actually Queen Gunhild thus becoming the first major public endorsement of Worsaae’s hypothesis


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