Haraldskær Woman – Vejle Municipality, Denmark - Atlas Obscura
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Vejle Municipality, Denmark

Haraldskær Woman

Bog body on display in Danish church. 

In 1835, while excavating some peat on an estate in Jutland, Denmark, farmers found a female body lying supine in a bog. Once the farmers removed the layers of branches that covered the body, they saw that she was naked and had a leather cape and woolen garments folded atop her abdomen. If not for the antiquated garb, the farmers––because of the excellent condition of the body–– thought the woman had died only recently.

Once the body was taken to a lab for further examination, forensic biologists marveled at her well-preserved skin, deeply bronzed because of the tannins in the peat. Every single organ in her body remained intact, with no sign of degenerative disease. The doctors determined she was about 50 at her time of death in 490 BC; they determined she stood about 4’11.

In 2000, scientists revisited the case of the Hardaldskaer Woman (named for the estate where she was discovered), and found that her stomach content revealed a diet of unhusked millet and blackberries. They also found a distinct bruising around her neck, suggesting that a rope had once been tied around this area. Scientists also assumed that the woman had already died before the branches fell over her, pinning her body further down into the bog. Because of her nudity, careful placement in the bog, and since cremation was the most popular way to intern someone in that period of Jutland, the scientists deduced that the Haraldskaer Woman was a victim of religious sacrifice.

Now the Haraldskaer Woman rests in an ornately carved sarcophagus in the St. Nicolai Church in Vejle, Denmark. There is only a simple glass covering over the body; she seems to rest peacefully as visitors the world over pay homage to one of the only human remains of the Iron Age.

Update August 2018: Due to renovations, the church is closed until December 2019.

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