The Egtved Girl’s Mummy Controversy

Reproduced clothes of the Egtved Girl and her coffin, displayed in museum

In mid-1921, the Egtved area on the Jutland peninsula, present-day Denmark, was being explored by archaeological expeditions. Excavations were looking for ancient artifacts when they found a very unusual coffin.

Beneath the ground, a well-preserved oak trunk concealed secrets that the experts present had hardly expected to find. Everyone knew that this find would have to be opened with due precautions.

The coffin was thus sealed and transported to the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. In the institution, its lid was finally lifted, revealing a mummy from the Bronze Age that would cause several controversies when displayed in exhibitions.

Box of surprises

Immediately after opening the coffin, scientists realized that, in life, the mummy was a young woman. Thus, the discovery was named Egtved Girl and her remains were subjected to various tests.

From the very first analyses, it became clear that the young woman died between the ages of 16 and 18. Owner of well-preserved blonde hair, the girl was about 1.60 meters tall and had well-trimmed nails.

The next step was to try to find out the period in which the young woman had been buried. Closer research has indicated that the girl died around 1370 BC, around 3,400 years ago.

The reproduced Egtved Girl’s clothes and the inside of her coffin

Inside the trunk

Overall, the Egtved Girl has had her teeth, hair, nails, brain and some skin preserved over time. Along with his remains, his clothes have resisted aging and showed signs of wool and leather.

Wrapped in a large piece of ox skin, the young woman wore a bodice with elbow-length sleeves and a short skirt, which left her waist exposed. At her feet, the remains of a cremated child, dead at age 5 or 6, lay in the coffin.

The Egtved Girl also wore bronze bracelets and a woolen belt with a large buckle decorated with spirals. At his head height, a small birch box held an awl, bronze pins, and a hairnet.

The young woman would still have been buried with food and drink, in a kind of ritual for the afterlife. In her tomb, a bucket of wheat beer, honey, myrtle and papayas were found by the expedition.

Mysteries and controversies

As soon as the Egtved Girl was exhibited at the National Museum of Denmark, her clothes caused quite a stir. To conservative society in the 1920s, the young woman’s short skirt was a scandal — despite being the best-preserved example of Northern European clothing in the Bronze Age.

Appropriate clothing or not, the scientists wanted to find out what would have kept certain parts of the young Norse woman’s body in excellent condition. It was then declared that the culprit was the acidic swamp conditions of the soil — a very common feature in the place where it was found.

Then tests and analyzes were done on their tissues in order to discover their origin. In this way, scientists announced that the Egtved Girl would have been born in the Black Forest region of Germany and later moved to Denmark.

Egtved Girl Museum, built on the spot where she was found, in Denmark

Legacies of a young woman from the past

In order to keep the girl’s memory alive, the Lejre Experimental Center reconstructed the clothes worn by the young woman. Next to the coffin, the pieces are on display at the National Museum of Denmark.

Years later, researchers Thomsen and Andreasen ran some more tests on the remains of the Egtved Girl. From the results it was claimed that she was born and raised in the Egtved area and would not have traveled far at any time.

In 2019, Sophie Bergerbrant suggested, after studying the young woman’s isotopes, that she was originally from Sweden or Norway. More recent studies led by Karin Margarita Frei, however, indicate that she traveled to Egtved a month before she died.

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