Research highlight

Archaeology: The life story of a Bronze Age female

Scientific Reports

May 21, 2015

A detailed analysis of the remains of a high-status Danish Bronze Age female, known as the Egtved Girl, reveals information about her movements, what she ate, and where her clothes came from. It seems that the Egtved Girl originated from a place outside present-day Denmark and travelled back and forth over large distances during last two years of her life. The findings, published in Scientific Reports this week, offer insights into the movements of high-status European Bronze Age individuals.

The Egtved Girl, a 16-18 year old female, was discovered in the Danish village of Egtved in an oak coffin, calculated to have been buried around 3,400 years ago. Her well-preserved hair, teeth, nails and clothes have enabled Karin M Frei and colleagues to trace the life story of this iconic female. Ratios of different strontium isotopes in the tooth enamel do not match up with characteristic rages in Denmark, indicating that she did not originate from Denmark. Isotopic analysis of the wool used to make her clothes indicates that it was gathered from outside present-day Denmark. The authors suggest that the girl and her garments may have originated from the Black Forest in south-western Germany, although they cannot rule out other parts of Europe. Her 23-cm long hair provides a record of her movements during at least the last 23 months of her life. Isotope signatures in the most recent hair segment (grown in the last 4-6 months of her life) and in her fingernails imply that she travelled from a place distant to Egtved shortly before to her death. Further analysis of her hair shows that she had a varied terrestrial diet with intervals of reduced protein intake.

doi: 10.1038/srep10431

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