The remains of a Viking have been rediscovered after being missing for more than a century. They were safely stored in a museum the whole time, but had been mislabelled.
The individual had been buried with expensive grave goods, suggesting they were an elite person or even royalty. They also seem to have been wearing long trousers with elaborate decorations.
The story of the Viking’s remains begins in 1868, near the village of Mammen in Denmark. A landowner named Laust Pedersen Skomager enlisted local farmers to help him remove the topsoil from a mound on his estate.
They found it concealed a wooden Viking burial chamber, now called Bjerringhøj. The farmers dug up the contents and shared them out, so when academics arrived on the scene soon after, they had first to recover the remains from their new owners.
A re-excavation of the site in 1986 determined that the burial took place in 970 or 971 AD, during the Viking age, but recovered few new artefacts. When the researchers looked for the original remains in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, they couldn’t find them, and a search of archives at the University of Copenhagen in 2009 didn’t uncover them either.
However, since 2018, Ulla Mannering at the National Museum of Denmark and her colleagues have been studying Viking-era textiles. As part of this research, they examined the remains from another burial site called Slotsbjergby that were being held at a museum.
One museum box held human bones along with textiles – yet the descriptions of Slotsbjergby made no mention of bones being found with associated textiles. “I was puzzled about it,” says Mannering.
It slowly dawned on the researchers that the bones might be the missing ones from Bjerringhøj. “We were all wow with this idea,” says Mannering. She says the team knew this could be controversial, so several analyses were required to verify the finding.
The researchers found that the number and types of bone match descriptions of the Bjerringhøj set exactly, as do the textiles. “We don’t doubt that these must be the things that actually belonged to Bjerringhøj,” says Mannering.
The Bjerringhøj Viking was an adult and probably male, according to the team. He was buried with various textiles, including wrist cuffs, a fragment of embroidered wool and several woven pieces that were seemingly used in ankle cuffs. This implies that the man was wearing long trousers, although these weren’t preserved.
Furthermore, the wrist cuffs and the pieces from the ankle cuffs are strikingly similar, says Mannering. “Of course, it was not the same object, but there seems to be an overall design idea.”
Journal reference: Antiquity, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2020.189
SOURCE: News Scientist
Marshal, Michael. “Viking remains lost for more than a century rediscovered in a museum”. News Sicentist. London. 04 may 2021. 05 may 2021. <https://www.newscientist.com/article/2276409-viking-remains-lost-for-more-than-a-century-rediscovered-in-a-museum/>.
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