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Funeral secret revealed: who is the child in the bishop's coffin?


The mummy of Bishop Winstrup is considered to be one of the best preserved of the 17th century. The body of a fetus was also found in his grave. Now researchers have been able to clarify the boy's identity.

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Peder Winstrup's coffin: the child, wrapped in linen, lay at the bishop's feet

Photo: Gunnar Menander / dpa

When researchers examined the mummified body of Swedish Bishop Peder Winstrup a few years ago, they made an astonishing discovery: the clergyman had not been buried alone.

The remains of a child who was probably stillborn were found at his feet.

The fetus, wrapped in a piece of linen cloth, is said to have been five to six months old.

Historians have long puzzled over who the child is.

Analyzes of the genetic make-up show that the fetus in Bishop Winstrup's coffin, which is around 342 years old, is probably his grandson.

Swedish researchers have established a family link using DNA material from the bishop and the fetus, Lund University said.

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Remains of Peder Winstrup

Photo: Gunnar Menander / dpa

Not uncommon for young children to be placed in adult coffins

The results of the DNA tests indicated that the fetus was a boy and a second-degree relative.

Winstrup, who died in 1679, and the stillborn boy shared 25 percent of the genes.

The participating researchers from the Center for Paleogenetics at Stockholm University found that the relationship was beyond the father's line.

For second-degree relationships, constellations such as uncles, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren and half-siblings are possible.

A relationship between grandfather and grandson seemed likely to the researchers: "It is possible that the stillborn boy Peder Pedersen was Winstrup's son and the bishop was therefore his grandfather," said Maja Krzewinska from Stockholm University.

Peder Pedersen Winstrup lost his father's property in 1680 and, according to historians, lived on alms at the end of his life.

Placing the deceased fetus in the bishop's coffin could therefore have been a symbolic act.

“It was not uncommon for young children to be placed in coffins with adults.

The fetus may have been placed in the coffin after the bishop's funeral when it was in a vaulted tomb in Lund Cathedral and was therefore accessible, ”says Torbjörn Ahlström, Professor of Historical Osteology at Lund University.

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X-ray of the fetus

Photo: Gunnar Menander / dpa

Why is the mummy so well preserved?

The body of Bishop Winstrup is considered to be one of the best preserved human bodies from the 17th century.

The clothing, skin, bones and internal organs were amazingly well preserved centuries later.

There are several reasons why the clergyman's body has held up so well, such as his death in winter, and the air circulation around the corpse was particularly beneficial for preservation.

The additions that were added to the coffin, such as hops, juniper berries and wormwood, presumably stopped the decomposition process.

Winstrup was born in Copenhagen in 1605.

He was a professor of philosophy and physics, doctor of theology, architect and printer.

At the age of 33 he became bishop of Lund and took Swedish citizenship.

He was considered a skilled diplomat, as he mediated between the Swedish and Danish kings.

The university in Lund was founded on the initiative of Winstrup.

koe / dpa

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-04-12

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