A Silent Witness: Long-Buried Secrets of a 17th-Century Swedish Bishop’s Kin Resurface

Specifically, the results of a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science have clarified the reason why Bishop Peder Winstrup of the Lund region (now in Sweden) was buried with a mysterious fetus. hidden.

Peder Winstrup was a bishop of churches in Sweden and Denmark in the 17th century. He was one of the most influential church leaders in Europe at that time. He died at the age of 74 in 1679. His body was buried in the family crypt in Lund Cathedral, Sweden and was preserved in very good condition, almost like a mummy.

Life - The mystery of the fetus hidden between the legs of the mummy of a bishop in the 17th century

Mummy of Bishop Peder Winstrup.

In 2013, using scanner technology, scientists suddenly discovered a fetus about 5-6 months old placed between the bishop’s legs. The body of the fetus was hidden discreetly in the coffin lining as if the person burying it did not want anyone to pay attention to the baby.

Life - The mystery of the fetus hidden between the legs of the mummy of a bishop in the 17th century (Figure 2).

Fetal position in the bishop’s coffin (photo F).

”One of the important discoveries when we conducted the CT scan was that Mr. Winstrup was not alone in the coffin. A fetus was deliberately hidden under his feet,” Per Karsten, Director of the Lund University History Museum, said at that time.

According to experts, it is not unusual for young children to be buried in the same coffin as adults. In Lund church there are also many graves of women buried with fetuses. However, this is the coffin of a bishop, so it becomes a big question. The mystery surrounding the relationship between the man and the child has left scientists searching for answers for many years.

Later studies conducted genetic DNA sampling and found a 25% identity between the two people, suggesting they were second-degree related. The two corpses share a Y chromosome that can only be passed from father to child. Therefore, this child could have been the bishop’s son or grandson.

Life - The mystery of the fetus hidden between the legs of the mummy of a bishop in the 17th century (Figure 3).

Portrait of Bishop Peder Winstrup created by scientists. Photo: Lund University

According to historical records, this bishop had a son with his first wife and this son lived to adulthood. The bishop and his wife lost all their assets when the then Swedish crown confiscated their lands and gave them to the elite. No one knows if the bishop’s son gave birth to any children, only that the Winstrup family line stops with this son.

After piecing together all the genetic clues along with analyzing the family tree, researchers concluded that the fetus was the bishop’s grandson. ”Paleogenetics may contribute to the understanding of kinship between buried individuals. In this case, the stillborn child could be the bishop’s grandson,” said expert Maja Krzewinska at the Center for Paleontology at Stockholm University, who also participated in the study.

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