As researchers at the University of Lund examined the body of Bishop Peder Winstrup, they made a fascinating and unexpected discovery: a tiny corpse concealed at the feet of the mummified bishop.
The Archaeological Examination of the Mummified Bishop
Peder Winstrup was the former bishop of Lund. Winstrup died in 1679 from what researchers believed to be pneumonia, worsened by a weak immune system after a history of health problems. From gout to gallstones, the bishop was not in great condition before his death. He had plaque on his heart and badly decayed teeth when they put him to rest in the crypt of Lund Cathedral in Sweden.
But despite his health conditions while he was alive, Winstrup’s corpse is believed to be one of the best preserved human bodies and as such, was initially the subject of an interdisciplinary study concerning modern medical techniques. Beginning in 2014, researchers conducted medical and archaeological examinations on the corpse to better understand life in the 17th century.
Surprise findings in the Mummified Bishop’s coffin
The researchers were astonished at the preservation of Winstrup’s body, especially considering it was not embalmed. The bishop, who lay on a bed filled with herbs, was naturally preserved with all of his internal organs. His beard and clothes were still intact, albeit a little faded from over 300 years of wear.
Though all of these findings were remarkable, the biggest surprise came when the researchers conducted a CT scan and found the tiny fetus that had been quietly tucked under the bishop’s feet for three centuries.
After over a year of researchers examining the mummified bishop, having opened his coffin several times already, the baby had managed to stay concealed under the bed of juniper, wormwood, and hops until the CT scan gave away its position.
Just coffin companions or Winstrup’s relative?
Researchers believe the small companion died of natural causes having been born several months prematurely. It was quite common in Winstrup’s time for an illegitimate child to be slipped into a coffin intended for burial in holy ground. However, other theories suggest that the child could be related to Winstrup and was laid to rest alongside him.
As of now, researchers have planned for DNA testing to see if the two corpses shared more than just a coffin. Regardless of the outcome, the mummified bishop will be reburied with his baby buddy again at the end of the studies.