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Haraldskær Woman

Haraldskærkvinden på obduktionsbordet i 1979.

Haraldskær Woman on the autopsy table in 1979.

Haraldskær woman was found by trenching through Gunnelsmose ten kilometers from Jelling in 1835. The body was firmly attached to the bog with wooden hooks at the knees and elbows. Solid poles pinned down the chest and abdomen. The body was identified as a woman because of the long hair. Alongside the woman lay remains of a wool- and skin garment.

Haraldskærkvinden på Vejlemuseerne.

Haraldskær Woman at Vejlemuseerne.

Probably because of the short distance to Jelling – only 10 km – and the name of the site, which means Gunhild’s Bog, it was believed that they had found Queen Gunhild of Norway, who, according to the Saga of the Jomsvikings, was lured to Denmark by Harald Bluetooth in order to marry him. Instead, however, she was abused and drowned in a very deep bog by his men and slaves. The body was therefore duly buried in St Nicolai Church in Vejle in a sarcophagus of wood payed for by King Frederick VI.

Later studies have shown that the body dates to approximately 490 BC, which is in the beginning of the Iron Age and hence long before Harald Bluetooth and the Viking Age. The body was examined in 1979 at Aarhus University Hospital and yet again in April 2005 at Aarhus Hospital. The bog body lay in St. Nicholas Church in Vejle until November 9, 2012, but is now on display at Vejle Museum.

More recently conducted strontium studies of her hair, suggests that she made a travel to central Germany or Scotland shortly before her death.