The saint's legend speaks of a king who died a dramatic death in battle outside the church in Uppsala, Sweden, where he had just celebrated mass. But what can modern science tell us about his remains? A research project now reveals more of the health condition of Saint Erik, what he looked like, where he lived and the circumstances of his death.
No contemporary sources mention Erik Jedvardsson, the Swedish king who was later sainted. The only account of his life is the saint's legend, in its preserved form written in the 1290's. Such legends are often unreliable. The Erik legend is, however, based on an older legend which has been lost, and this longer legend may have been much older.
Statue of King Erik outside Uppsala Cathedral. Gunilla Leffler/CC BY ND 3.0
The preserved legend says that Erik was chosen to be king, ruled fairly, was a devoted Christian, led a crusade against Finland, and supported the Church. He was killed in 1160, in his tenth year of rule, by a Danish claimant to the throne. His remains have rested in a reliquary since 1257.
A thorough analysis of the skeleton in the reliquary was conducted in 1946, but the availability of new methods of analysis motivated a new examination in 2014. On 23 April 2014, the reliquary was opened at a ceremony in Uppsala Cathedral. After this, researchers from several scientific disciplines set to work running tests on the remains in an attempt to learn more about the medieval king. Now, the first results of these examinations are made public.
A mural in Uppsala Cathedral. ( Anders Damberg/CC BY ND 3.0 )
'The interdisciplinary research collaboration on the analysis of the skeletal remains of Saint Erik provides extensive information about his health condition (orthopaedists and radiologists), genealogy (aDNA analysis), diet (isotopanalys), and his death (forensic medicine)', says project leader Sabine Sten, professor of osteoarchaeology at Uppsala University.
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The reliquary contains 23 bones, seemingly from the same individual. They are also accompanied by an unrelated shinbone. The radiocarbon values measured in the bones are consistent with a death in 1160. The osteological analysis shows that the bones belong to a man, 35-40 years old and 171 cm tall.
Some of the contents of King Erik’s reliquary . Note that the picture is arranged, this was not how it looked when the box was opened. ( Anders Tukler )
Examinations of the bones using computer tomography at the University Hospital in Uppsala found no discernible medical conditions. DXA- and pQCT measurements conducted at the same hospital found that Erik did not suffer from osteoporosis, or brittleness of the bones. Quite the opposite, as he had a bone density about 25 percent above that of the average young adult of today. King Erik was well-nourished, powerfully built and lived a physically active life.
Examinations of the bones using computer tomography at the University Hospital in Uppsala found no discernible medical conditions. ( Adel Shalabi/CC BY ND 3.0 )
The isotope analysis points to a diet rich in freshwater fish, which indicates that the king obeyed the church rules on fasts, i.e. days or periods when the consumption of meat was forbidden. Stable isotopes also imply that he did not spend his last decade in the expected Uppsala area but rather in the province of Västergötland further south. These conclusions should however be considered very preliminary, as there are as of yet very few other studies to compare the isotope values to.
The opening of the reliquary also saw DNA samples taken. It is hoped that these will produce results that will shed new light on questions of genealogy. This analysis has not yet been completed, and is expected to take another year. The researchers can, however, reveal that the samples have yielded DNA information.
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The cranium in the reliquary is dented by one or two healed wounds that may have been due to weapons. The legends say that Erik led a crusade against Finland, which is thought to be a possible explanation of the injuries.
The cranium in the reliquary is said to be dented by one or two healed wounds that may have been due to weapons. ( Sabine Sten/CC BY ND 3.0 )
The saint's legend says that in the king's final battle, the enemy swarmed him, and when he fell to the ground they gave him wound after wound until he lay half dead. They then taunted him and finally cut off his head. The remaining bones have at least nine cuts inflicted in connection with death, seven of them on the legs. No wounds have been found on the ribs or the remaining arm bone, which probably means that the king wore a hauberk but had less protected legs. Both shin bones have cuts inflicted from the direction of the feet, indicating that the victim lay on his front.
A neck vertebra has been cut through, which could not have been done without removing the hauberk, i.e. not during battle. This confirms that there was an interlude, as described by the taunting in the legend, between battle and decapitation. At no point do the documented wounds gainsay the account of the fight given by the much later legend.
A shin bone with cuts from battle. The saint's legend says that in the king's final battle, the enemy swarmed him, and when he fell to the ground they gave him wound after wound until he lay half dead. ( Anna Kjellström/CC BY ND 3.0 )
The research results will be published in an upcoming article in the scientific journal Fornvännen.
Featured Image: On April 23, 2014, the reliquary was opened at a ceremony in Uppsala Cathedral. Now, the first results of these examinations are made public. Source: Mikael Wallerstedt/CC BY ND 3.0
The article ‘Science shed new light on the life and death of medieval king Erik ’ by Uppsala Universitet was originally published on Science Daily and has been republished under a Creative Commons license.
Thomas Becket: Alpine ice sheds light on medieval murder
In a study, scientists have found traces of lead, transported on the winds from British mines that operated in the late 1100s.
Air pollution from lead in this time period was as bad as during the industrial revolution centuries later.
The pollution also sheds light on a notorious murder of the medieval era the killing of Thomas Becket.
The assassination of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, in 1170 in his cathedral was a gruesome event that made headlines all over Europe.
The King, Henry II, and Becket were once very close - Becket had been Henry's chancellor before he was made Archbishop.
Henry believed the appointment would allow the crown to gain control over the rich, powerful and relatively independent church.
Becket, though, had other plans.
Henry's growing irritation with his Archbishop led the King to reportedly utter the infamous phrase: "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"
Unfortunately for Becket, a group of knights loyal to the King decided to make Henry's wish come true.
Becket was beheaded in a brutal attack at Canterbury cathedral on 29 December 1170.
Now scientists have found physical evidence of the impact of the dispute between Henry and Becket in a 72-metre-long ice core, retrieved from the Colle Gnifetti glacier in the Swiss-Italian Alps.
In the same way that trees detail their growth in annual rings, so glaciers compact a record of the chemical composition of the air, trapped in bubbles in the yearly build-up of ice.
Analysing the 800 year-old ice using a highly sensitive laser, the scientists were able to see a huge surge in lead in the air and dust captured in the 12th century.
Atmospheric modelling showed that the element was carried by winds from the north west, across the UK, where lead mining and smelting was booming in the late 1100s.
Lead and silver are often mined together and in this period, mines in the Peak District and in Cumbria were among the most productive in Europe.
The researchers were able to match the physical records from the ice with the written tax records of lead and silver production in England.
Lead had many uses in this time, from water pipes to church roofs to stained glass windows.
But production of the metal was clearly linked to political events according to the authors of this latest research.
"In the 1169-70 period, there was a major disagreement between Henry II and Thomas Beckett and that clash manifested itself by the church refusing to work with Henry - and you actually see a fall in that production that year," said Prof Christopher Loveluck, from Nottingham University.
Excommunicated by the Pope in the wake of the murder, Henry's attempt at reconciliation is detailed in the ice core.
"To get himself out of jail with the Pope, Henry promised to endow and build a lot of major monastic institutions very, very quickly," said Prof Loveluck.
"And of course, massive amounts of lead were used for roofing of these major monastic complexes.
"Lead production rapidly expanded as Henry tried to atone for his misdemeanours against the Church."
The researchers say their data is also clear enough to show the clear connections between lead production rising and falling during times of war and between the reigns of different kings in this period between 1170 and 1220.
"The ice core shows precisely when one king died and lead production fell and then rose again with the next monarch," said Prof Loveluck.
"We can see the deaths of King Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and King John there in the ancient ice."
The scientists say the scale of mining and smelting of lead in this time period caused the same levels of lead pollution as seen in the 17th century and in 1890.
They argue that the idea that atmospheric pollution started with the industrial revolution are incorrect.
Grizzly discovery of an arrow through the eye sheds light on horrific injuries caused by medieval arrows
Medieval arrows caused injuries similar to today's gunshot wounds, according to archaeologists analyzing newly discovered human remains.
The bones, recovered from a Dominican friary in Exeter, show arrows fired from longbows could penetrate right through the human skull, creating small entry and large exit wounds.
The human skeletons examined as part of the study, who had possibly died in battle, had been moved from an original burial location elsewhere to this consecrated holy ground at a later date.
The English longbow was renowned for its potency. Archers played a critical role in famous English military victories, including the battles of Agincourt and Crecy. The depiction of King Harold with an arrow in his eye in the Bayeux Tapestry is one of the most iconic images of English history, but actual traces of the physical effects of arrows on humans are exceptionally rare.
The research, by a team based at the University of Exeter and published in the Antiquaries Journal, shows medieval arrows may have been designed to spin clockwise as they hit the victim.Cranial injury exit wound from a medieval arrow
Professor Oliver Creighton, an archaeologist from the University of Exeter who led the research, said: "These results have profound implications for our understanding of the power of the medieval longbow for how we recognize arrow trauma in the archaeological record and for where battle casualties were buried.
"In the medieval world, death caused by an arrow in the eye or the face could have special significance. Clerical writers sometimes saw the injury as a divinely ordained punishment, with the 'arrow in the eye' which may or may not have been sustained by King Harold II on the battlefield of Hastings in 1066 the most famous case in point. Our study brings into focus the horrific reality of such an injury."
The burial ground at the Dominican Friary was excavated by Exeter Archaeology between 1997 and 2007 in advance of the construction of the Princesshay shopping precinct in Exeter city centre. This was the final resting place for the brethren and wealthy members of the population, including the local knights Sir Henry Pomeroy (d. 1281) and Sir Henry de Ralegh (d. 1301).
In the burial ground was a collection of disarticulated remains. The human remains analysed were 22 bone fragments and three teeth, including a near complete cranium, a left femur, a right tibia, and a left humerus. All of these bones showed evidence of traumatic injuries caused by fractures that occurred at or around the time of death, most likely caused by arrow trauma. These injuries included a puncture wound to the cranium on the top of the right eye and an exit wound at the back of the head. In this case, the arrow was probably spinning clockwise when it hit the man's head. Another puncture wound was found in a right tibia, near to where the top of the calf would have been. The arrow had passed through the flesh of the lower leg from behind before being lodged in the bone.
It is thought the arrowhead was an armor-piercing type known as a 'bodkin' type, square or diamond shaped in section, suggesting among the remains is someone killed in battle, or by someone with military-style equipment. It is likely that while the arrowhead exited the skull the arrow shaft remained lodged and was later retracted back through the front of the head, creating more fractures to the bone.
It is well known that medieval arrows were fletched to enable arrows to spin in order to maximize their stability in flight and accuracy, but the puncture wound provides evidence this arrow at least was fletched to spin clockwise as it hit a victim. Gun manufacturers have predominantly rifled barrels so that bullets spin in the same, clockwise, direction.
Radiocarbon dating of the remains show they date from AD 1482 to 1645. The tibia with the puncture wound was dated to AD 1284 to 1395 and the cranium from AD 1405 to 1447. This suggests the injuries to the cranium and leg were sustained by different men.
Skeleton discovered in submerged caves at Tulum sheds new light on the earliest settlers of Mexico
Humans have been living in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula since at least the Late Pleistocene (126,000-11,700 years ago). Much of what we know about these earliest settlers of Mexico comes from nine well-preserved human skeletons found in the submerged caves and sinkholes near Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Here, Stinnesbeck and colleagues describe a new, 30 percent-complete skeleton, ‘Chan Hol 3’, found in the Chan Hol underwater cave within the Tulum cave system. The authors used a non-damaging dating method and took craniometric measurements, then compared her skull to 452 skulls from across North, Central, and South America as well as other skulls found in the Tulum caves.
The analysis showed Chan Hol 3 was likely a woman, approximately 30 years old at her time of death, and lived at least 9,900 years ago. Her skull falls into a mesocephalic pattern (neither especially broad or narrow, with broad cheekbones and a flat forehead), like the three other skulls from the Tulum caves used for comparison all Tulum cave skulls also had tooth caries, potentially indicating a higher-sugar diet. This contrasts with most of the other known American crania in a similar age range, which tend to be long and narrow, and show worn teeth (suggesting hard foods in their diet) without cavities.
Though limited by the relative lack of archeological evidence for early settlers across the Americas, the authors suggest that these cranial patterns suggest the presence of at least two morphologically different human groups living separately in Mexico during this shift from the Pleistocene to the Holocene (our current epoch).
The authors add: “The Tulúm skeletons indicate that either more than one group of people reached the American continent first, or that there was enough time for a small group of early settlers who lived isolated on the Yucatán peninsula to develop a different skull morphology. The early settlement history of America thus seems to be more complex and, moreover, to have occurred at an earlier time than previously assumed.”
Header Image – Underwater exploration of Chan Hol Cave, near Tulum, Mexico. Credit : Photo by Eugenio Acevez.
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Sailing to Greenland
Having had enough, Erik the Red decided to leave Iceland altogether. He had heard of a large landmass due west of Iceland, discovered nearly 100 years earlier by Norwegian sailor Gunnbjörn Ulfsson. The journey covered approximately 900 nautical miles of open ocean, but the danger was mitigated by the Viking ships’ advanced design and Erik’s superior navigation skills.
Between 982 and 983, Erik the Red rounded the southernmost tip of the large landmass, finally arriving at a fjord now known as Tunulliarfik. From this base, Erik spent the next two years exploring west and north, assigning names to places he visited with derivatives of his name. He believed the land he explored was suitable for raising livestock and named it Greenland, hoping it would sound more enticing to would-be settlers.
Body Under British Parking Lot May Be King Richard III
For centuries, William Shakespeare seemed to have the last word. His Richard III glowered and leered from the stage, a monster in human form and a character so repugnant "that dogs bark at me as I halt by them." In Shakespeare's famous play, the hunchbacked king claws his way to the throne and methodically murders most of his immediate family—his wife, older brother, and two young nephews—until he suffers defeat and death on the battlefield at the hands of a young Tudor hero, Henry VII.
To shed new light on the long vilified king, a British scientific team has tracked down and excavated his reputed burial spot and exhumed skeletal remains that may well belong to the long-lost monarch. The team is conducting a CSI-style investigation of the body in hopes of conclusively identifying Richard III, a medieval king who ruled England for two brief years before perishing at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Results on the investigation are expected in January.
But the much maligned monarch is not the only historical heavyweight to be exhumed. Since the 1980s, forensic experts have dug up the remains of many famous people—from Christopher Columbus (video) and Simón Bolívar to Jesse James, Marie Curie, Lee Harvey Oswald, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Bobby Fischer. Just last month, researchers in Ramallah (map) disinterred the body of Yasser Arafat, hoping to new glean clues to his death in 2004. Rumors long suggested that Israeli agents poisoned the Palestinian leader with a fatal dose of radioactive polonium-210.
Indeed, forensic experts have disinterred the legendary dead for a wide range of reasons—including to move their remains to grander tombs befitting their growing fame, collect DNA samples for legal cases, and obtain data on the medical conditions that afflicted them. Such exhumations, says anatomist Frank Rühli at the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich, always raise delicate ethical issues. But in the case of early historical figures, scientists can learn much that is of value to society. "Research on ancient samples provides enormous potential for understanding [questions concerning our] cultural heritage and the evolution of disease," Rühli notes in an emailed response.
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester began actively searching for the burial place of Richard III this past August. According to historical accounts, Tudor troops carried Richard's battered corpse from the Bosworth battlefield and displayed it in the nearby town of Leicester before local Franciscan fathers buried the body in their friary choir. With clues from historic maps, the archaeological team located foundations of the now vanished friary beneath a modern parking lot, and during excavation, the team discovered the skeleton of an adult male interred under the choir floor—exactly where Richard III was reportedly buried.
The newly discovered skeleton has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that may have resulted in a slightly lopsided appearance, and this may have inspired Shakespeare's exaggerated depiction of Richard as a Quasimodo-like figure. Moreover, the body bears clear signs of battle trauma, including a fractured skull and a barbed metal arrowhead embedded in the vertebrae. And even the burial place points strongly to Richard. English armies at the time simply left their dead on the field of battle, but someone carted this body off and interred it in a place of honor.
Taken together, these early clues, says Jo Appleby, the University of Leicester bioarchaeologist studying the remains, strongly suggest that the team has found the legendary king. Otherwise, she observes, "I think we'd have a hard time explaining how a skeleton with those characteristics got buried there."
But much work remains to clinch the case. Geneticists are now comparing DNA sequences from the skeleton to those obtained from a modern-day Londoner, Michael Ibsen, who is believed to be a descendant of Richard III's sister. In addition, forensic pathologists and medieval-weapons scholars are poring over signs of trauma on the skeleton to determine cause of death, while a radiocarbon-dating lab is helping to pin down the date. And at the University of Dundee in Scotland, craniofacial identification expert Caroline Wilkinson is now working on a reconstruction of the dead man's face for a possible match with historic portraits of Richard III. All this, says Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the project, "will help us put flesh on the bones, so to speak."
Elsewhere, teams digging up the historic dead have contented themselves with more modest goals. In Texas, for example, forensic experts opened the grave of Lee Harvey Oswald in October 1981 to identify beyond doubt the man who shot President John F. Kennedy. A British lawyer and author had claimed that a Soviet agent impersonated Oswald and assassinated the American president. To clarify the situation, the forensic experts compared dental x-rays taken during Oswald's stint in the United States Marine Corps to a record they made of the body's teeth. The two matched well, prompting the team to announce publicly that "the remains in the grave marked as Lee Harvey Oswald are indeed Lee Harvey Oswald."
More recently, in 2010, Iceland's supreme court ordered forensic experts to exhume the body of the late world chess champion Bobby Fischer from his grave in Iceland in order to obtain DNA samples to determine whether Fischer was the father of one of the claimants to his estate. (The tests ruled this out.) And that same year, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ordered forensic experts to open the casket of Simón Bolívar, the renowned 19th century Venezuelan military leader who fought for the independence of Spanish America from colonial rule. Chavez believes that Bolívar died not from tuberculosis, as historians have long maintained, but of arsenic poisoning, and has launched an investigation into the cause of his death.
For some researchers, this recent spate of exhumations has raised a key question: Who should have a say in the decision to disinter or not? In the view of Guido Lombardi, a paleopathologist at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, investigators should make every effort to consult descendants or family members before proceeding. "Although each case should be addressed individually," notes Lombardi by email. "I think the surviving relatives of a historical figure should approve any studies first."
But tracking down the descendants of someone who died many centuries ago is no easy matter. Back in Leicester, research on the remains found beneath the friary floor is proceeding. If all goes according to plan, the team hopes to announce the results sometime in January. And if the ancient remains prove to be those of Richard III, the city of Leicester could be in for a major royal event in 2013: The British government has signalled its intention to inter the long-maligned king in Leicester Cathedral.
Science Sheds New Light on the Life and Death of Medieval King Erik - History
When Science Sheds Light on History: Forensic Science and Anthropology
Philippe Charlier with David Alliot
&ldquoA series of scientific vignettes showing how forensic science can update our understanding of history.&rdquo&mdashNew Historian
&ldquoIlluminates the world of the living.&rdquo&mdashInside Higher Ed
&ldquoWell written and hard to put down. For anyone with an interest in forensic science, this book is a must-read.&rdquo&mdashNigel McCrery, author of Silent Witnesses: The Often Gruesome but Always Fascinating History of Forensic Science
&ldquoThis compilation is a fascinating read for the nonspecialist and will further serve as an inspirational set of recommended readings for the next generation of forensic scientists.&rdquo&mdashTim D. White, coauthor of The Human Bone Manual
Did Richard the Lionheart really die from a simple crossbow wound, or was there foul play? Who are the two infants buried in Tutankhamun&rsquos tomb? Could a skull found in a tax collector&rsquos attic be the long-lost head of Henri IV? In When Science Sheds Light on History, Philippe Charlier, the &ldquoIndiana Jones of the graveyards,&rdquo travels the globe to unravel these and other unsolved mysteries of human history.
To get answers, Charlier looks for clues in medical records, fingerprints, and bloodstains. He reconstructs the face of Robespierre from masks molded from his body after death and analyzes charred bones to see if they really are Joan of Arc&rsquos. He discovers lethal levels of gold in the hair and bones of King Henry II&rsquos mistress Diane de Poitiers, who used gold salts to &ldquopreserve her eternal youth.&rdquo
Charlier also pieces together the stories of people whose names and lives have long been forgotten. He investigates Stone Age graves, medieval necropolises, and museum collections. Playing the role of both crime-scene investigator and forensic anthropologist, Charlier diagnoses a mummy with malaria, an ancient Greek child with Down syndrome, and a stately Roman with encephalitis. He also delves into ancient miracles and anomalies: a mute boy able to speak after making sacrifices to the gods, a woman pregnant for five years, and a serpent that cured a broken toe with its tongue.
Exploring how our ancestors lived and how they died, the forty cases in this book seek to answer some of history&rsquos most enduring questions and illustrate the power of science to reveal the secrets of the past.
Philippe Charlier is head of the section of medical and forensic anthropology at the University of Versailles at St. Quentin. He is a specialist in rituals related to diseases and death. He is the author of Zombies: An Anthropological Investigation of the Living Dead. David Alliot is the author of various books, including Le Paris de Céline.
Charlier, a French forensic medical examiner and specialist in ancient human remains, brings together summaries of his case studies--which include bones and bodies taken from prehistoric caves, charnel houses, royal tombs, and communal burials--to demonstrate what such remains can tell researchers. . . . Delves into historical mysteries: for instance, bottles of wine said to contain the ashes of Joan of Arc instead turn out to hold remnants of burned Egyptian mummies. The book is full of similarly fascinating bits of trivia.
The topics range from the noble nature of prehistoric tribes to a discussion of “solidified putrefaction liquid”. . . . Indeed, they are broad enough to practically guarantee something will be of interest to those who are historically minded.
A series of scientific vignettes showing how forensic science can update our understanding of history.
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Ragnar Lothbrok, Ragnar also spelled Regner or Regnar, Lothbrok also spelled Lodbrog or Lodbrok, Old Norse Ragnarr Loðbrók, (flourished 9th century), Viking whose life passed into legend in medieval European literature.
Who was Ragnar Lothbrok?
According to medieval sources, Ragnar Lothbrok was a Danish king and Viking warrior who flourished in the 9th century. There is much ambiguity in what is thought to be known about him, and it has its roots in the European literature created after his death.
How did Ragnar Lothbrok die?
According to the Gesta Danorum of Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, Ragnar Lothbrok was captured by the Anglo-Saxon king Aella of Northumbria and thrown into a snake pit to die.
What is Ragnar Lothbrok remembered for?
According to medieval sources, Ragnar Lothbrok was a 9th-century Danish Viking king and warrior known for his exploits, for his death in a snake pit at the hands of Aella of Northumbria, and for being the father of Halfdan, Ivar the Boneless, and Hubba, who led an invasion of East Anglia in 865.
Ragnar is said to have been the father of three sons— Halfdan, Inwaer (Ivar the Boneless), and Hubba (Ubbe)—who, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and other medieval sources, led a Viking invasion of East Anglia in 865. They may have sought to avenge Ragnar’s death, which may or may not have been murder, or they may have been claiming land to which they believed they had a right as a result of a previous invasion by Ragnar that may or may not have actually happened. This sort of ambiguity pervades much that is thought to be known about Ragnar, and it has its roots in the European literature created after his death.
In the Gesta Danorum (c. 1185) of the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, for example, Ragnar was a 9th-century Danish king whose campaigns included a battle with the Holy Roman emperor Charlemagne. According to Saxo’s legendary history, Ragnar was eventually captured by the Anglo-Saxon king Aella of Northumbria and thrown into a snake pit to die. This story is also recounted in the later Icelandic works Ragnars saga loðbrókar and Þáttr af Ragnarssonum.
The 12th-century Icelandic poem Krákumál provides a romanticized description of Ragnar’s death and links him in marriage with a daughter of Sigurd (Siegfried) and Brynhild (Brunhild), figures from the heroic literature of the ancient Teutons. The actions of Ragnar and his sons are also recounted in the Orkney Islands poem Háttalykill.
Despite the lack of clarity regarding the historical Ragnar, he appeared as a character in various novels and films. In the early 21st century he was a central figure in the popular television series Vikings.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Patricia Bauer, Assistant Editor.
What they found
The DNA analysis showed that Takabuti was more genetically similar to Europeans than to modern-day Egyptians, the researchers said.
The CT scans revealed that her heart, which hadn't been located until now, was intact and perfectly preserved. These scans also disclosed her violent death: Wound marks showed that Takabuti had been stabbed in her upper back, near her left shoulder.
"It is frequently commented that she looks very peaceful lying within her coffin, but now we know that her final moments were anything but and that she died at the hand of another," Eileen Murphy, a bioarchaeologist at Queen's University Belfast's School of Natural and Built Environment, said in the statement.
In particular, the CT scans showed that "Takabuti sustained a severe wound to the back of her upper left chest wall," Dr. Robert Loynes, a retired orthopedic surgeon and honorary lecturer in The University of Manchester's KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, said in the statement. "This almost certainly caused her rapid death."
The other findings are just as important, the researchers added.
"The significance of confirming [that] Takabuti's heart is present cannot be underestimated, as in ancient Egypt this organ was removed in the afterlife and weighed to decide whether or not the person had led a good life," Ramsey said. "If it was too heavy, it was eaten by the demon Ammit and your journey to the afterlife would fail."
The new analyses also shed light on life in Egypt during the 25th dynasty, said Rosalie David, an Egyptologist at The University of Manchester. "This study adds to our understanding of not only Takabuti, but also wider historical context of the times in which she lived: The surprising and important discovery of her European heritage throws some fascinating light on a significant turning point in Egypt's history," David said in the statement.
The research team &mdash which includes scientists from National Museums Northern Ireland, The University of Manchester, Queen's University Belfast and Kingsbridge Private Hospital &mdash is now writing a book about its findings.
The public can see Takabuti's mummy for free in the ancient Egypt gallery in the Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland.