More than a century ago, a carved-out log containing the ancient skeleton of a woman fell out of a seaside cliff in the small Polish coastal village of Bagicz. Now, researchers have determined that she once lived as long as 2,000 years ago – 100 years older than previously believed – and could very well have been a princess at the time.
Found alongside the woman and her burial log were a number of bronze ornaments, including a clasp, bracelets, a beaded necklace, a pin made of bone, and a wooden stool. A piece of cowhide leather and clothing made of wool were also found – a rare archaeological find in Poland given local decomposition patterns. Together, these items indicate that the woman, whoever she was at the time, was one of important status.
Researchers from the University of Szczecin and Warsaw collaborated in their efforts to date the items and skeleton following the 19th-century discovery. By radiocarbon dating the bones, the team determined that the woman died around 30 ACE or earlier. Past dating techniques on the items found at the grave had previously concluded that the burial occurred at the end of the 2nd century.
"We thought that the dating discrepancy might be a mistake related to the measurement – the results can be different when the deceased's diet is rich in fish. It could be similar in this case,” archaeologist Marta Chmiel-Chrzanowska, from the University of Szczecin, told Science in Poland.
Despite her coastal Pomeranian or Baltic Islands heritage, an analysis of isotopes in her teeth indicated that her diet did not include fish from the ocean. It adds a certain air of mystery to the whole affair; if she lived near the ocean, why did she not eat from it?
"We didn’t find any traces of Baltic fish in her diet, but she had consumed many animal products, as evidenced by the type of proteins preserved in her teeth. She could have also eaten fish from lakes and inland rivers,” said researcher Rafał Fetner from the University of Warsaw.
Although the woman was between 20 and 35 at the time of her death, researchers also found that her skeleton exhibited significant pathological changes in her joints associated with osteoarthritis in the lower spine – a disease that typically affects the elderly or those who might have performed hard work.
A hardworking princess who lives near the ocean but doesn’t eat fish? It’s a mystery researchers hope to solve in future analyses of the skeleton.
[H/T: Science in Poland]