A traditional ancient Korean coffin, discovered in a 6th-century tomb, has been cracked open to reveal the dusty remains of a woman with an oddly elongated skull.
Discovering ancient elongated skulls is not actually uncommon. However, unlike the majority of these finds, the researchers don’t believe this skull was “stretched” through a cultural practice of "artificial cranial deformation". The findings, led by Seoul National University, are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The team of bioanthropologists discovered the remains in Gyeongju, modern-day South Korea. The gender and age were determined by analyzing the hip bone and teeth, which revealed it was a woman who had died sometime in her late thirties. Further analysis showed that it’s likely she lived during the 6th century CE in the Silla Kingdom, a dynasty that ruled over the Korean Peninsula from 57 BCE to 935 CE.
The fragments of the skull discovered, before its reconstruction. Image credit: Seoul National University/PLOS ONE
The carbon isotopes present in her bones showed that she most likely lived on a strict vegetarian diet – namely of wheat and rice – which would make sense considering the prevalence of Buddhism's influence across the Silla Kingdom.
Mitochondrial DNA analysis, taken from the woman’s femur bone, showed that this woman is from an uncommon genetic linage that still exists in East Asia today, Live Science reports.