Online Journal of Anthropology

Sweden

 

The new analysis of the skeletal remains of Saint Erik provides extensive information about his health condition, genealogy, diet, and death. Photograph: Anders Tukler

 

The saint’s legend speaks of a king who died a dramatic death in battle outside the church where he had just celebrated mass. But what can modern science tell us about his remains? A joint research project headed by Uppsala University now reveals more of the health condition of the medieval king Erik, what he looked like, where he lived and what the circumstances of his death were.

 

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.

 

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.

 
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Osteologist Adam Boethius (fourth from the left)

 

Osteologist Adam Boethius (fourth from the left) at his excavation in Blekinge, Sweden. Adam has found the oldest storage of fermentet fish indicating the Nordic prehistory started earlier than previously thought.

 

The discovery of the world’s oldest storage of fermented fish in southern Sweden could rewrite the Nordic prehistory with findings indicating a far more complex society than previously thought. The unique discovery by osteologist Adam Boethius from Lund University was made when excavating a 9,200 year-old settlement at what was once a lake in Blekinge, Sweden.

 

“Our findings of large-scale fish fermentation, a traditional way of preserving fish, indicate that not only was this area settled at that time, it was also able to support a large community”, says Adam Boethius, whose findings are now being published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

 

The discovery is also an indication that Nordic societies were far more developed 9,200 years ago than what was previously believed. The findings are important as it is usually argued that people in the north lived relatively mobile lives, while people in the Levant – a large area in the Middle East – became settled and began to farm and raise cattle much earlier.

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