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Still Waters

17th Century bishop buried with a fetus - mystery solved

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Still Waters

Bishop of Lund Peder Pedersen Winstrup, of the Churches of Sweden and Denmark, died in 1679. An important and well-respected man, his body was mummified and laid to rest in a family vault in Lund Cathedral. Apart from the exceptional preservation of his remains, nothing seemed unusual about his death or burial.

In 2012, when a decision was made to move Winstrup's coffin, scientists leapt at the chance to study his remains. That's when they found it - the tiny corpse of a fetus, stillborn at no more than five or six months gestation, tucked carefully behind and between the bishop's calves.

Finding a fetus or babe with the remains of a woman, usually presumed to be the mother, is not unusual in archaeology. But placed in the coffin of a bishop? An important bishop who died at the respectable age of 74 years? And not just placed, but hidden in the lining of the coffin, as though hastily and secretly stowed? This was a puzzle archaeologists had to solve.



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