New research has suggested that a young Bronze Age priestess and another Bronze Age woman may not have been world travelers after all, and may not even have left Denmark, which runs contrary to previous beliefs and studies.
As Live Science reports, archaeologists are very familiar with case studies of the Egtved Girl and the Skrydstrup Woman, both of whom were discovered buried in Denmark between the years 1921 and 1935.
The most recent large-scale study of these females was conducted by Robert Frei, a professor of geology and geochemistry at the University of Copenhagen, and the conclusion which was reached was that both of these women were globetrotters, a belief which Frei and his colleagues still stand by today.
In past studies like this, scientists looked into the isotopes found in these women to ascertain where they had both spent their lives. However, new research has suggested that these past studies may not have been accurate because contamination is believed to have occurred through modern agricultural lime.
The new study’s co-researcher Rasmus Andreasen, an isotope geochemist from the Department of Geoscience at Aarhus University in Denmark, explained that using isotopes to analyze ancient people can sometimes yield the wrong conclusions.
“Using strontium [isotopes] to trace prehistoric people should therefore be done with great care and a good understanding of the land use. Otherwise, you can end up with wrong conclusions.”
— Live Science (@LiveScience) March 18, 2019
However, both Robert Frei and Karin Frei, a professor of archaeometry at the National Museum of Denmark, believe that their previous work was meticulous and correct. As Robert Frei stated of their research on these two Bronze Age Danish women, “In addition, other recent European studies, based on, among others, ancient DNA and strontium isotope investigations, also point to a high degree of mobility of humans in Bronze Age Europe.”
It has been previously suggested that the Egtved Girl spent her formative years in other areas away from Denmark and then, later on, made plenty of excursions between Denmark and other countries, while the Skrydstrup Woman is thought to have arrived in Denmark much later and aged at least 13.
Since Andreasen and Erik Thomsen, an associate professor emeritus of geoscience at Aarhus University, weren’t certain about these findings, they decide to analyze the remains of these two Bronze Age women for themselves to see what they would learn.
As Andreasen noted, “We felt it odd that the maps of strontium distributions on which these conclusions were based show no resemblance to the underlying geology. We set out to test if modern-day farming could be the reason that the natural strontium variations were obscured.”
After strontium isotopes were analyzed, and in particular, agricultural lime which is used to improve soil, Thomsen and Andreasen used only isotopic values that weren’t affected by this lime and reached a much different conclusion than previous studies have.
It has now been suggested that the Egtved Girl and the Skrydstrum Woman may have spent the entirety of their lives very close to where they ended up being buried, never leaving Denmark at all. In fact, Thomsen and Andreasen believe it is fully possible that these women didn’t ever even stray beyond 6.2 miles away from their burial sites.
Karin Fre, for her part, has said that the latest research is simply too “over-simplistic” and that 1,200 soil samples that have been obtained from many different regions of Europe have shown absolutely “no statistical difference” in their composition.
The latest study which has concluded that the Bronze Age Egtved Girl and Skrydstrum Woman from Denmark were not world travelers has been published in Science Advances.