Archaeologists discover the mysterious body of a 17th century Bishop buried along with a fetus

Fareeha Arshad

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In 1679, the well-respected Bishop of Lund Peder Pedersen Winstrup of the Churches of Sweden and Denmark passed away. His body was then mummified and placed in the family vault in Lund Cathedral. However, he was not buried alone. Instead, a tiny fetus of a stillborn baby was placed near the Bishop’s calves. Finding the remains of a baby in the mother’s coffin is not unusual. But this discovery raised eyebrows among many researchers across the world.

Why was a baby placed along with the Bishop? Also, the baby’s body appeared to be hidden behind the Bishop as though somebody wanted to hide the baby. As the archaeologist Torbjörn Ahlström of Lund University in Sweden mentioned, the researchers were most surprised because the fetus was placed in a bishop’s coffin. But, of course, this meant a possible relationship between the two.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports discussed the results of the complete genetic tests conducted on the Bishop and the fetus. As per the DNA analyses, there was about a twenty-five per cent match in the genes of the two. Therefore, they were related: they could have been uncle and nephew, distant cousins or grandfather and grandchild.

Further chromosomal studies on the Bishop and the fetus solidified the theories. The Bishop and the fetus did not have the same chromosomal DNA – hinting that the fetus did not belong to the Bishop’s daughter. Also, the Bishop and the fetus were found to share the Y chromosome that could have passed from the father.

This hints that the Bishop’s son was the father of the stillborn baby, and the Bishop and the fetus were grandfather and grandchild. The researchers further added that the fetus was, in fact, the last male heir in the Winstrup family and was buried with his grandfather.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

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