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Two wealthy women

When excavating the Oseberg Ship in 1904, the archaeologists found the remains of two women. One of them could have been in her fifties when she died, the other around 70–80 years. But who is the main person in the grave?

Remains of two women found in the Oseberg Ship.
© Museum of Cultural History, UiO/ Kirsten Helgeland.

The Oseberg mound with its rich array of grave goods indicates that one or both of them played an important political – and perhaps also religious – role. Their kin and community used the ship grave and the landscape to mark the importance of the women. Is it possible that one of the women was sacrificed to accompany the other to the grave?

The younger woman

Both women were approximately 153 cm tall. The younger woman had healthy teeth with little sign of wear, indicating that she had enjoyed a good diet. Throughout her life she had used a metal toothpick to clean her teeth. A broken collarbone shows that she was injured some weeks before her death, but the skeletal remains do not reveal the cause of her death.

The older woman

The skeleton of the older woman shows signs that she had been seriously ill during childhood. In old age she suffered from osteoporosis, a lumbar fracture, two fused neck vertebrae and a knee injury, which most likely had made her stoop and walk with a limp. The woman suffered from advanced cancer, and had probably been in great pain in her final years.

Published Jan. 31, 2017 1:33 PM - Last modified Mar. 6, 2017 10:37 AM