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Tree trunk coffin with female skeleton wearing a string of beads

7th century

Fries Museum

Fries Museum
Leeuwarden, Netherlands

Being buried in a tree – isn’t that something special? The more so if you realize that trees of this size were very scarce in the area where this grave was found. So the oak tree must have been brought there from far away and was specially hollowed out to serve as a coffin. Since its excavation, the tree-coffin has dried out and shrunk so much, that it cracked the pelvis of the female skeleton inside.

The grave was discovered in 1905. The coffin also contained some loose beads made of amber, glass and sea shells which, at the time of the discovery, were strung on a thin iron wire and put around the skeleton’s neck.

Recently, the face of this early-medieval Frisian woman has been reconstructed. First they cast a copy of the skull, after which the face was built up layer by layer. Inevitably, some parts, such as the colour of the woman’s eyes and the hair are, had to be interpretations. Nevertheless it is thought that in her present appearance she would be recognizable to her contemporaries. The reconstruction includes a copy of the bead necklace.

Details

  • Title: Tree trunk coffin with female skeleton wearing a string of beads
  • Date Created: 7th century
  • Type: Artefact
  • Rights: Fries Museum, Leeuwarden | Collectie Koninklijk Fries Genootschap
  • Medium: Barnsteen, parelmoer, schelp, glas, been (menselijk), hout

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