Under Remarkable 17th-Century Corpse: a Secret Body

Fetus was tucked at Peder Winstrup's feet after death in 1679
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2015 8:10 AM CDT

Peder Winstrup is remarkably well-preserved for a man who died in 1679, and while researchers expected the mummified corpse of the former bishop of Lund would yield fascinating information on the 17th century, they didn't expect a CT scan to reveal another body. But when his coffin was removed from the Swedish city's cathedral, scientists were amazed to discover a tiny body, that of a fetus five to six months old, had been concealed at his feet, tucked away in a layer of herbs, the Guardian reports. DNA tests will be performed to see if the premature baby is related to the bishop, but researchers suspect that it may have been born illegitimately to a member of his household, who placed it in the coffin to ensure it had a better resting place than the unsanctified ground such babies were buried in.

The director of Lund's history museum tells Radio Sweden that researchers were almost as surprised to find that the bishop, who was buried on a mattress stuffed with juniper berries and other herbs, still had his internal organs, making him a "time capsule" from 1679 and "one of the best-preserved human bodies from the 1600s," per Lund University. "Everyone thought the bishop was embalmed, in which case, there are no internal organs left in the body," says the museum director. But he apparently "dried out naturally," according to the university, the result of a winter burial, constant airflow, the plants in his coffin, and his lean body, among other factors. Even the bishop's clothes are in pretty good shape, researchers say. After more tests are carried out on the two bodies, they will be reburied together, the Guardian reports. (A decades-old fetus was recently found in a 92-year-old woman's body.)

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