This is what it was like to be a girl 3,400 years ago
If you think it’s hard being a girl today, try growing up in 1370 B.C.E.
New research from scientists in Denmark recently revealed more about the life of the 3400-year-old Egtved Girl—thought to be between the ages of 16 and 18 at her death—whose teeth, brain, nails, and skin were discovered in 1921 by archaeologists. The now-extensive details of the Egtved Girl’s life mark the first time scientists were able to precisely track the movements of an unknown ancient person. And as it turns out, a Bronze Age girl had a LOT on her plate.
What She Wore
Surprisingly, the Egtved Girl’s clothing survived all these years and she was discovered wearing good quality woolen clothing along with a belt featuring a bronze medallion. Both these things suggest that she grew up comfortably.
What She Was Buried With
Buried in the summertime, the Egtved Girl was found in an oak coffin lined with cow skin along with the cremated remains of a 5- to 6-year-old child and a bucket of beer. Given the girl’s age, it’s not possible for the child to be her offspring, which suggests that some form of human sacrifice took place after her death. As for the beer, it appears to have been made with honey and possibly cowberries. Accordingly, Denmark’s Skands brewery made their own version of the Egtved Girl’s beer last year.
Her Early Life
Despite being buried in what is now Denmark, the team of scientists who worked on this study found that the Egtved Girl was not born in Denmark and was likely born near Germany’s Black Forest.
Like most girls her age, Egtved Girl was possibly married off early and was likely sent 500 miles away to Denmark to marry her husband, creating an alliance between their well-off families. According to historians, Denmark was a major source for amber during the Bronze Age, which was prized in Greece and the Middle East. So, it would not have been unusual for the Egtved Girl, whose family might have lived along that trade route, to have been married off to maintain good relations between two families of merchants or similarly privileged workers. National Geographic states this finding definitely “raises questions about the scale of social systems and the nature of long-distance contacts and travel in the Bronze Age.”
Her Final Years
In the last two years of her life, it appears that the Egtved Girl travelled extensively, returning to Germany at least twice in her lifetime and not finding much protein along the way. These facts suggest that perhaps she was more independent than we normally think of women of that age and had some sort of personal autonomy.
In fact, according to National Geographic, Scandinavian women of that time often had political and social power. “It’s possible that women of the northern Bronze Age were able to make negotiations and establish friendships by themselves, and not necessarily through marriage connections,” Flemming Kaul, a Bronze Age specialist adds.
Here’s hoping we learn more about this fascinating young woman and that her life, however mysterious, continues to change how we think of womanhood through the ages.