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Remains from the Woman in Blue were stained green by the preservation solution used in the jars they were previously stored in. (The National Museum of Iceland)

Life story

New clues emerge about Iceland’s mysterious “Woman in Blue”

By WITW Staff on April 26, 2016

A group of researchers recently shed light on Iceland’s famed “Woman in Blue,” the skeletal remains of a young Viking-era woman that were discovered in 1938 near the town of Ketilsstaðir in eastern Iceland. She takes her nickname from the blue apron in which she was buried. The remains are incomplete and have been poorly preserved over the years, but anthropologists studying her recently revealed some new details they were able to learn about her life. For one thing, they’ve finally pinned down her approximate age — between 17 and 25 years old. Based on radiocarbon testing of the fabric of her clothes and her teeth, they estimate that the “Woman in Blue” was born around the year 900 and that she died sometime around the 920. They also were able to estimate her geographic movements based on the analysis of her teeth, and they believe she moved from the British Isles or Scandinavia to Iceland and settled there as a young child, perhaps between the age of 5 and 10 years old. They say her diet, reflected in the chemical makeup of her teeth, suggests those are the places she lived. After her move to Iceland, she consumed a diet largely consisting of fish, but before settling there she mostly ate land animals and vegetation. Though she was dressed in traditional Viking attire for her burial, researchers are unable to conclude whether she was Viking or hailed from Northern Europe. In addition to her clothing and the blue apron, she was also buried with an extravagant pearl necklace and two Scandinavian brooches — and one of the brooches, in an amazing twist of fate, contained the clue that opened to door to her life story. Somehow, a fragment of her skin was preserved on the back of the brooch, and scientists used it to determine her age and origin. The researchers are now studying her DNA for more clues about the “Woman in Blue.”

Read the full story at the New Historian.


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