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Windeby Girl Essay

The body was found in 1952 in an estate called Windeby in Northern Germany. It was discovered when the owners decided to cut the peat to sell for fuel. During the process, the body of a 14 year old girl was found, however at that time, the machinery had already caused some damage to the body. It severed a leg, a foot and a hand. Work was then immediately stopped to investigate the find.

State in which the body was found

When the body was first found, parts such as the hand and hair were very well preserved by the bog. Her brain was said to have retained its size and shape. The chest had, at the time, decayed and the ribs were visible. The hair had been shaved on one side and there was a blindfold over her eyes. There was a leather collar around the body’s neck, and due to the long hair and small frame, it was instantly assumed to be a girl.

Why did she die?

There are different theories as to why Windeby died. The first interpretation when the body was found was that she was killed as punishment for adultery. Her head was shaved, led out naked with a cloth covering her eyes and leather collar around her neck then drowned in the bog. Another body was found about five metres from Windeby Girl, it was that of a man, and at the time was said to be her partner in the acts. However, this was later unproven as further investigation was done on the bodies. Carbon dating showed that Windeby Girl died during the first century AD, whereas her supposed partner lived three centuries earlier. Due to the fact that there were no signs of trauma or struggle according the evidence on the body, ideas that this may have been a sacrificial ritual were proposed.

Later Investigation: Windeby Girl is a Boy

In 1952, when Windeby Girl was first found, the discoverers assumed that she was girl due to the long hair and small frame. In 1970, Heather Gill-Robinson, a biological anthropologist, examined the body’s skeleton and proposed that the body could in fact be a boy. More than 30 years later, in 2007, a DNA testing was done ad a professor from North Dakota State University proved that the body was indeed male. The DNA and bone testing also showed that the boy may have been malnourished and was often sick during his life. This lead to the theory that the boy may have simply died due to natural causes and the blindfold was there to “protect the living from the gaze of the dead” or may have merely been a band to hold back his hair and slipped down due to shrinkage of the body. His half bald head maybe have also been due to careless excavation or natural causes such as decay over time.


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