German researchers are reassembling the life of a prehistoric woman who died more than 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic, after her skeleton was found during wind turbine excavation.
“Lady of Bietikow”, as she was named, was found near a village of the same name in the Uckermark region of northeastern Germany.
The skeleton is buried in a squat settlement, one of the oldest known forms of burial, according to local media.
Investigations have shown that she is between 30 and 45 years old and died more than 5,000 years ago.
That means she lived during the same period as Oetzi the Iceman, a beautifully preserved body found by tourists in the Alps in the 1990s.
“You can compare Oetzi and Lady of Bietikow in terms of age,” said Philipp Roskoschinski, one of two archaeologists who made the discovery in the state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin.
Oetzi was found in 1991 by two hikers in the Oetztal Alps on the border between Austria and Italy.
His body was extremely well preserved, with his organs, skin and other organic matter intact – researchers could even see what he ate for hours before he died.
“The discovery of Oetzi was much more spectacular due to the storage conditions,” Roskoschinski said.
All that was left of Lady Bietikow were bones and some pieces of clothing, but researchers still managed to put together some details about her life.
According to anthropologist Bettina Jungklaus, it was during the Neolithic period that humans first included grains in their diet, as they could be stored more easily than meat and could also be used used as a means of payment.
However, this has led to a decline in everyone’s general well-being.
This can be seen in the state of Lady of Bietikow’s teeth, which were severely eroded and completely lost in some places, Jungklaus said.
“Normally on the surface of the tooth enamel. But there is a lot of wear, not all chewing.”
“This allows us to draw conclusions about her diet: it can be very high in fiber, very hard. There are certain grains that make teeth more prone to wear.”
It is still unclear whether Lady Bietikow’s tooth condition was a sign of an illness or even the cause of her death.
Researchers are now hoping to learn more about her life, including whether she is from Uckermark or has immigrated from elsewhere.
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