Skeleton found from the tomb discovered in the UT History Museum
The depths of the medieval tomb discovered during the renovation of the lobby of the University of Tartu History Museum revealed a skeleton that belonged to a male human. The isolated tomb uncovered in the Dome Church and the manner of the burial indicate the burial site of a dignified person.
The tomb found in March during the renovation of the lobby of the UT History Museum is of high archaeological value, as no medieval tomb this intact had been found from the Dome Church before. After fortifying the hole from within, archaeologists started to clear the tomb. The excavations revealed a human skeleton that was buried about 1.8 metres deep. According to bone archaeologist Martin Malve, an Archaeological Cabinet technician at the University of Tartu, the surprising aspect of the discovery was the integrity of the preserved skeleton: “As the contents of tombs were disturbed by the Russian troops during the Livonian War, there was little hope of finding a complete skeleton.”
The body was buried in a plank coffin stuck together with nails. “We did not find any items with the dead body; however, there are plenty of coffin nails and a small amount of decayed wood. By analysing it, we hope to identify the tree species that the coffin material came from – this in turn would help us date the burial,” says Malve. “As of now, it can be said that the skeleton dates from 13th to 15th century, when tombs were actively used for burial. The skeleton belongs to a 40 to 50-year-old man. Based on preliminary observations, we can say that his teeth were relatively little worn, there are some missing teeth that he lost during his lifetime, and some tartar and caries are visible. In the farthest end of the right forearm, a fracture can be seen that healed during the man’s lifetime and may have resulted from blocking a fall with a hand,” Malve describes the finding.
The skeleton will be taken to the human bone storeroom at the UT Department of Archaeology. According to the Director of the UT History Museum Mariann Raisma, the finding will hopefully be put on display by the end of the summer, at the latest.
Further information: Martin Malve, bone archaeologist, Archaeological Cabinet at the University of Tartu, tel: 525 1186, e-mail: martin.malve [ät] ut.ee;
Mariann Raisma, Director of the UT History Museum, tel: 737 5675, 522 1702, e-mail: mariann.raisma [ät] ut.ee.