The woman from Lagmansören, Sweden, 2000 BC

The Nomad, or There and Back Again.

She wandered around in the scenic landscape around the river Indalsälven some 4 000 years ago. She was not alone; treading close behind, and sometimes running in front of her, was a 7-year-old boy. Her son, or close relative? We don’t know.

What we do know is that this 30-year-old woman together with the boy were buried at Lagmansören, located near Sundsvall in the northern part of Sweden. The grave was found and excavated in 1923, and the content was unique: two Neolithic skeletons in reasonably well condition. In fact, this is the oldest skeleton finding in this northern part of Sweden.

This sounds strange, doesn’t it? For sure people have lived in this area for many thousands of years before the grave was made? Yes, without a doubt. The simple explanation is that the conditions for preserving bones are so harsh up here.

And there was another peculiarity: the grave was constructed by large, flat stones, shaped like a coffin or ossuary. What the archaeologist would call a cist. The thing is, one would not expect to find this type of grave up here…

In Sweden, cist graves are mostly found in the western and the southern parts of the country. So far away from the grave in Lagmansören. In fact, the grave is therefore also unique by being the most northerly located cist grave in Sweden.

So, we wonder, who was she? And what about the cultural context, how did she live? These are tough questions to answer. A nomad, a hunter-gatherer? Or a settled early Neolithic farmer?

I think we can dare to guess she was both. Walking back and forth, as a hunter-gatherer, between two or three simple settlements, depending on the season, and probably depending on food from tiny scale agriculture as well.

She was short, not more than 150 cm tall. The skull revealed some quite male features: a well developed glabella above here nasal bridge and a robust mandible. The eyes were set surprisingly low in her face, and the mouth was broad, as was her nose.

Unfortunately, her DNA was not in condition to determine the colours of her skin, eyes and hair. So, this was subjects for educated guesses, based upon what we know about the colours of the people from the early migrations into northern Scandinavia.

And where is the boy you say? Sadly, his facial bones were not so well preserved that a facial reconstruction could be carried out. But let´s imagine him. He is running just in front of her, happily calling out “we are home, we are home!”

This week my latest reconstruction, the woman from Lagmansören, was installed at the Västernorrlands museum, Härnösand, Sweden. The totally amazing clothes were made by Helena Gjaerum.

P.S. Strangely enough, just some kilometres from the grave I spent some happy holidays in my childhood. I remember the majestic never-ending forest, the soft blue and green contours of the mountains draped in a magical mist and the fresh crystal-clear air. And let´s be fair: insane amounts of mosquitos as well…

Västernorrlands Museum, Härnösand, Sweden.