Picture of the linen wrap with the fetus. Photo: Gunnar Menander
Picture of the linen wrap with the fetus. Photo: Gunnar Menander


The famous Bishop Peder Winstrup (1605 - 1679) is buried in Lund Cathedral where his coffin has been interred in the family crypt. In October 2014, while studying the coffin with Winstrup's mummified body, surprisingly an approximately 5-6 month old fetus was found that had been wrapped in a piece of linen fabric. It had been placed under the mattress at the foot of the coffin under the bishop's lower leg. It was not possible to determine when the fetus had been placed in the coffin.

“It was not uncommon for young children to be placed in coffins with adults. The fetus may have been placed in the coffin after the funeral, as it stood in the Winstrup burial chancel in Lund Cathedral and was therefore accessible ", says Torbjörn Ahlström, professor of historical osteology at Lund University, one of the leading researchers behind the study.

The funeral book from Lund Cathedral shows that coffins with children had been placed in the grave crypt, without them being related to the Winstrup family. However, placing a fetus in the bishop's coffin is quite another matter.

DNA samples from Peder Winstrup and the fetus have now been analyzed at Stockholm University and the results show the fetus was a boy. Also, there was a close kin relation between them. The comparisons of nuclear DNA showed that on average 25% of the genes were common to both, indicating a second-degree relation. This means that they might have been uncles, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, half-siblings or double cousins. The mitochondrial data showed that they were not maternally related as Winstrup has the haplogroup H3b7 and the fetus U5a1a1. The analysis of the genome in the Y chromosome suggested a paternal relationship between Winstrup and the fetus as both had the same haplogroup - R1b1a1a2a1a2.

“Archeogenetics can contribute to the understanding of e.g. kinship relationships between buried individuals and in this case more specifically between Winstrup and the fetus", says Maja Krzewinska at the Center for Paleogenetics, Stockholm University, one of the leading authors of the study.

To investigate how Winstrup and the fetus could have been related to each other, a genealogical study was performed of Peder Winstrup's closest relatives. The most likely relationship is to a child of his son Peder Pedersen Winstrup who had married Dorothea Sparre around 1679. He too was buried in Lund Cathedral, probably in the family's crypt. Based on the results from the DNA analysis and genealogy, it is reasonable that Peder Pedersen Winstrup is the only person who could have given a second degree relative to Peder Winstrup on the paternal line. The fetus placed in the coffin may thus be the bishop's grandson.

The study which involved researchers from Stockholm University and Lund University is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Related in death? A curious case of a foetus hidden in bishop Peder Winstrup’s coffin in Lund, Sweden

Link: Fostret i biskop Peder Winstrups kista kan ha fått sin förklaring 

Maja Krzewinska, E-mail: maja.krzewinska@arklab.su.se (0707776786)
Torbjörn Ahlström, E-mail:  torbjorn.ahlstrom@ark.lu.se (0734343420)