The deceased can serve as an example of an individual whose social identity is outside the traditional gender division, says Ulla Moilanen, a doctoral student in archeology at the University of Turku.
Historical re-examination of the tomb reveals that gender diversity was understood in early medieval Finland.
More than 50 years ago, a tomb over a thousand years old was found in Suonta, Hattula, the deceased of which was dressed in the typical women’s costume of the era. The deceased also had plenty of jewelry, among other things.
A sword considered masculine had been laid in the same grave.
Based on the findings, the grave has long been considered either a joint grave of a woman and a man or evidence of strong female leaders in Iron Age Finland.
Fresh Research by the University of Turku suggests old interpretations and suggests that the deceased did not represent a traditional gender division.
The study confirmed that there are only one human remains in the grave. The deceased had not only typical woman’s clothes, but also a handleless sword.
Based on the DNA sample, it is likely that the deceased had the sex chromosome combination XXY, or Klifner syndrome.
“If the features of Klinefelter’s syndrome have been clearly seen in a person, he or she may not have been considered in the early medieval community to be purely a woman or a man,” Ulla Moilanen says in the bulletin.
A person with XXY chromosomes is usually anatomically male. However, the syndrome can cause, for example, breast growth, loss of muscle mass, and infertility.
Deceased was laid in a grave with precious furs and objects, on a soft feather cover.
The findings reveal that even people who differ from the traditional gender division may have been valued in their own community in prehistoric Finland.
“The rich equipment of the tomb shows that the person was not only accepted, but also valued and respected.”
Another sword was also found in the grave, but scholars believe the other was put in the grave later, only after the burial. According to Moilanen, the bronze-handled sword described as striking in the release emphasizes “the importance of the person and this memory in their own community”.
The peer-reviewed study was published European Journal of Archeology in a scientific publication in July 2021.