'Lady of Bietikow' may have died of a tooth infection 5,000 years ago

‘Lady of Bietikow’ may have died of a tooth infection: 5,000-year-old skeleton of a prehistoric woman unearthed in Germany reveals a diet of grains eroded her enamel away

  • Remains were found during excavations for a wind farm in Germany 
  • She was named after the town she was discovered near in region of Uckermark
  • Evidence shows she had extremely worn teeth likely due to a diet of grains 
  • Her cause of death is still unknown but may be due to the dramatic tooth decay, likely caused by an infection  

A middle-aged woman who died more than 5,000 years ago has been discovered in  Germany. 

The Neolithic individual was unearthed during excavations for the installation of a new set of wind turbines in the region of Uckermark. 

Dubbed the ‘Lady of Bietikow’ after the town she was found near, experts are now trying to determine details of her life, including her cause of death. 

Her teeth may provide clues to this regard as they were extremely worn, potentially a sign of a fatal tooth infection, experts speculate. 

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Dubbed the ‘Lady of Bietikow’ after the town she was found near, experts are now trying to determine details of her life, including her cause of death

The skeleton’s teeth (pictured) may provide clues to this regard as they were extremely worn, potentially a sign of a fatal tooth infection, experts speculate

The skeleton had been buried in a settlement in a squatting position, one of the oldest known forms of burial, according to local media.

Investigations have shown that she was between 30 and 45 years old and died more than 5,000 years ago. 

All that is left of Lady Bietikow are bones and some fragments of clothing, but researchers have still managed to piece together some details about her life.

During the time she was alive, during the Neolithic period, humans were just starting to eat grains, as they could be stored more easily than meat and could also be used as a means of payment, according to anthropologist Bettina Jungklaus.

However, this led to a deterioration in people’s general health.

This can be seen in the state of the Lady of Bietikow’s teeth, which are severely eroded and missing completely in some places, Jungklaus said.

‘Normally there is enamel on the surface of the teeth. But here it is heavily worn, chewed off,’ she said.

‘This allows us to draw conclusions about her diet: it was probably very rich in fibre, very hard. There are certain grains that cause the teeth to wear out easily.’

It remains unclear whether the condition of Lady Bietikow’s teeth indicates an illness or even the cause of her death, and further analysis will aim to determine this. 

Researchers are now hoping to find out more about her life, including whether she came from the Uckermark region or had immigrated there from elsewhere.

Both the Lady Bietikow and the famed skeleton ‘Oetzi the Iceman’ lived during the same period of time.   

Oetzi is a stunningly preserved corpse thta 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 organs, skin and other organic material still intact – researchers were even able to see what he had eaten hours before he died. 

‘You can compare Oetzi and the Lady of Bietikow in terms of age,’ said Philipp Roskoschinski, one of the two archaeologists who made the discovery in the state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin.  

‘The discovery of Oetzi was much more spectacular due to the conditions of preservation,’ Roskoschinski said.

It remains unclear whether the condition of Lady Bietikow’s teeth indicates an illness or even the cause of her death, and further analysis will aim to determine this

WHO WAS ÖTZI THE ICEMAN?

Since his discovery on 19 December 1991 by German hikers, Ötzi (artist’s impression) has provided window into early human history.

Since his discovery on 19 December 1991 by German hikers, Ötzi has provided window into early human history.

His mummified remains were uncovered in melting glacier in the mountainous border between Austria and Italy.

Analysis of the body has told us that he was alive during the Copper Age and died a grisly death. 

Ötzi, who was 46 at the time of his death, had brown eyes, relatives in Sardinia, and was lactose intolerant.

He was also predisposed to heart disease.

In 2015, experts discovered a total of 61 tattoos on Ötzi’s body using different wavelengths of light to pick them out on the mummy’s darkened skin.

More recent research has focused on the DNA in the nuclei of Ötzi’s cells, which could yield further insights into the famous ice mummy’s life. 

Scientists examining the contents of his stomach have also worked out that his final meal consisted of venison and ibex meat.

Archaeologists believe Ötzi, who was carrying a bow, a quiver of arrows and a copper axe, may have been a hunter or warrior killed in a skirmish with a rival tribe.

Researchers say he was about 5ft 2.5 inches (159cm) tall, 46 years old, arthritic and infested with whipworm – an intestinal parasite.

His perfectly preserved body is stored in his own specially designed cold storage chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy at a constant temperature of -6°C (21°F).

Visitors can view the mummy through a small window.

Alongside his remains is an Ötzi model created using 3D images of the corpse and forensic technology by two Dutch artists – Alfons and Adrie Kennis. 

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