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The Lidingö Does were eight people whose remains were found in a mass grave on the island of Lidingö, Sweden. Despite the mass grave containing eight bodies, only four were found at first and it took another year for the remaining four to be found. Various proposals and theories have been suggested to explain the grave and identify the remains

Case

On April 23, 1898, two labourers from Stockholm had traveled to the island of Lidingö, Sweden to work on a villa named Sannadal. Since summer was soon approaching the workers decided to dig up the soil and flowerbeds in order to plant seeds for the upcoming summer season. They started digging up the ground between 12–14 meters from the seashore until their shovels hit something hard. They assumed it was a large stone at first but after they continued digging they discovered a human skull. The police were informed and the rest of the area was carefully excavated resulting in the discovery of four human skeletons.

An investigation soon started and it was found that Sannadal was built 8 - 9 years prior to the find and that the island was mostly a marshland covered in alder trees before it was built. Most alarmingly however was that the year prior in the autumn of 1897, four skeletons were found buried in the same area not far from this current discovery. Not much investigation was put into the first into the first find with the local sheriff reporting the four skeletons to The National Antiquarian with no further action being taken to explain the find. Even after the construction of the villa the particular area that the skeletons were discovered in was desolate for a few decades.

The two graves were located right next to each other so it was concluded that they were both part of a single mass grave and that the police simply didn't conduct a big enough excavation back in 1897. The skeletons all belonged to fully grown adults however their gender couldn't be determined. The skeletons all laid close together however their positions were all different with some laying face down, on their side or on their back and one of the 1897 skeletons was "in a position bent forward, with its head between the knees" they also seemed to be haphazardly thrown into the shallow grave which was only 6'2 inches deep. The skeletons from 1897 were also placed "chaotically" into the grave with one being in between two large rocks and another was laying on top of another skeleton.

Efforts were undertaken to determine how long the skeletons had been buried. Brass buttons stamped with an unknown motif were recovered on the chest of one of the skeletons and had only decayed slightly however a piece of thread found on another skeleton seemed completely fresh and unspoiled. Cause of death was also a major issue which became more concerning once a nail was discovered inside one of the skulls.

Another source elaborates on the nail aspect stating that it was nailed into the skull, despite there being no signs of a wooden coffin. The skeletons were all well preserved with first hand reports describing them as "smooth and clean, without having been filled with any dirt, the teeth well-preserved and shiny." it was however reported that the left side of one of the skulls was crushed and caved in.

Adding to confusion around how long the bodies were buried was the fact that the soil they were buried in contributed to how well preserved they are as the skeletons were buried in topsoil. Eventually it was concluded that the skeletons were dead and buried for 50 years at the very latest however this claim would later be called into question with new information indicating that they were buried much more recently or much further back.

The discover became major news all over 19th century Sweden and even abroad as Swedish newspapers based in The United States reported on the discovery as well. Despite the how sensational of a story this became there would be few updates however the few that were printed provided some vital information.

The bones and grave were further examined and a clay tabaco pipe was discovered alongside a sailcloth awl with a wooden handle. This information proved to be vital as the first clay pipes in Sweden were made in made in 1595 and thus that was the earliest the grave could've been created. The clay pipes were most common during the 17th and 18th centuries. Therefore it was determined that the grave was created between 1595 - 1897. The preservation of the bones, the brass button, the wooden handle of the awl, and the piece of thread thusly indicated that the grave was created more recently. It was also proposed that the skeletons were likely dead before they were buried as evidenced by one of the skeletons having it's jaws wide open. The nail found in one of the skulls was also examined and found to be three inches long.

The police eventually determined that this likely wasn't a criminal investigation and informed The National Antiquarian of the find with the police stating that the skeletons either disease victims for soldiers from The Finnish War further stating that they had been buried they've been in the ground since 1808 - 1809. Despite this being the official explanation not everyone was satisfied and some other theories were proposed although the authorities never conducted any further investigations.

Sources

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