(CNN)In 1968, excavators uncovered a nearly 1,000-year-old grave in Finland thought to be occupied by a warrior woman, given the presence of both jewelry and a pristine sword in the grave.
The inhabitant of a medieval grave in Finland may have been nonbinary, a new study finds
A new analysis of the grave's contents has produced a new hypothesis: The person buried there may have been nonbinary.
The findings suggest that nonbinary identity -- that is, when a person identifies as neither male nor female -- may have existed in medieval Europe. The elaborate manner of burial suggests that nonbinary people may have occupied a special role in medieval society worthy of respect, researchers wrote in a new study published in the European Journal of Archaeology.
"This burial has an unusual and strong mixture of feminine and masculine symbolism, and this might indicate that the individual was not strictly associated with either gender but instead something else," said lead author Ulla Moilanen in an email to CNN.
The initial discovery was incongruous with what researchers knew about medieval burials at the time: The person buried there was wearing jewelry and feminine dress, items typical for a woman's burial in that era, but a sword was placed on top of their body. It puzzled scientists, who believed that the grave may have at one point belonged to two people rather than a "warrior woman."
So, more than 50 years after the initial study was published, a team of researchers from Finland and Germany took a closer look at the grave's contents (or what they could parse with the few materials that had not disintegrated).
The grave, they found, contained traces of rabbit hair and bird feathers, suggesting whoever was in the grave was given an "elaborate burial," the researchers wrote in the study. And there were the brooches, items typically buried with women in that era, that first caused scientists to assume the person buried there was a woman.