Computer model of dead Viking King’s skeleton rebuilt with a 3D printer.

Danish Viking king, Gorm the Old, is the son of semi-legendary Danish King Harthacnut, originally from Northmannia, who took power in the early 10th century deposing young king Sigtrygg Gnupasson and reigning over Western Denmark. When Harthacnut died, Gorm ascended the throne and ruled into his old age until he died in 958 AD.

Scientists at the National Museum of Denmark made computer tomography (CT) scans of Gorm the Old’s remains before reburying them in 2000. However, these early low-resolution scans were not good enough to learn many aspects about the man himself. For example, they could only guesstimate his age was between 35 to 50.

In the computer, they repaired the 3D model of his bones to compensate for damages of time. Marie Louise Jørkov of the University of Copenhagen said “you can print the bones one to one in 3D, which makes it possible to display the bones. We can then re-analyse the skeleton and study the bones to look for any signs of disease, which can’t be seen at the surface.”

They found a bump on the back of the skull that “can best be compared to a bunion,” concluded Carsten Reidies Bjarkam of Aarhus University. This is larger than normal but not a big deal, besides it probably being painful to lay down on. There’s plenty of room for speculation as to what pressure could have caused such a protrusion, among the most likely may be a battle injury or the heavy burden of the king’s crown.

Despite not being able to gather DNA evidence of this body’s actual identity, the museum feels it’s best to leave the bones to rest since they’ve already been excavating and reburied several times. It’s also an issue for the church and the royal family to decide.

“He’s been in the grave for 800 years, which for much of that time was under water, and his bones are very damaged. I doubt that it’s possible to extract DNA or strontium [a trace element that can say something about where a person was born and lived]. Moreover, he’s been disinterred three times now, so it’s also a question of allowing him to rest in peace,” he says.

Rest in peace Viking King.