The combined knowledge in medicine/anatomy, paleopathology and biological/forensic anthropology since more than 40 years have given Holck a broad experience in analyzing bones – complete skeletons, remnants and cremations. Every completed analysis is an “achievement”, even if the main part of such examinations only ends up as a report.
Still, the research work carried out in connection with the book “Cremated Bones” (Holck, 1997) has given archaeologists, anthropologists, forensic specialists and police new techniques to better understand this material, and the work has been frequently cited in the literature. The first edition (1986) resulted in Prof. Voss’ Prize 1987.
The work with the skeletal material from the Oseberg ship revealed that the two women buried onboard were both high-ranked, as the 13C isotope analysis showed that they had been nourished by terrestrial food, and not fish. The discovery of a thickened area of the frontal bone of the eldest woman made the diagnosis “Morgagni syndrome” possible, characterized by virilism, reduced mental capacity and adiposity (among other things).
X-raying her skeleton also revealed several metastases, probably representing the terminal stage of breast cancer. aDNA extracted from one of the teeth showed that the younger lady belonged to the mitochondrial sub-haplogroup U7, which means that her ancestors could have come from the Black Sea region (Holck, 2006).
Also the work with the skeleton from the Gokstad ship gave new information, as the combination of an extremely powerful skeleton with the flattened sella turcica in the skull base – obviously because of a tumor in the pituitary gland – made the diagnosis “acromegaly” possible. Several blow marks from sharp weapons also revealed that this man had been killed in battle (Holck, 2009).