1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii

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1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii

The Swedish Pompeii Project started in 2000 as a fieldwork project initiated at the Swedish Institute in Rome. The aim was to record and analyze an entire Pompeian city-block, Insula V 1.

Since then archeologists in Sweden have uncovered gold and jewelry at the site of a fort called Sandby Borg on the Swedish island of Öland. Hundreds died in a ‘brutal massacre’ at the island fort 1,500 years ago, and recently archeologists have unearthed one of their most exciting discoveries so far; an onion from the time of the massacre.

1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii
Sandby Borg, Öland

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During the excavation of a home, the archeologist found something they originally thought must be some kind of a large nut. However, when testing, the lab confirmed that it was in fact a burnt onion. So, it is the oldest onion discovered in Scandinavia.

1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii
1500-year old burnt nut found at Sandby Fort

Why the Sandby Fort has been left untouched for 1,500 years still remains a mystery. Since autumn 2010 the Swedish Pompeii project and its research is directed from the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Lund University. The onion is an exciting find, because it means that the area’s trade with ancient Rome must have included foodstuffs, in addition to things like gold and jewelry.

Before the brutal massacre, the site appears to have been a peaceful and prosperous place, where people lived comfortably in small huts and reared livestock for meat. But their peace was shattered when a group of unknown men burst in one night butchering the residents in a vicious and unexplained attack. This is maybe one of the reasons Atlas Obscura has nicknamed Sandby “Sweden’s Pompeii”.

1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii
Pompeii-like ruins frozen in time have been uncovered in Sweden

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‘It’s like Pompeii: Something terrible happened, and everything just stopped,’ said Helene Wilhelmson, a researcher at Sweden’s Lund University,

1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii
Pompeii, Italy / Pompeii, Sweden

The site was left undisturbed for the next 1,500 years. One theory is that the location became taboo after the massacre, with people simply too terrified to set foot there.

1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii
The Swedish Pompeii project 2007

Perhaps the onion will help shed some light on the situation

1,500-year Old Sweden’s Pompeii, written by Tor Kjolberg

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