In Gamla Uppsala, Sweden, researchers have found two unique boat burials from the Viking age. According to archeologists, it’s the first discovery of its kind in 50 years. Read more about the two rare Viking boat burials uncovered in Sweden.
Uppsala was the old political and religious center in Sweden from c. 550 – 1000. One of the graves was intact with the remains of a man, a horse and a dog. The found offers what archeologists say is a glimpse into how customs and practices changed in the tumultuous era of raids, religious conversion and trade.
Rare Viking Boat Burials Uncovered in Sweden
The graves were uncovered during an excavation at a vicarage in Old Uppsala last autumn. The boat burials were found beneath a cellar in a plot of modern houses and a well dating from the Middle Ages. “This is a unique excavation, the last excavation of this type of grave took place in Old Uppsala almost 50 years ago,” says the archaeologist Anton Seiler.
“It is extremely exciting for us since boat burials are so rarely excavated. We can now use modern science and methods that will generate new results, hypotheses and answers,” Seiler adds.
The two boat burials have been excavated during June and the results are sensational. Not least, because they offer a possibility of using a plethora of new scientific methods, which has become available since the last such excavations took place decades ago.
The age of the grave has yet to be confirmed, but it’s probably dated to the 10th century. Previously, there have only been 10 burial sites of this kind discovered, mainly in the nearby provinces of Uppland and Vestmanland.
It was a specific funeral practice to place a dead person in a boat or ship along with rich gifts like jewelry, weapons and other objects. The dead were usually cremated, but occasionally people were buried un-cremated in furnished ships. This custom was mainly reserved for people of a higher social standing.
Wealthy member of the Viking-age society
“The buried man was likely a very wealthy member of Viking-age society,” said Johan Anund, the regional manager for the Archaeologists.
“It is a small group of people who were buried in this way. You can suspect that they were distinguished people in the society of the time since burial ships in general are very rare,” Mr Seiler said.
Construction of the boats and personal items like a sword, spear, and ornate comb and a shield were also excavated.
Once in a lifetime opportunity for an archeologist
Mr. Anund called the excavation a “once in a lifetime opportunity for an archeologist and added: “Un-cremated boat graves are extremely rare, and the chances to excavate them are even scarcer.”
The fact that it’s an intact grave undisturbed by plundering, makes this a particularly interesting opportunity to study this kind of rare burial traditions with modern scientific analysis methods and documentation techniques.
The arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia
The archeologists suggest that these burials reflect the arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia and that these boat burials were “very pagan”. The decision to not cremate the grave was a “radical new” element influenced by Christianity.
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