New Viking Ship Graves Discovered in Sweden and Norway

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New Viking Ship Graves Discovered in Sweden and Norway

Swedish authorities have announced the first Viking boat grave discoveries in the country in more than 50 years.

Archaeologists taking part in a routine dig in Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala), 46 miles (74km) north of Stockholm, were shocked as they unearthed the Viking boat graves that included human remains.

Viking Ship Graves Discovered in Sweden and Norway
Archaeologists have discovered two Viking burial ships in Sweden in what is being hailed as a ‘sensational’ discovery. The two graves were found during an excavation last autumn near a vicarage in the village of Gamla Uppsala and experts have been investigating ever since

There are only a handful of known burial sites of this kind in the country. While rare in Sweden, discoveries of Viking burial sites have become more frequent elsewhere in Scandinavia.

Last year, Norwegian archaeologists found remains of longhouses and at least one ship lying just below the topsoil near Halden in the south-east of Norway.

The team also found items including a sword, a spear, a shield, and an ornate comb (pictured). Graves like these typically date back to the Viking Age (800-1050 AD), when it was more common to cremate the dead

Just months later, another ship discovery was made on the shores of the Oslofjord at the Midgard Viking Center in Horten.


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Significant remains

One of the two boats found in the grave is intact and holds the remains of a man, horse and dog. Personal items including a sword, spear, shield, and an ornate comb were also in the grave.

Burial ships were full-sized boats in which people of high social standing were sometimes buried, often along with gifts and other objects. One of the two newly discovered graves was intact, with the remains of a man buried in the stern of the boat, with what is assumed to be his horse and his dog (pictured)
Burial ships were full-sized boats in which people of high social standing were sometimes buried, often along with gifts and other objects. Graves like these typically date back to the Viking Age (800-1050 AD), when it was more common to cremate the dead

The people discovered in the grave were likely of high social standing, as it is believed such boat burials were reserved for a privileged few. A spokesperson from consultant archaeologists Arkeologerna called the find “sensational.”

“This is a unique excavation. The last excavation of this grave type in Old Uppsala was almost 50 years ago,” said archaeologist Anton Seiler.

The fact the grave contents are so well-preserved and undisturbed is especially exciting for the team.

That’s because it will be the first opportunity archaeologists have to study Viking burial traditions with modern scientific analysis methods in Sweden.

“We can now use modern science and methods that will generate new results, hypotheses and answers. We will also put the boat burials in relation to the very special area that is Old Uppsala and the excavations done here before,” said Seiler.

A routine excavation

Such a find was not at all what archaeologists were expecting at the beginning of the project. Old Uppsala was an important religious, economic and political settlement as far back as the 3rd century, and is an area rich in historic remains. 

The find is particularly special as only around ten discoveries of burial ships have been made in Sweden, according to the researchers. ‘This is a unique excavation, the last burial ship was examined 50 years ago,’ experts said

The routine dig began on the grounds of the vicarage last fall. The work involved excavating a cellar and well that was known to date from the Middle Ages.

But as the work progressed, one of the boats was gradually revealed beneath the structures. The scope of the project quickly changed, and archaeologists have spent the last month excavating the two burial boats. 


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It’s thought the damage caused to the second boat was done when the cellar was built sometime around the 16th century.

Once archaeologists have finished their analysis, parts of the discovery will be put on display at Old Uppsala Museum and the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.


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