Skeletons of twin infant Vikings discovered in Sweden
Swedish archaeologists discovered seven tombs of Viking adults and infants from the 10th century who most likely converted to Christianity prior to their death.
The tombs, which contain the remains of four adults and four infants, were discovered in the Swedish town of Sigtuna, which is located just north of Stockholm.
Two of the infants that were buried together may have been twins and were possibly miscarried, according to the researchers.
Their cause of death is currently unknown, but the experts hope to reveal more in scientific paper yet to be published.
The excavations have been led by Uppdrag Arkeologi, a Swedish archaeological company based in Stockholm.
‘The Christian character of the now-excavated graves is obvious because of how the tombs were laid out,’ Johan Runer, a project manager with Uppdrag Arkeologi, told Live Science.
‘In one tomb, there were two very small infants of seemingly the exact same age,’ he said, which may be ‘the tragic result of a late miscarriage of a couple of twins’.
Uppdrag Arkeologi said on its Facebook page that the Christian graveyard dates prior to the construction of churches with associated cemeteries in the region.
They may be some of the very first Christian funerals in Sigtuna, possibly from the time it was established in the late 900s.
A couple of clues suggest the people were Vikings who transitioned to Christianity.
Firstly, a man-made pile of stones known as a ‘cairn’ was found on top of four of the tombs, one of which was also surrounded by stone cist – stones positioned in a box shape.
These features are previously not known in Sigtuna, according to Runer, but they are common among early Christian graves in the area.
As well as this, Vikings during this time period tended to be cremated rather than buried like these people, who were laid on their backs in an east to west orientation.
The researchers also found deposits of charcoal and partially burnt caskets, suggestive of Christian fire rituals.
The graves are also not far from one of Sigtuna’s few known pre-Christian iron age graves. ‘Possibly there is a connection here,’ Uppdrag Arkeologi said.
The site is closed to the public, according to the firm, but results of the dig will be presented in an upcoming report.
Uppdrag Arkeologi said: ‘We do not have the opportunity to offer any views of the site, but will continually inform about the results.’