Kivik Kungagraven: A Tomb Fit for a King

Kivik Kungagraven: A Tomb Fit for a King

(Read the article on one page)

In 1748, two farmers stumbled upon an ancient stone tomb near the village of Kivik in southern Sweden while digging in a quarry. The tomb, now known as Kivik Kungagraven (‘King’s Grave of Kivik’), has since been reconstructed to a how it would have appeared during the time that it was first built. It is known for having an elaborate burial chamber which contains prominent artwork indicating a religious ceremony of some sort. The tomb gives a glimpse into the degree of social complexity and technological sophistication extant in Bronze Age Scandinavia.

Entrance to the King’s Grave

Entrance to the King’s Grave ( CC by SA 3.0 )

The site of the tomb was originally a quarry until the grave was discovered. The two farmers who discovered it are said to have excavated it looking for treasure. They were unfortunately unable to find any treasure. The tomb appears to have already been looted in the past and any grave goods that were in it have since been removed.

The ancient burial site at Kivik

The ancient burial site at Kivik ( CC by SA 3.0 )

Archaeological excavation began in earnest in the 1930s. During the excavation, a second burial chamber was discovered which was smaller than the first. As a result, it was dubbed the “Prince’s Chamber.” Recent archaeological investigation has uncovered remains of teenage individuals in the Prince’s Chamber. The entire tomb complex is round, about 75 meters in diameter. Inside the main chamber are ten stones which line the edge of the grave cavity or cist. They are 1 meter high and 1 meter wide. On these stones are depictions of dancers, musicians with horns, cloaked figures that might be dancers or priests, and horses pulling carts. The artwork inside the cist resembles rock art which appears elsewhere in multiple locations across Northern Europe including Tanum and sites in Denmark.

One of ten slabs of stone shows a horse drawn chariot with two four-spoked wheels

One of ten slabs of stone shows a horse drawn chariot with two four-spoked wheels ( CC by SA 3.0 )

One of the slabs of stone shows people (eight in long robes)

One of the slabs of stone shows people (eight in long robes) ( CC by SA 3.0 )

The tomb was built around 1500 BC.  Lack of artifacts useful for constraining the chronology make it difficult to date the site with any further precision, but it is typically dated to the Early Bronze Age. The Nordic Bronze Age was a time of major social changes and improvements in trade which made copper and tin more available, helping to make bronze commonly used. a Pan-European tradition of bronze-working was spreading across the continent. Bronze for the first time had become widespread in Scandinavia because of the availability of tin and copper due to trade. It is also around this time that monumental burial mounds and tombs began to be built across northern Europe, a trend of which King’s Grave is just one example. It is not certain whether the arrival of bronze allowed for the rise of social complexity which led to structures such as monumental tombs or if the technology of bronze-working simply made it easier for an already complex society to build tombs. Early theories regarding sociocultural evolution in Scandinavia held that the development or arrival of bronze-working in European societies allowed for the formation of a class of specialists and chieftains who were able to separate themselves from the farmers as an elite class.

The stones of the grave facing the grave of Kivik

The stones of the grave facing the grave of Kivik ( CC by SA 3.0 )

The artwork made in the tomb indicates connections to northern Germany and Denmark. The stones depict horses, what may be ships, and symbols which resemble sun wheels. This suggests that the people who built the grave site had the same religious beliefs as cultures across northern Europe at the time. Shared religious beliefs suggest that the people of southern Sweden were connected to regions further south in other ways as well, such as the technology which they possessed.    

Before the Bronze Age, the primary material used for making tools and weapons in the region was flint. Flint knives are commonly found at Late Neolithic sites. Because bronze-working requires relatively well trained specialists compared to the manufacturing of lithics, there wouldn’t be many initially and they would probably need to receive support from wealthy members of the society such as chieftains in order to receive their training. Chieftains would be able to employ them to build the necessary tools to build monuments and prestige items such as ornaments and ceremonial weapons and armor. Once chieftains were patrons of well-trained bronze-smiths, it would have become easier for them to construct monumental structures such as tombs.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Roman glass (not the legendary flexible glass). Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.
Imagine a glass you can bend and then watch it return to its original form. A glass that you drop but it doesn’t break. Stories say that an ancient Roman glassmaker had the technology to create a flexible glass, ‘vitrium flexile’, but a certain emperor decided the invention should not be.

Human Origins

Photo of Zecharia Sitchin (left)(CC0)Akkadian cylinder seal dating to circa 2300 BC depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, and Enki, three members of the Anunnaki.(right)
In a previous 2-part article (1), the authors wrote about the faulty associations of the Sumerian deities known as the Anunnaki as they are portrayed in the books, television series, and other media, which promotes Ancient Astronaut Theory (hereafter “A.A.T.”).

Ancient Technology

Roman glass (not the legendary flexible glass). Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.
Imagine a glass you can bend and then watch it return to its original form. A glass that you drop but it doesn’t break. Stories say that an ancient Roman glassmaker had the technology to create a flexible glass, ‘vitrium flexile’, but a certain emperor decided the invention should not be.

Ancient Places

Opinion

Hopewell mounds from the Mound City Group in Ohio. Representative image
During the Early Woodland Period (1000—200 BC), the Adena people constructed extensive burial mounds and earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Many of the skeletal remains found in these mounds by early antiquarians and 20th-Century archaeologists were of powerfully-built individuals reaching between 6.5 and eight feet in height (198 cm – 244 cm).

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article