Main image: Screen of Gameplay of the video game War of the Vikings (public domain). Inset: One of the skeletons found in the Sandvika sitting graves, Central Norway (Photo: NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, 1965-66)

Who Were These Vikings Buried Sitting Upright?

(Read the article on one page)

BY THORNEWS 

Accidentally, in 1963 a burial ground with 24 graves deep inside the bay of Sandvika on the eastern side of the island of Jøa in Central Norway were discovered. The bodies buried in a sitting position dates back to the years 650 to 1000 AD, and analyses show that these Vikings belonged to a very special group of people.

Unlike other Viking Age graves, the graveyard was unknown because the bodies were not placed inside a burial mound that is clearly visible in the terrain, or marked in any other way. These dead Vikings were lowered into cylinder- and funnel-shaped sand holes from flat ground. The question is why.

Sandvika Burial Ground is Unique

The Sandvika burial ground is unique in Scandinavia, and these people are the only ones found with sitting bodies.

The burial custom had been very strenuous: Firstly, the person must have been dead for at least twenty-four hours so that rigor mortis could make it possible to shape the body into a seated position, and secondly, it must have been very difficult to form seats in the porous shell sand.

However, these are not the only reasons why this particular group of Vikings is a mystery.

One of the skeletons found in the Sandvika sitting graves, Central Norway (Photo: NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, 1965-66)

One of the skeletons found in the Sandvika sitting graves, Central Norway (Photo: NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, 1965-66)

Old Women – Small Men

In 14 of the 24 graves there were found skeletons and skeletal remains; 10 graves were empty.

Of these, seven women and four men have been identified. Analyses shows that the women reached an average age of 47 years, much higher than average for Iron Age people, where the normal life expectancy for women was 39 years.

It has only been possible to determine the age of one of the men, and he died at the age of 40.

The reconstructed Tranås Iron Age farm located only a few hundred meters from Sandvika. (Photo: ThorNews)

The reconstructed Tranås Iron Age farm located only a few hundred meters from Sandvika. (Photo: ThorNews)

The women had an average height of 157.2 centimeters (5ft 2in), and the men 162.6 centimeters (5ft 4in), which is much lower than the normal height for this period.

The men were as much as 10 centimeters (3.9in) lower than the average for the Viking Age (172.6 cm / 5ft 8in) and 12 centimeters (4.7in) lower than people living in the Iron Age (174.7 cm / 5ft 9in).

The women do not differ so much – they only were 3.7 centimeters (1.5in) lower than the normal for Iron Age women (160.9 cm / 5ft 3in) and 0.9 centimeters (0.35in) lower than Danish Viking women (158.1 cm / 5ft 3in).

Heathen Hof Nearby

The dating of artifacts shows that these Vikings were buried fully clothed in the period 650 – 1000 AD, i.e. from the Merovingian period to the end of the Viking Age, and it seems like the burial custom ended when Christianity was forced with swords upon the Norse society.

Today, on the other side of the small river Hovselva (English: the Hof River) is the Hov (Hof) farm located in the northeast – indicating that there was a pagan temple located close to the burial ground.

In all of the 24 graves there were found remnants of bonfires, so it is natural to assume that there must have been some kind of ritual that included bonfire in connection with the funeral.

Orientation and Knives

Another peculiarity is that about half the bodies were facing north-northeast (facing the Hof) and half to the south-southeast. No one was facing directly east and only one body was facing directly to the west.

An illustration showing the orientation of the bodies. Credit: Thor Lanesskog

An illustration showing the orientation of the bodies. Credit: Thor Lanesskog

As many as ten knifes were found in nine different graves. They vary in length, but none of them has a blade more than 20 centimeters and consequently had not been used as Viking combat weapons. The individuals they belonged to must have used these knives for a different purpose.

There were no other weapons found inside the graves, which is unusual for the Viking Age. However, there were also found beads, brooches, finger rings and keys, but there is no repeating pattern.

Specialists in Their Field

The similarities between the buried Vikings are many:

Both women and men died at an old age, and the men were much lower than the average height in the Viking Age.

Comments

The dead were sitting upright, because that is the most efficient way to bury a dead human. The idea that a person should be laying flat on their back is stupid. put them sitting upright and you dont have to dig as much dirt out of the hole.

so why was this so unusual, Walter ? If it was so efficient everyone would have been buried that way. Not sure any less earth removal required for upright burial, as you have to go deeper.

i never said it was unusual. where did you get that idea. in fact, i implied that it was probably more usual for some cultures to bury their dead upright. and OF COURSE, simple geometry will tell you that you only need to dig about half the dirt to do this. That is not something i need to prove as it is self evident. That you would question it's simplicity tells me how simple you are.

The article said "The Sandvika burial ground is unique in Scandinavia, and these people are the only ones found with sitting bodies." Unique means the only one. So my remark stands
I was not questioning the amount of earth but the extra depth required. It is easier to dig a fairly shallow hole than a deep one.
And there is no need to be personally derogatory.

Silly me - I thought I might find out the answer to the headline question if I read this article. How dumb can you get?

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.

Human Origins

Kalash girls with traditional clothing.
The Kalash (known also as the Kalasha) are an indigenous people living in what is today Pakistan. Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, with more than 95% of its population being adherents of Islam, the Kalash hold on to their own religious beliefs, along with their own identity, way of life, and language.

Ancient Technology

An Ulfberht sword displayed at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany
Ulfberht was like a Medieval luxury brand for swords—but unlike your Gucci purse, the swords were of such high quality they were almost … mystical. Dozens of these swords—made with metal so strong and pure it’s baffling how any sword maker of that time could have accomplished it

Ancient Places

Kalash girls with traditional clothing.
The Kalash (known also as the Kalasha) are an indigenous people living in what is today Pakistan. Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, with more than 95% of its population being adherents of Islam, the Kalash hold on to their own religious beliefs, along with their own identity, way of life, and language.

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