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Ekornavallen Burial Ground

Ekornavallen Burial Ground: Sacred Land of Ancient Scandinavians

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Sweden has a great many exciting archaeological sites that date back to the Neolithic period. One of the most important sites in this Scandinavian country is the Ekornavallen Burial Ground near Falköping. This site has a variety of ancient monuments dating from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, with 4,000 years separating the youngest from the oldest monuments. The burial ground is considered to be very important in the study of prehistoric Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

Where is Ekornavallen located?

The burial site is located in an area of natural beauty between Varnhem and the city of Falköping in the south-west of Sweden. It is close to some houses and a modern graveyard and can easily be seen from the busy road.  It is located in an open field and is composed of a series of monuments and standing stones. Some of these may be in private property.

Standing Stones, Stone Circles and a Triangular Stone Setting

There are four passage graves which have narrow openings made of large stones – these have several burial chambers and are usually covered with earth. There is also a gallery grave, which is a typical communal burial ground, and also cairns, stone circles and a dozen standing stones.

Ekornavallen standing stones (Image: ©Jakub via Fotolia)

Ekornavallen standing stones (Image: © Jakub via Fotolia)

In addition, there are eight round settings of stone and one triangular stone arrangement. The area was probably a sacred landscape for many centuries.

History of Ekornavallen

Ekornavallen has graves from four periods: Neolithic, Bronze, Iron and the Middle Ages. The oldest burial is from the Stone Age and is believed to be over three millennia old. The latest burials date from the Middle Ages, roughly from the period 1000 AD. This means that the burial site was used for four millennia.

The Neolithic passage grave, "Girommen" (Pehr Tham, 1782) (Public Domain)

The Neolithic passage grave, "Girommen" ( Pehr Tham, 1782) ( Public Domain )

The most important monument at the location is the Girommen passage grave, which is to the north of the site. This well-preserved monument’s name is believed to mean ‘giantesses oven’ in Swedish.

The passage tomb, which dates from the Neolithic period, is composed of sandstone slabs. The passage leads into a burial chamber and there is a large slab of stone, known as the keystone, set in the heart of the monument. The mound of earth and stone that once roofed the passageway, however, is missing. The keystone rests on the stones that form the passage and its purpose has never been satisfactorily explained. It seems likely that the tomb was robbed and looted many centuries ago. It was restored in the 1940s and some fragments of tools, pots and amber were recovered.  The discovery of the amber was significant since the beads were placed in the burial chambers which led experts to believe they were grave gifts, left for the soul of the deceased to take with them to the afterlife.

Ekornavallen Burial site (Image: ©Jacub via Fotolia)

Ekornavallen Burial site (Image: ©Jacub via Fotolia)

A Bronze Age grave at the top of a hill overlooks the site. It was probably built as the grave of a member of the elite and possibly a ruler. Because the grave was for a single person, it is an indication that the local society had become hierarchical. The mound has not been excavated, but based on other sites, it is believed to contain personal items and grave goods.

How to Get to Ekornavallen Burial Ground

The easiest way to visit the burial ground is to drive on the Varnhem and Falköping road. The area is not a tourist area, but it is easy to park and walk around the 6,000-year-old site. A sign on the road should alert the traveler to the burial grounds. There is a great deal of accommodation near the burial ground in both Varnhem and Falköping.  There are no guides available, so a visitor can simply walk around the historic stones although it’s not possible to enter the four passage tombs.

Top image: Ekornavallen Burial Ground                                             Source:© Jakub via Fotolia

By Ed Whelan

References

Andersen, A.H., Carlsson, E., Darvill, T., Hanel, A., Hauf, D., Kelm, R., Klompmaker, H., Lemkow, N., Pedersen, K., Westphal, J. and Wolters, H., 2014. Megalithic Routes. A Culture Route of the Council of Europe.
Available at: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/21207/1/Megalithic%20Routes%20(2014%20Brochure).pdf

Nash, G., 2008. E ncoding a Neolithic Landscape: The Linearity of Burial Monuments along Strumble Head, South-west Wales . Time and Mind, 1(3), pp.345-362.
Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175169708X329381

Tilley, C., 2016. The dolmens and passage graves of Sweden: an introduction and guide . Routledge.
Available at: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781315418728

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