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Two Viking ship burials including their ’inhabitants’ uncovered in Sweden along with grave goods. Source: Arkeologerna

Two Viking Ship Burials Revealed by Archaeologists in Sweden

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Archaeologists in Sweden have announced the discovery of two ship-burials that may add invaluable data to the country’s Viking past . There have been no Viking ship burials found in the country in almost fifty years, and now two have been found in one astounding swoop!

The extraordinary find was made by Swedish archaeologists working with the with Arkeologerna, which works on behalf of Sweden's historical museums according to the Daily Mail . The rare discovery was made in the municipality of Gamal Uppsala .

A skeleton of a man, buried with a horse and a dog, was found in one of the Viking ship burial sites. (Arkeologerna)

A skeleton of a man, buried with a horse and a dog, was found in one of the Viking ship burial sites. ( Arkeologerna)

This was once, one of the most important religious and ceremonial sites in all of the Viking world and where once, according to Christian writers, human sacrifices were offered to the Norse gods . A great pagan temple was once here but later Christians built a church upon its site.

The finds were made near an old vicarage in Uppsala, the home of a member of the local Christian clergy, which is next to a church. The area was being investigated by archaeologists before a new building project began. They identified something of archaeological significance there last autumn. The experts returned this summer and they discovered the two boat burials in June of this year.

Viking Ship Burials

A boat burial or boat grave involved dead individuals of high standing being interred in a full-sized ship. They were typically buried with a great many valuable grave goods . Anton Seiler part of the team who found the graves stated that "It is a small group of people who were buried in this way," according to Newsweek. This means that ship burials are very rare and only ten have been found in the history of the country, although more have been found in neighboring Norway, the most recent being found near Oslo.

One of the Viking burial ships or boat graves found in Sweden. (Arkeologerna)

One of the Viking burial ships or boat graves found in Sweden. ( Arkeologerna)

This type of burial is associated with the Viking Age (9 th to the 11 th century AD) and also the earlier mysterious Venland culture. Based on an analysis of the grave goods in one of the ships the burials date are from the Viking era. One of the boat burials was found complete and undisturbed. This makes it of great archaeological importance. The second burial was damaged when the vicarage was being built, many decades ago.

Last Resting Place of a Viking Warrior?

In the intact burial, the investigators found the skeleton of a man who had been placed in the stern of the vessel. Some animal bones were also unearthed, and they have been tentatively identified as belonging to a horse and a dog.

Archaeologists work on the skeleton of a horse found in the Viking ship burial site. (Arkeologerna)

Archaeologists work on the skeleton of a horse found in the Viking ship burial site. ( Arkeologerna)

These animals were probably deliberately buried with the man to accompanying him on his journey to the afterlife. In this grave a shield, sword, and spear, indicating that the dead man had once been a warrior, was also found.

There may have been another person interred in the intact or complete burial. According to Geek.com “…a richly ornate comb , believed to belong to the man, was also found in the grave”. This was not uncommon in Viking era boat burials. The two men were in all likelihood related.

A shield and a comb was found in one of the Viking ship burial sites. (Arkeologerna)

A shield and a comb was found in one of the Viking ship burial sites. ( Arkeologerna)

Will the Viking Ship Burial Discovery Bring New Insights?

Little of the actual boats now remain because their wood decayed through the centuries. The archaeologists have only been able to retrieve some iron rivets and fragments of wood. No human remains have been found in the damaged or less intact ship, this is despite the fact that it was likely “the larger of the two, measuring about 23 feet (7 meters) long” reports Geek.com.

Experts believe that further study of the Viking ship burials will bring insights into the Viking culture. ( Arkeologerna)

According to The Local “Parts of the find will go on display at Gamla Uppsala Museum and Stockholm's Swedish History Museum”. The team of archaeologists is continuing to work on the site for the rest of the summer. Scientific tests are going to be carried out on the artifacts and other finds and it is hoped that they will generate new insights into the Vikings.

Top image: Two Viking ship burials including their ’inhabitants’ uncovered in Sweden along with grave goods. Source: Arkeologerna

By Ed Whelan

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