There are many traces of ancient people in Sweden. Even before the vikings, the Geats, a legendary North Germanic tribe ruled the southern Sweden with sword. Here are listed some of the most mysterious and fascinating ancient sights of this time.
Ale's Stones (Ales stenar) is a megalithic monument which consists of a stone ship 67 meters long formed by 59 large boulders of sandstone, weighing up to 1.8 tonnes each. According to Scanian folklore, a legendary king called King Ale lies buried there.
The carbon-14 dating system for organic remains has provided seven results at the site. One indicates that the material is around 5,500 years old whereas the remaining six indicate a date about 1,400 years ago. The latter is considered to be the most likely time for Ales Stenar to have been created. That would place its creation towards the e ...
The Royal mounds (Kungshögarna) is the name for the three large barrows which are located in Gamla (Old) Uppsala. According to ancient mythology and folklore, it would be the three gods Thor, Odin and Freyr lying in Kungshögarna. In the 19th and 20th centuries, they were speculated to hold the remains of three kings of the legendary House of Ynglings and where thus known by the names Aun's Mound, Adil's Mound and Egil's Mound. Today their geographical locations are instead used and they are called the Eastern mound, Middle Mound and Western Mound.
Mounds are dated to the 5th and 6th ...
One of the largest rocks of Nordic Bronze Age petroglyphs in Scandinavia is located in Tanumshede locality, Tanum Municipality. In total there are thousands of images called the Tanum petroglyphs, on about 600 panels within the World Heritage Area. These are concentrated in distinct areas along a 25 km stretch, which was the coastline of a fjord during the Bronze Age, and covers an area of about 51 hectares. Tanumshede rock carvings have been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Scandinavian Bronze Age and Iron Age people were sophisticated craftsmen and very competent travelers by wa ...
Anundshög is the largest tumulus in Sweden. It has a diameter of 60 metres and is about 9 metres high. Assessments of the era of the mound vary between the Bronze Age and the late Iron Age. A fireplace under it has been dated by radiocarbon dating to sometime between AD 210 and 540.
Some historians have associated the mound with the legendary King Anund, while others regard this as speculative. It is purported also that the name is taken from the large runestone at the site, the central stone in a row of 15 alongside the mound, re-erected in the 1960s and apparently marking out the route ...
The King's Grave (Kungagraven i Kivik, Kiviksgraven) is what remains of an unusually grand Nordic Bronze Age double burial c. 1000 BC. In spite of the facts that the site has been used as a quarry, with its stones carried off for other uses, and that it was restored carelessly once it was known to be an ancient burial, these two burials are unique.
In both construction and in size — it is a circular site measuring 75 metres in diameter — this tomb differs from most European burials from the Bronze Age. Most importantly, the cists are adorned with petroglyphs. The images carved into the st ...
Ismantrop is an ancient fortress, which was used probably between years 300-500 AD. The ringfort consists of a limestone wall approximately 300 meters long and has nine gates. Inside the ringfort were 95 houses arranged in 12 blocks around a central open area with a circular building. Ismantorp is the largest and probably the oldest of the ringforts on Öland.
The first written description of Ismantorp dates back to the year 1634. Renowned botanist Carl von Linné, as well as other travellers and scholars, paid attention to the fortress. Researchers have tried to determine the fortress's age, ...
Gråborg is the largest ancient castle in Öland. It was built probably in the 6th century and enlarged through Middle Ages. According old tax reports dating back to the year 1450, Gråborg was owned by Vadstena abbey and functioned as a some kind of trade center. It was used for defence against Danish even in 1677. According to legend Gråborg was strongly associated with king Burislev Sverkersson who had grown up there with his half-sister Sofia of Minsk.
Gråborg Castle consisted of a circular wall, about 4-7 meter tall. There were three entrances and one of them wa ...
During the Viking Age, Birka was an important trading center. The archaeological sites of Birka and Hovgården, on the neighbouring island of Adelsö, make up an archaeological complex which illustrates the elaborate trading networks of Viking Scandinavia and their influence on the subsequent history of Europe. Generally regarded as Sweden's oldest town, Birka (along with Hovgården) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
Established in the middle of the 8th century and thus being one of the earliest urban settlements in Scandinavia, Birka was the Baltic link in the river and porta ...
The island of Helgö is probably best known for a major archaeological area. The old trading town on Helgö began to emerge around the year 200 AD, 500 years before the well-known Birka. The first archaeological excavaton in 1954 found not only remains of the early settlement, but also a workshop area that became of international interest.
Among the finds were a small Buddha statuette from North India and a christening scoop from Egypt, both dating from 6th century. The Indian Buddha statuette, the Irish crozier and the Egyptian scoop which were found on Helgö, are presently on display in th ...
Tjelvar’s Grave is one of the best preserved stone ship settings in Gotland. According the legend Tjelvar, the first man lived in Gotland, is buried there. Archaeologists have dated the grave to made in the late Bronze Ages, 1100-500 BC.
Tjelvar’s grave is 18 metres long and 5 metres wide. The height of the gunwale stones diminishes towards the centre of the ship, which has also been ﬁlled with stones to form a boat-deck. A plundered stone-slab coﬃn, containing cremated bones and a few potsherds, was uncovered in an excavation in the 1930s.
The Neolithic passage grave (a tomb where the burial chamber is reached along a distinct, and usually low, passage) of Luttra is one of the best preserved of its kind in Västergötland. Still time has not been acting too gracious on this site, this ancient tomb is damaged and even partly destroyed. It only has one roofblock left, and the passage is just a metre long - it originally used to be longer. But it is, nevertheless, an impressive witness of a distant past, being as old as some of the Egyptian pyramides.
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.
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