History of Sweden between 540 AD - 789 AD
In Swedish prehistory, the Vendel era (550-793) is the name given to a part of the Germanic Iron Age (or, more generally, the Migration Period). The migrations and the upheaval in Central Europe had lessened somewhat, and two power regions had appeared in Europe: the Merovingian kingdom and the Slavic princedoms in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. A third power, the Catholic Church, had begun to expand its influence. In Scandinavia, the Germanic clan society was still very much alive. In Uppland in what today is the east-central part of Sweden, Old Uppsala was probably the centre of religious and political life. It had both a well-known sacred grove and great Royal Mounds.
There were lively contacts with Central Europe, and the Scandinavians continued to export iron, fur and slaves; in return they acquired art and innovations, such as the stirrup. The finds in Vendel and Valsgärde show that Uppland was an important and powerful area consistent with the sagas' account of a Swedish kingdom. Some of the riches were probably acquired through the control of mining districts and the production of iron. The rulers had troops of mounted elite warriors with costly armour. Graves of mounted warriors have been found with stirrups and saddle ornaments of birds of prey in gilded bronze with encrusted garnets. These mounted elite warriors are mentioned in the work of the 6th century Goth scholar Jordanes, who wrote that the Swedes had the best horses beside the Thuringians. They also echo much later in the Norse sagas, where king Adils is always described as fighting on horseback (both against Áli and Hrólf Kraki). Snorri Sturluson wrote that Adils had the best horses of his days. Games were popular, as is shown in finds of tafl games, including pawns and dice. This is the time when Swedish expeditions start to explore the waterways of what was to become Russia.
Easter Aquhorthies stone circle, located near Inverurie, is one of the best-preserved examples of a recumbent stone circle, and one of the few that still have their full complement of stones. It consists of a ring of nine stones, eight of which are grey granite and one red jasper. Two more grey granite stones flank a recumbent of red granite flecked with crystals and lines of quartz. The circle is particularly notable for its builders' use of polychromy in the stones, with the reddish ones situated on the SSW side and the grey ones opposite.
The placename Aquhorthies derives from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning 'field of prayer', and may indicate a 'long continuity of sanctity' between the Stone or Bronze Age circle builders and their much later Gaelic successors millennia later. The circle's surroundings were landscaped in the late 19th century, and it sits within a small fenced and walled enclosure. A stone dyke, known as a roundel, was built around the circle some time between 1847 and 1866–7.