Ancient sites in Sweden

Uppsa Kulle

Uppsa Kulle is one of the largest Iron Age mounds in Sweden. The 55m wide and 9m high mound is probably a grave of local king or chief(s).
Founded: 600 AD | Location: Nyköping, Sweden

Jättakullen

Jättakullen is the largest cist (stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead) in Sweden. The 14x4 meter grave is dated to the Bronze Age, around 1500 BC. There are some carvings inside the cist.
Founded: 1500 BC | Location: Vårgårda, Sweden

Gålrum Burial Ground

Gålrum is an ancient burial ground including 122 ancient monuments. There are 5 large stone cairns, 110 round stone settings and 8 ship settings. The site was in use for 1500 years and reflects the differing burial styles over that long period of time with the earliest dating back to the Bronze Age around 1500 BC. The cairns vary in size from 10 metres to 25 metres in diameter and mostly have perimeter stones aroun ...
Founded: 1500 BC - 100 AD | Location: Gålrum, Sweden

Järsberg Runestone

The Järsberg Runestone is a stone of reddish granite which is believed to have been part of a stone circle monument. The upper part of the runestone is damaged and this was already the case when the stone was found. In Värmland, there are only four runestones of which two are from the Viking Age (in Old Norse) and the two others are from the Age of Migrations (in the older Proto-Norse). The Järsberg Runestone is one o ...
Founded: 500 AD | Location: Kristinehamn, Sweden

Helgö

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 s ...
Founded: 200 AD | Location: Ekerö, Sweden

Askeberga Stone Circle

Askeberga stone circle is 55m long and 18m wide. It was probably made in the late Iron Ages. The ship has no stones in both ends, which makes it unusual formed.
Founded: 500 - 1000 AD | Location: Tidan, Sweden

Halvardsborg

Halvardsborg was an ancient stronghold in Arboga. It was built probably between 400-550 AD. It consisted of 520m long and even 3m high stone wall. There are some remains of the wall today.
Founded: 400-550 AD | Location: Arboga, Sweden

Uggårda Cairns

Uggårda is the largest Bronze Age burial ground in Gotland, founded around 1500-1000 BC. The biggest cairn is 7,5 meters high and 40 meters wide. There are also several smaller cairns on the site.
Founded: 1500-1000 BC | Location: Hemse, Sweden

Tjelvar's Grave

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 ...
Founded: 1100-500 BC | Location: Slite, Sweden

Smålandsstenar

Smålandstenar (Smoland Stones) is a site of five or six stone circle dating from the early Iron Ages. The area has originally been a burial site. The largest circle is 20m wide and consists of 20 stones.
Founded: 500 - 300 BC | Location: Smålandsstenar, Sweden

Släbro Rock Carvings

Släbro is without question one of Sweden’s greatest and most remarkable rock carvings site. Situated near the River of Nyköping the carvings were discovered 1984 and can be dated back to the Bronze Age. They are unique because they are carved in a most unusual way. There are etchings on some ten different surfaces with a total of some 700 figures, mainly frame and circle figures. Many are unique in design, in particul ...
Founded: 1800-400 BC | Location: Nyköping, Sweden

Blomsholm Stone Ship

Blomsholm stone ship is one of the oldest in Sweden, more than 40 metres long with 49 stones. The bow and stern are about 4 metres high and dates from the early Scandinavian Iron Age (c. 400 - 600 AD). The size and prominent position of the grave shows that an important person must be buried here. There are also several other large megaliths in the area; Another stone circle and menhirs (Neolithic age) stand in the wood n ...
Founded: 400 - 600 AD | Location: Blomsholm, Sweden

Hulterstad Viking Burial Ground

Hulterstad has served as a Viking burial ground. Noteworthy graveyards can be found there, together with the usual Viking structure - the burial ship. It stands a few meters away from the Hulterstad Church, which is believed to be as old as the graveyard. The burial ground comprises over 170 individual burials but only one stone ship, which is also partially damaged. Hulterstad is situated on the western fringe of the Sto ...
Founded: 800-1000 AD | Location: Mörbylånga, Sweden

Påarp Burial Ground

Påarp is the largest ancient burial ground in Halland. There are 220 barrows, cairns and stone settings. The largest one is 30m wide and 2m high. Archaeologists have dated the site to the Iron Ages (built between 0- 400 AD).
Founded: 0 - 400 AD | Location: Halmstad, Sweden

Aspa Runestones

There are four runestones located at Aspa, which is about six kilometers north of Runtuna, where a road has passed a creek since prehistoric times. One of the stones is the oldest surviving native Scandinavian source that mentions the kingdom of Sweden beside the runestones DR 344 and DR 216. Another stone Sö 137 is raised in memory of a Viking who had spent time in the west.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Nyköping, Sweden

Backa Rock Carvings

Backa rock carvings date back to the Bronze Age (1000-500 BC). There are sixteen separate carvings depicting humans and ships. The most famous carving depicts a 1,5m long man with a spear.
Founded: 1000 - 500 BC | Location: Lysekil, Sweden

King Skute's mound

King Skute's mound, dating from the Late Iron Age, 500-1100 AD, is the largest of a total of six mounds. The site consists of raised stones and intriguing so-called hollows. According to tradition, King Skute was the founder of the village of Skuttunge.
Founded: 500-1100 AD | Location: Uppsala, Sweden

Broåsen Burial Ground

Broåsen is one of the largest burial grounds in Halland. It consists of 60 mounds, stone settings and other ancient monuments. Slummesten (also called Kung Götriks sten or King Götrik's Stone) is an impressive standing stone of almost six metres height which is part of Broåsen's burial ground.
Founded: 400 BC - AD 500 | Location: Rolfstorp, Sweden

Ottarshögen

Ottarshögen is an large burial mound built in the 6th or 7th century AD. According the folk legend, it is a grave of ancient Ottar Vendelkråka, the king of Svealand in the early 6th century. Archaeologists have anyway dated it to the Vendel Period. The mound is 37m wide and 6m high.
Founded: 500-600 AD | Location: Örbyhus, Sweden

Sparlösa Runestone

The Sparlösa Runestone, listed as Vg 119 in the Rundata catalog, is the second most famous Swedish runestone after the Rök Runestone. It was discovered in 1669 in the southern wall of the church of Sparlösa. Before their historical value was understood, many runestones were used as construction material for roads, walls, and bridges. Following a fire at the church in 1684, the runestone was split in rebuild ...
Founded: c. 800 AD | Location: Sparlösa, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.