Hovgården is an archaeological site on the Lake Mälaren island of Adelsö. During the Viking Age, the centre of the prospering Mälaren Valley was the settlement Birka, founded in the mid-8th century and abandoned in the late 10th century and located on the island Björkö just south of Adelsö. Hovgården is believed to have been the site from where kings and chieftains ruled the area. Hovgården, together with Birka became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
The oldest archaeological remains on Adelsö, found north of Hovgården, are grave fields and burial mounds from the Bronze Age (c. 1800-500 BCE). Apparently this culture survived into the Iron Age (500-800 CE) as graves from the early part of this period have been found at several locations in the area. At Hovgården some 124 graves have been found; the oldest from late Roman Iron Age (1-400 CE) and the youngest from the beginning of the Middle Ages (c. 1050-1520), indicating the area has been settled uninterruptedly throughout this period.
Just north of the parish church are five large burial mounds of which three are called Kungshögar. In Swedish, Kung meaning King and högar, from the Old Norse word haugr, meaning mound or barrow. Hovgården apparently was the location for a royal estate Kungsgård as early as the Viking Age (c. 800-1050 CE). An excavation of one of these royal mounds in 1917 revealed the remains of a wealthy man who lived around 900 CE. He was burned lying in a boat, dressed in expensive clothing but without weapons, accompanied by horses, cows, and dogs.
Birka, the oldest town in Sweden, was an international trade post. It has been assumed the royal settlement at Hovgården was established as the king's mean of controlling Birka. However, while Birka was abandoned in the mid-10th century, the royal estate was apparently not as the runestone U 11 from around 1070 which claims to have been carved for the king was erected next to the royal mounds. It was part of Uppsala öd, a network of royal estates supporting the Kings of Sweden.
Furthermore, King Magnus Barnlock had the old castle replaced by a palace built in brick, Alsnö hus, in the 1270s. In the palace, the king established the Swedish nobility through the Ordinance of Alsnö (Alsnö stadga) in 1279. However, the palace was destroyed before the end of that century, and as it was left to decay Hovgården lost in importance.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.