New light cast on Scandinavia’s most important Bronze Age site
9 October 2018
Håga, Scandinavia's most significant Bronze Age site, is relatively unknown. But in a new book, archaeologists at Uppsala University have brought together what is known and placed Håga in a larger context.
Håga is situated approximately three kilometres west of central Uppsala and is dominated by a large burial mound from the Bronze Age dating back to about 1000 BCE. Around the burial mound there are several burial grounds, cultic buildings and remnants of settlements from different epochs.
So far only a small portion of Håga has been excavated, although it is clear that Håga is the most significant Bronze Age site in Scandinavia. The largest excavation of the burial mound took place in 1902–1903, when more than a third of all gold discoveries from Sweden’s Bronze Age were found.
“Håga and the burial mound are not just any old place. This is an incredibly exclusive grave that points to what an important site Håga was during the Bronze Age,” says Anders Kaliff, Professor of Archaeology at Uppsala University.
Kaliff and Terje Østigård, Associate Professor in Archaeology, have written the book Bronze Age Håga and the Viking King Björn: A History of Interpretation and Documentation from AD 818 to 2018. The book translates to English for the first time documentation from the large 1902–1903 excavation of Håga Mound, also commonly known as King Björn’s Mound.
“Although Håga and Håga Mound are one of Scandinavia’s most significant Bronze Age sites, a methodical survey of the state of knowledge has been lacking, and much of the material has been available only in Swedish. In the book we review what we know about the site and put it into a larger international perspective, with a focus on sacrificial and burial rituals.”
Animal and human sacrifices
The way the grave was constructed points to remote contacts and influences from distant lands, including Denmark and Germany.
“A lot was happening on the Continent at this time, and the grave at Håga is unique for this part of Scandinavia. It is influenced by the burial customs on the Continent to a greater extent than those of the immediate surroundings.”
The burial mound is made up of different layers, with rituals performed at various levels. The body was first cremated; then the bones were buried in an oak chest in a burial chamber. Finally, the burial chamber was covered by soil, and at that stage animals and people were sacrificed. The burial mound contains the remains of at least three individuals who have been sacrificed as part of the burial ceremony.
Moreover, clear evidence of ritual cannibalism has been found in the form of a split femur from a woman with the same marks as the animal sacrifices.
“It’s one of the most discernible findings of ritual cannibalism that we have from Scandinavia.”
Håga’s strategic location
For 3,000 years Håga was a headland protruding into the sea, giving it a very strategic position.
“Håga was very centrally located. The main maritime route northward in the Baltic Sea went via Södertälje past Birka and Håga. People generally preferred to sail through Lake Mälaren rather than sail northward through the archipelago.”
About three kilometres south of Håga is Predikstolen, one of Uppland province’s largest ancient castles. The oldest phases of Predikstolen are about 200 years older than Håga Mound, but it was probably used while the mound was being built and also later.
“The ancient castle served as a lock securing the water way that ran right next to the castle.”
Håga’s historical importance also is demonstrated through one of the oldest traces of iron production in Sweden, which has been unearthed at Håga.
“The remains date back to about 900 BC – in other words, quite a while before the Iron Age begins in earnest in Sweden.”
Håga has been a significant burial and ritual site over a long period, a significance that continues into the Viking Age and then was assumed by Gamla Uppsala. In Håga there are two cultic buildings, or cultic enclosures, as researchers prefer to call them. Cultic enclosures are symbolic buildings. There are no entrances. They are shaped like buildings, but researchers have not found any post holes for poles that can support a ceiling.
The large cultic building is contemporaneous with Håga Mound and had been in use for several hundred years. There is also a smaller, older cultic building from the early Bronze Age.
“It is clear that Håga as a cultic site served as a precursor to Gamla Uppsala that was emerging and becoming an important centre during the Viking Age.”
Find out more
The book Bronze Age Håga and the Viking King Björn: A History of Interpretation and Documentation from AD 818 to 2018 can be downloaded as a PDF file.
“The public is generally poorly informed”
29 mars 2023
Hello May-Britt Öhman, researcher at the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism and expert contributor to the Government's Committee on Reindeer Lands.What is the purpose of this inquiry?
From living heritage to zombie churches
22 mars 2023
Churches are preserved by an antiquarian system that risks killing them instead of keeping them alive. The Swedish State and the Church of Sweden therefore need to define new joint visions and goals to enable the ecclesiastical cultural heritage t...
Democracy researchers to participate in literature festival
22 mars 2023
War, crime and literature as a path to reconciliation is the theme of the Uppsala International Literature Festival on March 23–25. One of the organisers is the Democracy and Higher Education research programme at Uppsala University. Christina Kul...
ERC grant for research into Swedish slavery
03 februari 2023
Fredrik Thomasson, researcher at the Department of History at Uppsala University, has received the ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). This grant relates to a project on Swedish colonial history on the island of Saint ...
The names given to the clouds, an important part of the university's history
04 januari 2023
The book “Molnspanare– en meteorologisk historia” (Cloud spotters – a meteorological history) tells of the emergence of meteorology as a scientific subject. Among other things, you can read about how the Latin names and classification of the cloud...
The history of Easter Island can teach us about sustainability
08 december 2022
Tourism has exploded on Easter Island over the last twenty years – something that has led to both financial gain and major encroachments on the island's environment. Researchers from Uppsala are now studying how history can teach us to build a mo...
Nobel Prize-winning literature often published by small publishing houses
05 december 2022
During the Christmas trade period, books written by the latest Nobel Prize laureate tend to sell at least as well as the more traditional bestsellers. It is very important for publishers to have Nobel Prize winners on their lists, according to res...
Conference: 30 years of EU citizenship
21 november 2022
This year marks 30 years since European Union citizenship came into being. It will be highlighted at an international, interdisciplinary conference in Uppsala on 22–23 November. Both researchers and all those interested are welcome to attend.
New honorary doctors in the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences
03 november 2022
The faculties at Uppsala University have decided on the award of honorary doctorates for 2022. Among the new honorary doctors at faculties in the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences are researchers in economic geography, family l...
The vulnerability of surrogate mothers in a global market
17 oktober 2022
A new dissertation on surrogacy highlights Thai women's experiences of having acted as surrogate mothers. The dissertation shows the women's vulnerability in a global surrogacy industry, but also provides a more nuanced picture of what makes women...
Historical discoveries as Linnaeus Garden is excavated
07 oktober 2022
Unique pots, eighteenth-century porcelain and the bones of countless fish and birds: archaeologists who have been excavating part of the Linnaeus Garden have come across a wealth of exciting objects that can tell us more about the people and anima...
Popular 18th-century medicine in a new form
05 september 2022
Hello to Nils-Otto Ahnfelt, PhD pharmacist and visiting researcher at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences. Together with the historian of science Hjalmar Fors, you have developed a reconstruction of the 300-year-old medicine Hjärnes Testa...
Torgny Segerstedt Medal and Geijer Prize winners announced
05 september 2022
This year’s Torgny Segerstedt Medal has been awarded to Mikael Stenmark, professor in philosophy of religion at the Department of Theology. The Geijer Prize goes to Viktor Persarvet and Astrid Wendel-Hansen.
Digging from the present down to antiquity
30 augusti 2022
Welcome to the Viking Age! The archaeology students, with their trowels and their scrapers, have dug past the medieval layers and made their way down to the 11th century, approximately 30 centimetres below today's ground level. During the seminar ...
The sheep – Gotland’s symbol of sustainability
14 juni 2022
Sheep are the strongest symbol of sustainability on Gotland, according to Gurbet Peker. Not only do real ones graze all over the island, you can even find sheep sculpted in concrete in Visby. Peker researches the day-to-day lives of lamb farmers i...
Can democracy solve the climate crisis?
13 juni 2022
Hello Linda Wedlin, organisor and moderator of a panel discussion during Almedalen Week with the theme ‘What knowledge and what kind of democracy is needed for a successful climate transition?’ What are you going to be discussing?
Mapping people of the past by means of their bones
09 maj 2022
What is the best way to find out about a human being or animal that has been dead for perhaps several centuries? “Study the bones” is what Sabine Sten, professor of osteoarchaeology, would say. They can reveal an individual's age, body length, DNA...
Transforming space and society in Kiruna
24 mars 2022
State and corporate ideas about nature, people and the future played a decisive role in the development of Kiruna as a mining town over a century ago. Since 2004, when 6,000 Kiruna residents were informed that they would have to move because of gr...
New light cast on female pelvises in University collections
04 mars 2022
Many of the University’s museums currently hold preserved specimens of embryos, fetuses, newborns, and women’s pelvises. During the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, these formed part of embryological and obstetric collections at...
350 years old remains in a Stone Age site in Portugal
25 februari 2022
An African man who lived just 350 years ago was buried in a prehistoric shell midden in Amoreira in Portugal. This was very surprising because Amoreira and other midden sites in the Muge region are well known by archaeologists for the cemeteries o...