Campus Gotland students unearth Iron Age warrior
10 September 2021
Uppsala University archaeology students’ summer excavations on the island of Gotland turned up an exciting surprise: they found a warrior, with sword and spurs, in an Iron Age grave in Buttle Änge. Now the skeleton and grave goods will be analysed to find out more about him.
“The actual objects are exciting. They’re all so well preserved and can serve as clues to understanding Buttle Änge in particular, and Gotland in general,” says Alexander Andreeff Högfeldt, lecturer at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Campus Gotland. As teacher and dig supervisor, he was on the spot when the finds came to light.
The site has long interested him. Originally, he was attracted by the two picture stones that stand here. One is almost four metres high, making it the largest extant picture stone in its natural setting in Gotland. There are also building foundations and a burial ground with several stone circles in the area. Two of the stone circles, one larger and one smaller, has now been now excavated.
Skeletons of infants
Excavations of the burial ground began two years ago, with meticulous investigation of the smaller stone circle. Then it was time to discover what was hidden in the larger one. This stone circle was constructed with an outer and an inner ring, and is approximately nine metres in diameter. Previously, the skeletons of at least two infants had been found on the outer periphery of the inner ring.
“We’ve dated one of the bones, which turned out to be from about 700 CE, in the Vendel Period (roughly from 550 to 750 CE). This stone circle can be regarded as a separate, miniature burial ground. Between the outer and inner rings, we’ve also found remains of at least one cremation burial,” Andreeff Högfeldt says.
The warrior was found in a grave covered by limestone slabs, 1.5 metres underground, lying in a foetal position. Above his head, a blackware ceramic pot and a container made of organic material had been placed. Two knives and a belt buckle were also buried with him.
Sword of a horseman
The battle accoutrements – a sword of the spatha type, 80 centimetres long, and silver-embellished spurs on the heels – shows that he was a horseman. This type of sword was used in the Germanic lands, the Roman Empire and the subsequent Frankish Empire alike. Based on the grave goods, archaeologists estimate that he lived during the “Roman Iron Age” (a term denoting part of the Iron Age in Scandinavia, Northern Germany and the Netherlands, 0–400 CE).
But who was he? Why was he buried exactly here? These are questions that further research will now seek to answer. Archaeologists know that Buttle Änge was inhabited for nearly 2,000 years. The extant building foundations date from the fourth to the sixth centuries CE, and previous digs have shown that the buildings had a variety of functions.
“One is a house, in which we found a large fireplace. In another, which seems to have been used as a ceremonial venue, we found fine ceramics and a Roman silver coin. And in the third building, used as a storehouse, we found large amounts of shards from pots used for storage. We’ve also uncovered loom weights and a spindle whorl, which suggests that textile crafts were practised here,” Andreeff Högfeldt says.
Connection with the site
The buildings were probably erected a couple of centuries after the warrior’s death, so none of them was his home. However, being buried there means that he must have had some connection with the site.
“He may have belonged to a clan of free men and women who owned farms and land in the area. This man was probably a warrior, as we see from his sword and spurs, since they’re genuine cavalry equipment. We know that Scandinavians and Germans served in the Roman army as auxiliary troops – but whether this man did, we can’t tell.”
The skeleton and the items have now been taken to Campus Gotland for further scrutiny and dating. At the osteological laboratory, every bone will be investigated. The warrior’s DNA and the composition of certain isotopes in the skeleton will also be analysed. The isotopes may provide an indication of where he grew up and when he died, and also shed light on his diet. It should be possible to see, for instance, whether it consisted mainly of food from the land or sea.
Two Uppsala researchers elected at American Academy
25 april 2018
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences recently elected new members. Two Uppsala researchers were elected as international honorary members.
The Well-Laden Ship: Viking exhibition soon to reach America
11 april 2018
In late April, a ship will reach New York bringing the exhibition “The Vikings Begin” which will embark on a two-year tour of the US. On display will be a selection of 1,300-year-old items from the pre-Viking Age. Usually in storage at Gustavianum...
Art historian receives award from Vitterhetsakademien
09 april 2018
Every year, Vitterhetsakademien (The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities) confers prizes for outstanding scholarly achievements. PhD Hedvig Mårdh at Uppsala University was one of the 2017 prizewinners.
New Oscar Prize winners announced
21 december 2017
Uppsala University’s Oscar Prize for young researchers has been awarded to Eric Cullhed, Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Linguistics and Philology and Oskar Karlsson, Doctor of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences.
New thesis on 21st-century Swedish crime fiction: A Market of Murders
20 december 2017
Why have Swedish detective stories become so immensely popular in our century? What murder motives and weapons are most common in the genre, and why? And is it true that Swedish crime fiction is characterised by social criticism? A new thesis from...
Collaboration for new knowledge in culture and society
09 december 2017
Uppsala University is aiming to develop new research collaborations spanning different research subjects. The newly created Centre for Integrated Research on Culture and Society at the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences will fac...
Ola Larsmo and Quentin Skinner new honorary doctors
16 oktober 2017
Author Ola Larsmo and Professor Quentin Skinner, University of London, have been appointed new honorary doctors at Uppsala University’s Faculty of Arts.
Equal Opportunities Award goes to Anita Hussénius
12 oktober 2017
Anita Hussénius, head of the Centre for Gender Research, has received the 2016 Equal Opportunities Award for her gender-equal and inclusive leadership.
Exhibition: Viking Age patterns may be Kufic script
03 oktober 2017
What was previously thought to be typical Viking Age, silver patterns on woven silk bands, could in fact be geometric Kufic characters. As part of an exhibition at the Enköping Museum, ongoing research is presented where a textile archaeological a...
First genetic proof that women were Viking warriors
08 september 2017
New DNA evidence uncovered by researchers at Uppsala University and Stockholm University shows that there were in fact female Viking warriors. The remains of an iconic Swedish Viking Age grave now reveal that war was not an activity exclusive to m...
Gustavian style – a Swedish style?
05 juni 2017
Why has the neoclassical Gustavian style become so prominent in the Swedish self-image? A new dissertation from Uppsala University shows how researchers in art history, along with museums, commercial enterprises and the monarchy, have contributed ...
Mandelgren Prize to Michael Neiß
13 april 2017
Svenska fornminnesföreningen (the Antiquarian Society of Sweden) has decided to award PhD student and archaeologist Michael Neiß the 2017 Mandelgren Prize for his research on Scandinavian animal art.
Archaeologists at the vanguard of environmental and climate research
26 februari 2017
The history of people and landscapes, whether natural or cultural, is fundamentally connected. Answering key historical questions about this relation will allow us to approach our most important environmental issues in novel ways. Today in the ope...
New database of Swedish archaeological research in Greece
09 januari 2017
In a recently completed project at the Swedish Institute in Athens, materials from more than a hundred years of Swedish archaeological research in Greece has been made available through the database PRAGMATA. The database includes, among other thi...
Bokrelease - Vicke Lindstrand On The Periphery
18 november 2016
Den australiensiske designhistorikern Mark Ian Jones lanserar sin nya bok Vicke Lindstrand On The Periphery. Detta är den första engelskspråkiga publikationen som beskriver Vicke Lindstrands liv och verk.
Digitisation of cultural heritage discussed at AIMday
03 november 2016
Cultural heritage has become a field of great importance for the development of modern society. Modern technology creates new opportunities for communicating and presenting cultural heritage, as well as making it accessible. The potential and chal...
Archaeologist appointed new honorary doctor
05 oktober 2016
Archaeologist Jeremy B. Rutter, Professor Emeritus at Dartmouth College, USA, has been appointed a new honorary doctor at the Faculty of Arts.
SEK 5 million grant to art project
27 september 2016
The Swedish Research Council has selected seven art research projects to receive grants, out of a total of 51 applications. One of the grants is awarded to Katarina Pirak Sikku and the Uppsala University Centre for Gender Studies.
Augmented reality app presents Old Uppsala in a new way
24 augusti 2016
In Old Uppsala lie the remains of one of Scandinavia’s most fascinating royal estates from the Iron Age. Once there were numerous houses and other buildings here, which visitors up until now have had to imagine from sketches. A new app called ‘Aug...
Innovative games win prizes at the Swedish Game Awards
20 juni 2016
Game Design students from Uppsala University Campus Gotland won half of the prizes at the Swedish Game Awards on 11 June.