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Boat Grave Culture

Location of Valsgärde; Gamla Uppsala and Ultune
image: David Beard

The first part of Viking Phenomenon project focuses on the Boat Grave Culture, specifically the Valsgärde site in Uppland, Sweden, which houses the largest cemetery of ship burials ever discovered. This archaeological site, excavated from the 1920s to the 1950s, spans over 400 years and reflects Sweden’s growth from the heart of the Mälar Valley. The graves, including ship burials, cremations, and chamber graves of both genders, serve as material statements preserving the ideas and aspirations of the time. (See: Helmets from the Vendel Period)

The project aims to conduct a definitive analysis of the Valsgärde cemetery, shedding light on the societal changes leading up to the Viking Age. Beyond military aspects, the research explores long-distance, international contacts, and trade, seeking to understand the extent to which these were built on earlier interactions. The connection with the East, including the Asian steppe and Tang China, is of particular interest.

Coordination of the Valsgärde research falls to John Ljungkvist and a team of researchers. The study encompasses Viking-Age boat graves, other burials, boat analysis, animal offerings, and various artifact types. Complementing this, the project explores the remains of a Scandinavian raiding party from Salme, Estonia, buried at the start of the Viking Age. The Salme discoveries, representing a significant Viking find, offer insights into the culture behind the earliest raids. The project supports Dr. Jüri Peets and his team at Tallinn University in funding the publication of their work on the Salme discoveries, anticipating it to be a crucial contribution to Baltic archaeology and the broader understanding of Viking history.

image: Wikimedia