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The Late Iron Age in Scandinavia



 

The Later Iron Age, or the Migration Period, in Scandinavia
c. AD 400 - 800

(click on the images below to enlarge them)

The Later Iron Age saw the construction of a large number of fortifications. Some 1,500 examples of these forts remain, but one of the best example is Eketorp, which was excavated during 1964 to 1973. The excavations indicated that there were three main phases to the fort:

              Eketorp I, 300-400 AD

              Eketorp II 400-650 AD

              Eketorp III 1170-1240 AD


You can find more information on the Eketorp Rediviva Project website.


The Migration Period also saw the appearance of rich burial mounds such as those at Vendel, Gamla Uppsala and Valsgärde.

Vendel is a parish in the Swedish province of Uppland overlooking a long inland stretch of water, Vendelsjön, near the confluence of the Vendel and Fyris rivers.

Fourteen graves at Vendal were discovered during a series of excavations during 1881 – 1883. Several of the burials had been placed in boats up to c. 9 metres long, and the burials were richly furnished with weapon assemblages, including swords, shields and helmets. They also contained objects such as cauldrons and their suspension chains, presumably indicating that the person in the grave had been of sufficiently high status to have presided over feasts.

Several aspects of the grave goods recall aspects of the great Sutton Hoo ship burial, especially the shield from Grave 12 has a stamped metal strip mount which is actually die-linked to an equivalent piece at Sutton Hoo, and the helmets from Graves 1, 12 and 14 which have die-stamped plates depicting scenes of warriors. You can learn more about these helmets here.

The largest of the burial mounds at Vendel – known as Ottarshögen – is traditionally seen as the burial place of king Svea Ottar Vendelskråka who is mentioned in documents of the 8th century. You can find out more about the site here.


Gamla Uppsala is a parish and a village outside Uppsala in Sweden, and Valsgärde is a farm on the Fyris river, which lies about three kilometres to the north. From the 3rd AD onwards Gamla Uppsala was an important religious, economic and political centre, and early written sources show that Gamla Uppsala was known in Northern Europe as the residence of the Swedish kings of the legendary Yngling royal dynasty.

The oldest Scandinavian sources, such as Ynglingatal, the Westrogothic law and the Gutasaga refer the king of Sweden as the "King at Uppsala".  You can find out more about Gamla Uppsala as a pagan cult site here.


The cemetery at Valsgärde was excavated during the 1920’s and produced similar finds to the graves at Vendal. You can find a brief description of the finds here.

In addition, finds from high status settlement sites such as Dankirke, Gudme, Helgö and Lejre indicate trading contacts outside of Scandinavia.