Category Archives: SWEDEN

Stunning 3D image recreates real Stone Age woman

Stunning 3D image recreates real Stone Age woman

A Stone Age woman who lived 4,000 years ago is leaning on her walking stick and looking ahead as a spirited young boy bursts into a run, in a stunning life-size reconstruction now on display in Sweden.

Although her likeness is new — it debuted last month in an exhibit about ancient people at Västernorrlands Museum — researchers have known about this woman’s existence for nearly a century. During the construction of a road in the hamlet of Lagmansören in 1923, workers found her skeletal remains buried next to the remains of a child, likely a 7-year-old boy.

“With our eyes and perhaps in all times, you tend to think that this is a mother and son,” said Oscar Nilsson, the Sweden-based forensic artist who spent 350 hours creating the lifelike model.

“They could be. Or they could be siblings: sister and brother. They could be relatives, or they could just be tribe friends. We don’t know, because the DNA was not that well preserved to establish this relationship.”

But as Nilsson molded the woman’s posture and sculpted her face, he pretended that she was near her son who was scampering ahead of her. “She’s looking with the mother’s eyes — both with love and a bit of discipline,” Nilsson told Live Science. This stern but tender gaze looks as if she’s on the cusp of calling out to the boy, telling him to be careful.

Stunning 3D image recreates real Stone Age woman
This reconstruction is based on the remains of a Neolithic woman who lived about 4,000 years ago in what is now Sweden.

The Neolithic woman and youngster were interred in a cist grave, a burial built with long, flat stones in the shape of a coffin. The woman died in her late 20s or early 30s, and at 4 feet, 11 inches (150 centimetres) in height, “she was not a very tall person,” even for the Neolithic period, Nilsson said.

The woman’s remains didn’t show any signs of malnutrition, injury or diseases, although it’s possible that she died of an illness that didn’t leave a mark on her remains, Nilsson said.

“She seems to have had a good life,” he said. She ate land-based food, an examination of the isotopes (different versions of elements) in her teeth revealed, which was odd given that her grave was found near a fish-filled river near the coast, he said.

When Nilsson received the commission to reconstruct the woman two years ago, he scanned her skull and made a copy of it with a plastic 3D printer. As with other reconstructions he’s created, including those of an ancient Wari queen from what is now Peru and a Stone Age man whose head was found on a spike, Nilsson had to take into account the ancient individual’s sex, age, weight and ethnicity — factors that can influence the person’s facial tissue thickness and general appearance. But because the woman’s DNA was too degraded, he wasn’t sure about her genetic background, hair or eye colour.

So Nilsson took an educated guess about her appearance. There were three large migration waves into ancient Scandinavia: During the first, hunter-gatherers with dark skin who tended to have blue eyes arrived between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago; the second wave included pale-skinned, dark-haired and brown-eyed farmers from further south who moved north about 5,000 to 4,000 years ago when this woman was alive; and the third wave included the Yamnaya (also spelled Yamna) culture from modern-day Ukraine, who were a bit darker-skinned than the farmers and brought the art of metal making with them when they arrived about 3,500 years ago, making them the first Bronze Age culture in the region, Nilsson said.

Based on this information, Nilsson gave the woman brown hair and eyes, and light skin like the farmers’. Even so, the woman wasn’t necessarily a full-time farmer; she likely participated in a mix of hunting and gathering as well as agricultural practices, he said.

“We can’t say for sure whether she was living a nomadic life if she was living the life of the early farmers; it’s impossible to say,” Nilsson said. “But we have chosen to make the safest interpretation, which is she was both because, of course, there was a transition period of many hundreds of years when they left the old way of living.”

Fancy furs, Stone Age style

In the reconstruction, the woman from Lagmansören is dressed head to toe in fur and leather. This is the work of Helena Gjaerum, a Sweden-based independent archaeologist who uses Stone Age techniques for tanning leather. 

Before dressing the model, Gjaerum studied the ancient climate, landscape, vegetation and animal life of Neolithic Lagmansören. Based on what she uncovered, she designed the woman’s clothes out of deer, moose and elk and the shoes out of reindeer, beaver and fox. The woman likely stuffed hay inside the shoes for padding, noted Gjaerum, who took inspiration from clothing worn by Indigenous Americans and Indigenous Siberians, as well as the leather clothing of Özti the Iceman mummy, who lived about 5,300 years ago in the Italian Alps.

Preparing the clothes entailed hours of labour. Gjaerum, who acquired real animal remains, scraped the flesh off the skins and then put them in a river — a method that helps loosen the fur from the skin. Next, she scraped off the fur and slathered on a solution made of moose brain, a fatty mixture that bonds with skin fibres. Without this mixture, the skin would stiffen and could easily rot if it got wet, she said.

The next several steps involved massaging, boiling, stretching and smoking the skins and then finally designing the clothing. Gjaerum’s young son, who was about the same height as the Stone Age woman, served as a helpful model, Gjaerum said.

She made the clothing as comfortable and practical as possible — for instance, by not putting a seam at the top of the shoulder, where water might seep in during rainy weather.

Often, modern people think of Stone Age humans as primitive, dressed in ugly, toga-like furs as in “The Far Side” comics. But Gjaerum challenged that perception. “I think it would be crazy to think she’d have primitive clothes,” Gjaerum told Live Science. “I wanted to make her dress like you could dress today” because you are both Homo sapiens.

Swedish orienteering enthusiast finds Bronze Age treasure trove

Swedish orienteering enthusiast finds Bronze Age treasure trove

A Swedish orienteering enthusiast working on a map stumbled across a stash of some 50 Bronze Age relics dating back over 2,500 years, authorities said.

Mainly consisting of ancient jewellery, the find outside the small town of Alingsas in western Sweden represents one of “the most spectacular and largest cache finds” from the Bronze Age ever in the Nordic country, the County Administrative Board said in a statement.

Among the relics, believed to be from the period between 750 and 500 BC, are some “very well preserved necklaces, chains and needles” made out of bronze.

Some of the bronze Age treasures discovered near Alingsas
Some of the bronze Age treasures discovered near Alingsas

The objects were lying out in the open in front of some boulders out in the forest.

“Presumably animals have dug them out of a crevice between the boulders, where you can assume that they had been lying before,” the government agency said.

Tomas Karlsson, the cartographer who made the discovery when he was out updating a map, at first thought, it was just junk.

“It looked like metal garbage. Is that a lamp lying here, I thought at first,” Karlsson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

He told the paper he then hunched over and saw a spiral and a necklace.

“But it all looked so new. I thought they were fake,” he continued.

He reported the find to local authorities who sent out a team of archaeologists to examine the site.

“Most of the finds are made up of bronze items that can be associated with women of high status from the Bronze Age,” Johan Ling, professor of archaeology at the University of Gothenburg, said in the statement.

“They have been used to adorn different body parts, such as necklaces, bracelets and ankle bracelets, but there were also large needles and eyelets used to decorate and hold up different pieces of clothing, probably made of wool,” Ling added.

800-Year-Old Shipwreck Found Off Swedish Coast

800-Year-Old Shipwreck Found Off Swedish Coast

A previously undiscovered wreck has been found outside of Fjällbacka on the Swedish west coast. Analysis of wood samples shows that it is the oldest shipwreck ever found in the province of Bohuslän. This is also one of the oldest cogs that have yet to be found in Europe.

“The wreck is made from oaks cut between 1233 and 1240, so nearly 800 years ago,” says Staffan von Arbin, a maritime archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg.

This wreck from the Middle Ages was found by the island of Dyngö outside of Fjällbacka in the Swedish municipality of Tanum. This last autumn, the University of Gothenburg conducted archaeological diving inspections along the coast of Bohuslän to find out more about known wrecks on the seafloor.

“We collected wood samples to determine the age by dating the tree rings—known as dendrochronology,” says Staffan von Arbin.

It was during this work that the maritime archaeologists came upon the wreck outside of Fjällbacka which has been given the name “Dyngökoggen.” This limited survey of the wreck shows that it is a cog, a type of ship that was widely used from around the 12th century onward.”

The bottom planking is flush-laid (carvel), while the side planks are overlapping (clinker). Seams between planks are also sealed with moss, which is typical for cogs.

The surviving hull section is about 10 meters long and 5 meters wide. Staffan von Arbin believes, however, that originally the ship would have been up to 20 meters long.

A cog ship on the town seal of Stralsund dated to 1329. Even if the depiction is nearly 100 years later than the Dyngö cog ship, it provides a good idea of what cogs may have looked like.
Maritime archaeologist Anders Gutehall from Visuell Arkeologi Norden inspects the bottom at Dyngö.

Was the ship attacked by pirates?

Analysis of the wood samples shows the ship was built of oaks from north-western Germany. How did it end up outside of Fjällbacka?

“Cogs are mentioned often in written sources about the medieval Hanseatic League, but ships of this type were common throughout the Middle Ages in northern Europe.” Staffan von Arbin argues that the find also points to the importance of Bohuslän as a transit route for international maritime trade during this period.

This is also one of the oldest cogs that have yet to be found in Europe.

It is not yet known why the ship sank but that would likely be an exciting story. The survey of the ship clearly shows indications of an intense fire.

“Perhaps the ship was attacked by pirates? Written sources tell us that Norway’s southern coast, including Bohuslän, had periods with intense pirate activity during the Middle Ages.”

But it might also have been a simple accident, perhaps a fire spread while the ship was docked. Or the ship was sunk in battle? The first decades of the 12th century were a turbulent time in Norway, which Bohuslän was a part of, with intense internal struggles for the Norwegian crown.

What happens now?

There are currently no plans for more surveys of the wreck. However, they hope to conduct new dives of the wreck in the future.

But this requires both a permit from the county administrative board and extensive external funding that is currently unavailable. The results and observations by the marine archaeologists are currently being analyzed for a larger scholarly article.

8000-year old underwater burial site reveals human skulls mounted on poles

8000-year old underwater burial site reveals human skulls mounted on poles

A team of researchers with Stockholm University and the Cultural Heritage Foundation has uncovered the remains of a number of Mesolithic people in an underwater grave in a part of what is now Sweden.

8000-year old underwater burial site reveals human skulls mounted on poles
Anterior view of crania F296 showing well-preserved facial bones.

In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, the group describes the site where the remains were found, the condition of the remains and also offer some possible explanations for the means by which the remains found their way to the underwater burial site.

People living during the Mesolithic were hunter-gatherers, the researchers note, which is why the burial site and its contents are so surprising.

At the time of its use, the burial site would have been at a shallow lake bottom covered with tightly packed stones upon which the remains of humans had been laid.

The remains were all skulls, save for one infant. The adult skulls (except one) were missing jawbones, and at least two of the skulls showed evidence of a stick thrust through the opening at the base through the top of the skull—normally associated with posting a skull to scare enemies.

But hunter-gatherers were not known for posting skulls or engaging in gruesome funeral rituals. Instead, they were known for disposing of their dead in simple, respectful ways.

The gravesite was found in what is now southern Sweden, near an archaeological site known as Kanaljorden.

Archaeologists have been working at the site since 2009, but it was not until 2011 that the human remains were found—until that time, researchers had been finding animal remains. To date, the researchers have found the remains of 11 adults.

In another surprise, the team discovered that all of the adult skulls bore signs of trauma—each had been whacked in the head multiple times. But the trauma was inflicted differently depending on gender.

The males were hit on top or near the front of the head, while the females were typically hit from behind. None of the wounds appeared life-threatening, however, though, without the rest of the corpse, it was impossible to identify what had killed them.

Cranium F318 with a wooden stake.

The researchers are unable to offer an explanation for what they have found at the site, though they suggest it was possible the victims had died or been killed elsewhere and then transported to the burial site. Possibly because they were considered exceptional in some way.

Viking twin babies are found in Christian burial in Sweden

Viking twin babies are found in Christian burial in Sweden

Live Science reports that seven Viking tombs were excavated in east-central Sweden ahead of a construction project. inside the tombs; they were likely Vikings who had converted to Christianity.

Viking twin babies are found in Christian burial in Sweden
The eight people – four adults and four infants – were laid flat on their backs to rest in the Swedish town of Sigtuna. Pictured, one of the adults.

“The Christian character of the now-excavated graves is obvious because of how the tombs were laid out,” said Johan Runer, a project manager with Uppdrag arkeologi, a cultural resource management company, which led excavations of the site. 

Most of the people had been buried flat on their back in an east-west position, whereas people who followed traditional Viking beliefs in this area of Sweden at this time tended to be cremated, Runer said.

Results of the Sigtuna dig are set to be presented in full in a report, according to Uppdrag Arkeologi. Pictured, the burial of a male adult surrounded by a stone cist – stones positioned in a box shape
The excavation site in the town of Sitguna, north of Sweden’s capital city Stockholm, from above

They also found deposits of charcoal and in some cases partially burnt caskets, suggesting fire rituals were involved in at least four burials.

“Such phenomena are rather common in Christian Viking period graves, but previously rather rare in Sigtuna,” Runer told Live Science in an email. 

Stone cairns were also found on top of four of the tombs, one of which also was surrounded by a stone cist (stones positioned in a box shape) surrounding it.

“These features are previously not known from the town of Sigtuna,” said Runer, who noted that they are common among early Christian graves in this area of Sweden, which is located about 23 miles (37 kilometres) northwest of Stockholm. 

Viking tragedy

The archaeologists say one of the tombs could contain the bodies of twins. “In one tomb, there were two very small infants of seemingly the exact same age,” Runer said. The team’s preliminary interpretation is that “this grave contains the tragic result of a late miscarriage of a couple of twins.”

The tombs also contained several interesting artefacts. One individual was buried with a “leather belt containing fittings of iron and silver-gilt copper alloy,” and silver coins were found in his mouth, Runer said.

Placing coins in a person’s mouth “is a rather common practice for Viking period Christian burials in middle Sweden,” he added. Another tomb contains “a beautifully ornated bone comb” found in a case, Runer said. 

Archaeologists discovered the tombs in late April during a survey of an area where a house was going to be built.

The archaeologists excavated the site in May and are continuing to analyze the skeletons and artefacts. An osteologist is expected to examine the well-preserved skeletons in the fall.

A man stumbles across a 2,500-year-old Bronze Age treasure trove in Swedish forest – in pictures

A man stumbles across a 2,500-year-old Bronze Age treasure trove in Swedish forest – in pictures

The AFP reports that more than 50 Bronze Age artefacts were discovered in western Sweden by Tomas Karlsson, an orienteering enthusiast. The 2,500-year-old cache of bronze items includes necklaces, chains, needles, and eyelets used to decorate and construct clothing.

Conservator Madelene Skogbert shows a bone ring that is part of the about 50 whole or larger parts of bronze objects that have been found in Alingsas, in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Among the relics, believed to be from the period between 750 and 500 BC, are some “very well preserved necklaces, chains and needles” made out of bronze.

The objects were lying out in the open in front of some boulders out in the forest.

“Presumably animals have dug them out of a crevice between the boulders, where you can assume that they had been lying before,” the government agency said.

Tomas Karlsson, the cartographer who made the discovery when he was out updating a map, at first thought, it was just junk.

“It looked like metal garbage. Is that a lamp lying here, I thought at first,” Karlsson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

He told the paper he then hunched over and saw a spiral and a necklace.

“But it all looked so new. I thought they were fake,” he continued.

He reported the find to local authorities who sent out a team of archaeologists to examine the site.

“Most of the finds are made up of bronze items that can be associated with women of high status from the Bronze Age,” Johan Ling, professor of archaeology at the University of Gothenburg, said in the statement.

“They have been used to adorn different body parts, such as necklaces, bracelets and ankle bracelets, but there were also large needles and eyelets used to decorate and hold up different pieces of clothing, probably made of wool,” Ling added.

In Sweden, a long-lost runestone from a Viking monument has been discovered

In Sweden, a long-lost runestone from a Viking monument has been discovered

The valuable runestone was found on a bridge across a nearby river as part of an eight-piece 10th-century monument. The discovery, according to scholars, would unleash a wealth of knowledge in several areas, including art, religious history, and archaeology.

One of the Hunnestad runestones, which had been missing since the 18th century, was discovered during construction work for a future sewer pipe outside the town of Ystad in southern Sweden.

The Hunnestad monument is estimated to date back to the 10th century and is seen as one of the country’s most remarkable monuments from the Viking Age.

Long-Lost Runestone From Viking Monument Recovered In Sweden
Archaeologist Axel Krogh Hansen at the statue that was found during the excavation in front of a sewer line.

The monument consisted of eight stones, three with pictures and two runestones.

It was discovered in the early 18th century but later disappeared. Some of the stones were found on land near Marsvinsholm Castle in 1814 and are on exhibition in Lund.

The recent find was discovered on a bridge over the Hunnestadsån River.

“A fantastic find, which you didn’t expect to happen. This stone has been gone for so long that we thought it had been destroyed”, Magnus Källström, runologist at the Swedish National Heritage Board, said in a statement.

According to Källström, the find will unlock a lot of new knowledge in several areas, including art, religious history, and archaeology.

“The fact that we have found one of the Hunnestad stones is really sensational”, Britta Roos, head of the cultural environment unit at the County Administrative Board of Skåne, said.

The famous drawing of the Hunnestad Monument by Ole Worm (Ole Worm (1588-1654)

Local man Max Rosell, who lives barely 20 metres from the find, was also elated.

“It feels a little crazy that it was so d*mn close. But it’s great fun for the village, we have all talked about the stones, people have wondered where they went. Some are in museums, now one is found and then there is only one left”, says Max Rosell.

According to the runes from the stones in Lund, the monument was erected by Esbern and Tomme.

They are presumed to have been outstanding men who, according to field archaeologist Axel Hansen, may have had connections to the Danish monarchy.

The Viking Age (793-1066) is a period when Norsemen known as Vikings undertook large-scale raids, conquests, and trading throughout Europe and established settlements in present-day Russia, southern Europe, Iceland, Ireland, the British Isles, and Greenland, and even reached North America (which they called Vinland).

17th-Century Warship Pulled From Icy Baltic Sea Is Almost Perfectly Preserved

17th-Century Warship Pulled From Icy Baltic Sea Is Almost Perfectly Preserved

In the 1620s, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden ordered the construction of a new warship to protect his citizens. The warship was named Vasa and its construction was hurried as the Swedes waged war in those years with the now-historic bi-confederation entity reigned by one monarch–the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Vasa’s port bow.
Vasa’s port bow.

After its creation, with several superlatives, the Vasa warship was described as being the largest and most capable battleship at the disposal of the Swedish navy.

The ship came to symbolize Sweden’s Great Power Period, in which the Nordic country controlled most of the Baltic Sea and forged its status as one of Europe’s most powerful kingdoms.

Warship in Vasa museum in Stockholm

The ship’s appearance was stunning, measuring 226 feet in length, 164 feet in height, and weighed more than 1,200 tons. With some 64 cannons installed on it, it promised whoever tried to mess with Vasa would face serious consequences. As it turned out, it never came to that.

The ship, against everyone’s expectations, proved to be fallible and faced an end that might easily remind people of the story of the RMS Titanic. Vasa did not hit an iceberg but still ignominiously sunk on its very first journey.

It was an embarrassing incident, overseen by crowds of Swedes who had gathered at the port of Stockholm from where the ship set sails towards the open seas for the very first and last time on August 10, 1628.

There were also prominent guests in the onlooking crowd, including royals and ambassadors from other countries. Having not sailed even one nautical mile, the mighty warship suddenly plunged into the water. Accounts point to errors happening during construction. The vessel was the work of a Dutch shipbuilder. The contract was signed early in the year 1625 and Vasa was one of four vessels agreed on the list with shipbuilder Henrik Hybertsson.

The original arrangement was to have two smaller and two bigger vessels. Hybertsson died shortly after undertaking the project, and the construction effort was taken over by his assistant, Hein Jakobsson.

Illustration from a treatise on salvaging from 1734, showing the traditional method of raising a wreck with the help of anchors and ships or hulks as pontoons, basically the same method that was used to raise Vasa in the 20th century.

Construction plans were obviously modified, as Vasa, which was supposed to be one of the two smaller ships, appeared to be fitting the pair of two bigger ships upon completion. The ship came out much heavier than planned. It also carried extra weights such as hundreds of sculptures and at least 100 tons of ballast.

More evidence shows that the Swedes had the warship tested and noticed something was wrong with it, but under the pushy demands of the king, Vasa was prematurely sailed into the open sea and towards its premature doom.

The preserved Vasa in the main hall of Vasa Museum seen from above the bow.

A strong gust of wind was enough to overturn the vessel. When the water began to enter, all it took was a few minutes for it to sink 105 feet below the surface.

The Swedes were quick to dismiss and forget Vasa. This was to be their new favourite war toy and national pride and joy, yet it now lay sunk on the bottom of the ocean on its maiden voyage. It was a scandal that hurt the reputation of the kingdom, as well as having huge economic repercussions. Vasa had costed a fortune.

While an investigation was ushered in immediately after the ship sank, little could be done. The main shipbuilder had already been dead for over a year.

Illustration of a Swedish Emperors: Gustav Vasa, Gustav Adolf, Dronning Christine, A. Oxenstierna, Charles Gustav, Charles IX, Torstenson

There were efforts to recover Vasa from the seafloor immediately, but the task seemed impossible with the limited technology of the time. By the 1660s, a group of divers was able to retrieve the cannons, using an early model of the diving bell. The shipwreck was eventually left abandoned and forgotten…until the mid-20th-century.

In 1961, a few years after the shipwreck was rediscovered and identified as the lost 17th-century Vasa vessel, Sweden finally managed to recover it. Although Vasa had for centuries remained submerged in the sea, upon its reappearance it seemed positively in pristine condition.

The underwater position where it had sunk was key. The water was dark enough to stop ultraviolet light from protruding and affecting the ship’s wood. The chilly temperature of the Baltic was also soothing, preventing any rapid deterioration processes.

The inside of the lower gun deck looking toward the bow.

Having sunk close enough to the harbour, there was enough pollution in the water to bleach most parasites that may have wanted to feast on the wood of the wreck.

But some decaying issues began once the ship was taken out of the water.  Vasa underwent restoration at that point and was treated with substances to protect the wood, however, lab research later confirmed that the wood of the ship was struggling with extremely slow, ongoing fibre degradation.

Vasa warship canon hatches detail

There is no threat of immediate collapse, but this has remained a major occupation for conservationists who are still looking for the best way to stop the risky process.

Should the Vasa museum where the shipwreck is famously displayed in Stockholm allow its prime exhibit to perish for the second time, it would be a huge national loss. The Vasa goes a long way and has a special history with the Swedes as well as being one of the best-preserved historical ships in all of the world.