The grave of an Iron Age warrior buried with his sword by his side on spurs on his heels has been unearthed in Buttle on the Swedish island of Gotland. Preliminary osteological analysis indicates the deceased was male, and stratigraphy suggests he lived between the 4th and 6th century. Warrior graves with weapons from this period are very rare finds in Sweden.
Excavations at the site began in 2019 but the first season turned up little of note. Last year’s excavations were suspended. This dig season saw the return of archaeologists and students from Uppsala University’s Gotland campus and they were welcomed back by the rare discovery of the warrior burial.
The bones were found during excavation of a stone circle of limestone blocks. As the soil was carefully removed from the skeleton in situ, spurs emerged at his feet. When the team removed the soil from his midsection, they found a sword. The team wrapped the soil block around the sword in plaster to remove it without risk of damage to the fragile organic elements and oxidizing metal.
The sword is 80 cm (31.5 inches) long and is bronze with bronze fittings. Parts of the sheath have also survived, namely wood framing at the top and bottom of the blade. An acorn-shaped bronze finial was found on the tip. It is similar in style to ones made on the continent at that time and Germanic fighters, including ones from Scandinavia, are known to have served in the Roman army. It is possible, therefore, that this warrior may have fought for Rome himself or had sufficient dealings with the Empire to acquire the weapon.
6 thoughts on “Iron Age warrior wearing spurs found in Sweden”
Very interesting find.
Unfortunately, there is no complete picture of the sword and the spurs, the (“Roman”) Iron Age in question seems to be AD, and why this gentleman or his weapon should have served in an –eastern?– “Roman” army, is -at least to me- not particularly obvious. His horse, it seems, is buried elsewhere.
A news segment shows the sword:
Are there some proof-reading errors in this otherwise interesting item that would explain why an Iron Age Warrior would be buried with a bronze sword. Tongue-in-cheek, I might be tempted to suggest that he died in battle because he was using out-of-date equipment compared to the Nasties wielding iron swords?
I’m skeptical about the blade of the sword being bronze, unless it was some sort of ceremonial piece. The corrosion products in the photos and the video mentioned above look very like iron.
This may be a translation glitch.
Confusingly, for Northern Europe a distinction is made between the “Viking Age” from 800AD to 1066, and a postulated “Iron Age” before that, i.e. dating from 0AD to 800AD, of which the latter is dubbed “Roman Iron Age” from 0-400AD (apparently with corresponding finds), and “Germanic Iron Age” from 400 to 800AD.
If not only the fittings, but also the sword itself would be “bronze”, it is certainly not what any contemporary Roman would have used. Thus, what we might be dealing here with, could be a Medieval warrior with a Bronze Age sword.
However, I would agree with George here: Those brittled bits might be iron, and that knobbed pommel bronze.
PS: Medieval burials in or near Bronze Age mounds with period correct sword, for whatever reason in combination with a -by then- outdated Viking sword, are not unheard of. Let’s wait and see what further inspection and analysis might reveal.
Update: The swedish national radio reports that the find is likely older than the intitial dating. Now, the estimate is 100 AD – 300 BC. It is the style of the spurs that can be connected to this earlier period even if an exact equivalent have yet to be found in the literature. The spurs are silver braided bronze spurs. The skeleton is now in the osteology lab where it will undergo carbon 14 and strontium analyses to determine the age of the find and where the individual grew up. Exciting!