A hiker camping in the Scandinavian Mountains of central Sweden discovered a Viking brooch from what is likely the first female burial from the Viking Age ever found in the Swedish mountains. Eskil Nyström was setting up his tent at a spot above the tree line last year when he found something sticking out of the soil. It was so clotted with earth at first he thought it was a mine, but when he removed the dirt around it he saw it was non-explosive artifact. A year passed before he brought it to the Jamtli regional museum in Östersund where experts identified it as a disc brooch from the 9th century.
Jamtli archaeologist Anders Hansson followed up right away and inspected the find site. There were no markers above ground, no stone cairns or burial mound, to pinpoint a grave. The metal detector signalled strongly, however, so Hansson dug a small hole. Just an inch below the surface, he found soot, burned bones and one more brooch.
These are the remains of a cremation burial from the Viking Age, and the two large brooches indicate it was a woman’s grave. She had been placed over a cold fire pit and covered with a thin layer of soil. Her body was cremated, leaving behind fragments of charred bone and the fibulae that pinned her garment at each shoulder.
“You get the feeling that these people were on their way somewhere when the woman died. The burial took place here, where the woman took her last breath. They could have taken the woman home where they lived, but instead, they make a cremation pit on the mountain,” Hansson told TT.
Hansson says the female Viking tomb is richly equipped.
“It’s really pretty. It is completely socially and religiously correct. The Viking woman took all her most precious objects to the grave, but there are no monuments, burial mounds, or cairns. It’s just flat hill. This grave is thus different compared to Viking graves in Iron Age settlements,” Hansson explained
Only five other Viking burials have been found in the mountains, all of them men. The find site of the woman’s grave is on a pilgrim’s path so even though it was a serious hike above the tree line, there was a religious incentive that might have spurred a woman of high status to sport two large, intricate fibulae while huffing and puffing up a mountain.
The grave will be thoroughly excavated next summer.