Iron Age warrior wearing spurs found in Sweden

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.