Bones of the Earth: Imitation as Meaning in Viking Age Burial Ritual


  • Tore Artelius The Swedish National Heritage Board
  • Mats Lindqvist The Swedish National Heritage Board



pre-Roman Iron Age, stone flakes, myth, religious meaning, body, imitation


From excavation results of a pre-Roman Iron Age and Viking Age burialground
in Västergötland, an example is presented ofhow religious meaning became projected into Viking Age burial ritual through imitation of an already then ancient custom. The burial-ground was abandoned for a period of at least 600 hundred years in between the two periods. In the Pre-Roman Iron Age and Viking Age graves the custom of depositing flakes of firecracked natural stone was documented. From a Viking Age perspective the tradition was imitated and derived from the urnfield burial-grounds ofther late pre-Roman Iron Age. The authors link the Viking Age ritual behaviour  to the sagas, where stones are presented as symbolical representations of the human body and as cosmological parts of the skeleton that kept the earth together. In the interpretation it is argued that the very concrete use of older graves was essential in the Viking Age burial custom. In this specific example, the deposition of stones in the Viking Age ritual context is interpreted as a projection and representation of the past and the bodies of the dead.


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How to Cite

Artelius, T. and Lindqvist, M. (2005) “Bones of the Earth: Imitation as Meaning in Viking Age Burial Ritual”, Current Swedish Archaeology, 13(1), pp. 25–37. doi: 10.37718/CSA.2005.02.



Research Articles