A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
While excavating a Viking cemetery near the Swedish town of Köping, archaeologists discovered a pair of sword hilts protruding curiously from the earth. After further investigation, they determined that the handles belonged to Viking swords that had been thrust into the earth above two burials and had remained upright for 1,200 years. “Viking Age graves containing swords are very rare,” says Anton Seiler, an archaeologist working with Sweden’s National Historical Museums. “Graves where swords were set in a vertical position are even rarer.”
Because it would have taken a great amount of force to hammer the weapons through the soil and large stones that covered the burials, researchers do not believe the blades were in this position by chance. “It was clearly a conscious action,” Seiler says, though he is not certain why the swords were arranged in this unusual way. Perhaps, he says, it was a gesture meant to aid the deceased warriors’ journey to Valhalla. It also may have been a way of commemorating the dead. Family members visiting the graves would have been able to touch the sword handles, thereby maintaining a close connection with the departed.
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