An easy hop from Stockholm, the historic destination of Granby provides visitors with the unique experience of what rural life would have been like here more than 1,000 years ago during the Viking Age.
Considered a significant highlight for Viking enthusiasts, Granby is prominently featured in the Viking history tours curated by STOEX (you can book a spot for this immersive journey here).
While there are several reconstructions of Viking villages, few sites allow you to stand within what were the actual walls of a longhouse, the heart of the local community, where families and their livestock lived, ate, and slept.
As well as a shelter, insulated from the elements, this was a workshop and a gathering place – although privacy would have been at a premium!
Sketches and investigations
This longhouse, together with several other houses and burial sites, was first excavated in 1989 by a team of amateur archaeologists. They were led by Anders Hedman, a professional in the field, and were inspired by previous researchers.
The Granby site had been sketched in the 1700s by a priest with a fascination for history, Johan Göransson, whose impressions can still be viewed today.
A later visitor was Richard Dybeck, the antiquarian and lyricist responsible for the Swedish national anthem, who looked around the longhouse in 1859 and recorded the length of its foundations, along with a local farmer's tale celebrating an ancient Viking chieftain.
Some 130 years later, Hedman and his team set out to discover the meaning of these rectangles in stone.
In their report, archaeologists Lars Andersson and Rebecka Jonsson confirmed the presence of six houses in total and a large longhouse measuring 33 x 7 meters.
The longhouse was probably the home of the family who owned Granby, but the excavations suggested that the eastern section was used as a separate barn for their animals.
- Planning a trip to Stockholm? Book your Viking history tour here!
Viking longhouse foundation, parts of this building were excavated and surveyed in 1989, showing that it is at least 1000 years old. Source: Angus Carlsson / The Viking Herald
Tour the site and discover a runestone
The team found high levels of historic phosphate in the eastern part of the building, which indicated high levels of animal waste.
The Granby excavation has, therefore, given academics an insight into Viking farm life and house constructions, making it well worth an excursion from Stockholm – or a fascinating detour if you transfer between the city and Arlanda Airport.
The foundations run slightly more than a meter long, and a stone ramp leads into the house from the front, facing a beautiful view from high up on a hill.
Taking a tour through STOEX and being picked up from your hotel in the morning, you'll approach the hill of the Granby farmstead. To experience this historic journey firsthand, book your tour here.
To your left will be a large white farmhouse – the Orkesta-Granby farm. Here, you can enjoy a coffee and snack at the cozy bistro Hökerie.
But there's one final treat in store: the Granbyhällen runestone right in front of the longhouse.
This is Sweden's longest rune carving on a rock face, featuring mysterious lettering understood only by modern-day experts and those who lived here 1,000 years ago.
This particular example is atypical. It talks about relatives from the Viking family who lived at the Granby farmstead.
Until it trails off, the inscription says: "Häming and Själve and Johan had this stone cut after their father Finnvid, and Vargas and Ragnfrid, and after their mother, and after Ingegärd, and after Kalv and Gärdar and..."
It carries on to say: "He owned everything [i.e., the farm] on his own at first. They were the relatives. God help their souls. Visäte carved these runes".
The final sentence is a signature by the runemaster or runmästare.
These artisans were skilled individuals who specialized in the carving and painting of runestones. Visäte has signed many of his masterpieces throughout the Mälardalen region near Stockholm.
Runemasters traveled the landscape with a group of associates – possibly apprentices – seeking commissions from affluent Vikings. The Granby family, for instance, would have been reasonably well-off for the time.
This branded article was produced in collaboration with STOEX, a partner of The Viking Herald. You can find out more about their Viking and history tours - and book one - here.
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