Two graves discovered this summer in the center of Gothenburg by archaeologists from the City Museum date back to the Viking era, according to a Swedish-language report the museum has just published

A first for Gothenburg 

These are the first such finds in central Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city. The location, the pretty gardens of Burgårdsparken, is close to Gothenburg's main football stadium, the Ullevi, where the 1958 World Cup Final was played. 

The chief archaeologist on the dig, Ulf Ragnesten, suggests that further investigations are required. The remains are protected by Sweden's Cultural Environment Act. 

The park was laid out in the early 1800s but dates back to the 1600s and is best known for the old farmstead, Stora Katrinelund, that stands here. 

During one week in June 2023, the Gothenburg City Museum carried out an archaeological investigation in Burgårdsparken, making sure not to affect the trees or footpaths. 

The archaeologists found remains of a country settlement from the 17th and 18th centuries and then, to their surprise, graves full of burnt bones dating back to the Viking and pre-Viking Vendel eras. 

This summer's archaeological findings in Gothenburg's Burgårdsparken, including graves and burnt bones, point to a history of the area that predates the city's 1621 establishment, possibly revealing a place of ancient sacrifice. Photo: Maykova Galina / Shutterstock

Ancient burial ground 

Alongside were stone packings that seemed to indicate the location was a place of sacrifice. They also suggest a larger burial site from the same period might be here, revealing a previously unknown aspect of Gothenburg's ancient history. 

The find site is only a few centimeters high and around four meters in diameter. 

The archaeological investigation took place on behalf of Västra Götaland County, as the City of Gothenburg has plans to develop land beside the park. 

During the Viking Age, the area was on a hill surrounded by meadows. Additionally, the sea was two meters higher than it is today.

The graves are located near Mölndalsån, a stream that flows into an ecological park located further south of Heden. At the time, it connected the site with the river and other settlements. 

A handful of burial grounds from the Viking Age have previously been investigated in the Gothenburg area, such as in Askim, Björlanda, and Säve. 

Evidence of ships, shipcraft, and defense features along the Göta and Nordre rivers from the Viking Age indicates that the estuary, around which Gothenburg was later built in 1621, was a sought-after area for trade and defense. 

Before then, this location was Sweden's only gateway to the Skagerrak, the straits separating the country from Denmark and Norway, as well as providing access to the North Sea and the Atlantic. 

The town of Lödöse, 40 kilometers upstream of present-day Gothenburg, is mentioned several times in the Icelandic Sagas, such as in this verse:

"The whole river was so beautiful to see,
As if one saw colors of shining gold,
When the famous king's men steered their ships to Lödöse."

It was also a major trading center during the Middle Ages. The recently discovered graves date back to approximately 700-1000.

The Viking Herald will continue to cover this story as it unfolds – look out for updates! 

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