Just outside Västerås, on the eastside of the city, is one of Sweden's most remarkable ancient monuments : Anundshög. Anundshög is a royal tomb from the 6th century, the largest of its kind in Sweden. It's a fantastic place to visit, hahaha if you are into these kinds of places that is. Some of you might describe it as dull, but I found this place so fascinating! You will get close to part of the life of the Vikings.
Nearby to the burial-mound of Anundshög there are a number of large grave mounds which indicates that this was an important meeting place for several centuries. There are also two very large stone-ships, graves in the shape of a Viking long ship. And last, but not least, there is also a runic stone from the middle of the 11th century.
There are signs from Västerås that direct you to Anundshög, so this historical site is not that difficult to find.
The first thing I want to show you is the runic stone at Anundshög. The stone is quite large, I don't know the exact size, but it is well over 2,5 meters high. The runic stone was erected during the first half of the 11th century and bears the inscription:
"Folkvid erected all these stones in honour of his son Heden, the brother of Anund. Vred carved the runes."
Folkvid was a prominent man in Badelunda and he paid for this runic stone. The remarkable thing about this runic stone is its unique engraved picture, which maybe shows a man and a woman holding each other tightly.
In the background of the picture, behind the runic stone, you can see the burial mound.
You can still see many runic stones in Sweden, although most of them are in Södermanland and Uppland. Runic stones are high stones, standing up, and have rune signs. They are related to the stones with decoration (mostly with a motive from the Nordic myths) or also to stones without any inscriptions. The runic stones often were erected as a memory for people who had died in a battle. The majority of inscriptions, more than 90%, were made during the 11th century.
The runes themselves are an old form of Germanic writing, which originally were being scratched into wood, but later also into stone, ivory and others.
But paying for the runic stone (see previous photo) is not all that Folkvid did. He also paid for the road to be built passing Anundshög and marked it with a row of monoliths. The road was to be used when the newly crowned king rode through his realm to receive the homage of his people. The monoliths are still there, and you can just imagine people travelling here in those times.
I took a picture of a drawing at the historic site of Anundshög. There are several interesting signs at Anundshög explaining its history, both in Swedish and in English. An excellent thing I think that they added the English text, hahaha, as my Swedish isn't so good yet.
Anundshög is Sweden's biggest burial-mound. This photo is taken from the stone-ships towards the burial-mound. The burial mound is maybe a bit more visible in the photo about the runic stone, but I have to admit that none of the photos do it real justice. The burial mound is huge! Anundshög itself is about 14 meters high and has a diameter of 60 meters, which makes it the greatest grave-mound in Sweden.
One thing you have to do is climb up the burial-mound; you can either take the stairs on the backside of the hill, hahaha, or be foolish, like me, and climb up the hill on the front side. The burial-mound is quite steep, so that makes it quite a climb ;-) Climbing up here though makes you realize how big the burial-mound really is and gives you a fantastic view over the stone-ships.
The burial-mounds were probably built over cremation sites, where the dead body was cremated together with the burial gifts. It is unknown who was buried here, but it was probably a very important man; perhaps a king.
This is me climbing up the burial-mound I mentioned in the previous tip. Behind me you can see two of the five stone-ships at Anundshög. The two stone-ships you see here are the biggest and most impressive ones.
" The stone-ships are amazing in size and in way they are build. The stones are placed in a perfect symmetry around the major axis and it amazes me how they did that. The sides of the ships take the form of bow shaped arcs. The wider of the two ships is 50.8 meters long and 24.7 meters wide, which makes it exactly half as wide as it is long. From the top of the hill you have an excellent view over these two stone-ships."
There are five stone settings at Anundshög, resembling the Viking's ships. In this picture you can see two of these stone-ships.
The stone-ships at Anundshög are two of the largest built in the form of ships in the first century A.D. There are three other smaller stone-ships in the area. The graves have not been excavated, but they were probably built in memory of great men and important boat-owners. The stone-ships symbolised the real ships on their way to the kingdom of the dead, perhaps to honour a chieftain who died in a foreign country.
I found this quite an interesting map which shows some important sites for the Vikings in the area of Mälaren. Anundshög (where we are now) is on this map, and this location is included in the European Council's Viking Route. There are other locations in Mälardalen included in the Viking Route, the nearest on this map being Sigurdsristningen. And at the Sigurdsristningen is where I live! This important historic place is only a 10 minutes walk from my home. There is lots about these rock carving on my Sigurdsristning page. So if you are interested in the Vikings or runic stones this is a page you shouldn't miss!
Other interesting places on this map are Birka and Sigtuna, both are still on my travel wish list, but I hope to go there next summer. The Vikings were real tradesmen and travelled all over the globe. There are traces of them from Canada in the west to Russia in the east.
During the summer months there are guided tours at Anundshög. The walks take about 1,5 hour and are in the months of June, Juli and August. I haven't been on a guided tour yet, but if you are in the area that time of year it might be interesting to check it out. You can get more info about the tours at the tourist office in Västerås, or read about it (like I did) at this sign at Anundshög.
The amazing thing I found about it is that it is for FREE! Hahaha, I just been on vacation to Norway and it felt that I had to pay for everything I saw or did. But not in Sweden! A historic place like Anundshög is for free, the parking is for free, and now it turns out even the guided tour is for free! I just couldn't believe my eyes! But it's great though! Hopefully I can go on a guided tour next summer as I am getting more and more interested in the Vikings, their way of living and the historic sites that are still here in this area.
Some interesting websites if you want to read more about Anundshög and stone-ships :
I am rather fascinated by the Vikings and the traces that they left here in Sweden. Maybe it is because I live so close to a Viking site that I am so intrigued by it. Here are some links to my and Åkes pages where we have written a bit more about the Vikings:
Area: The Lake Mälaren and the close area around it.
Mälaren is the third in size lake in Sweden. It has a climate quiet different compared to other close by areas. It is more humid and warmer in the summer, but not as cold in the winter. This has created a specific flora and also a special fauna. Several species of flowers and trees only grow around Lake Mälaren and in the south of Sweden. The mistletoe for instance is rather rare in Sweden but we can see dozens of them from our window.
Many fortifications and castles have been built around the lake. You can for instance visit 5 Royal Castles by boat on a 6-hour trip roundtrip from Stockholm. This building of fortification and permanent settlements began early, around 5000 BC, and there are many fort hills and archeologically sites around.
Everyone has probably heard about the Vikings, and you can still find lots about them in this area. I live only a 10 minutes walk from a very important Viking monument: The Sigurdsristningen. Being so close to a site like this makes me feel in touch with this part of Swedish history and has made me fascinated by the early history of Sweden. Around Lake Mälaren there are many spots where you can find signs of early culture, like in Birka and Sigtuna. Along the roads you can see a lot of Runic Stones.
Interesting points to see in the area are: