Snäckedals is a notable grave field located north of Snäckedal farm in Misterhults parish near Oskarshamn. This burial ground is dated to the Bronze Age, containing 26 ancient remains, and is one of the biggest of this kind to be found in Sweden. Back in the ancient times it was probably an important ritual and spiritual center, perhaps a final resting place for the elite involved in the copper trade.
First time I explored the area in September ’17 on a misty day when the heather was in full bloom. Though currently hidden under a layer of snow, most of the graves are still discernible: 5 cairns, 13 round and 5 rectangular stone settings, 2 ship-shaped stone settings – one of them being 40 meters long is the largest in Sweden, as well as a small raised block (so called höna på ägg) which is my favourite. The largest cairn is 21 meters in diameter and 3 meters high.
The small raised block resembling a mini-dolmen or a nesting hen is actually a man made stone formation found on some Bronze and Iron Age burial sites in Sweden. Originally raised as graves, they were used in various rituals later on (often as offering stones), or being surrounded by superstitions were thought to be dwellings of supernatural beings.
Last Thursday we decided to rent a car and go on a day trip in order to celebrate my incoming birthday and spring equinox. We might actually turn it into a quarterly road trip tradition.
Equipped with snacks, we leave the city early morning and head north-east towards Ringsjön lake. The morning sun looks promising, but grey clouds quickly take over the sky. We reach our first stop after a brief drive.
Trollakistan stands by the road leading to Höör, just before it goes in between eastern and western part of the lake Ringsjön. We have passed this place many times on a motorcycle, so I’m surprised to see that the trees growing from the mound are gone. Only stumps (and litter) remain. Now I can see how the monument functions in the landscape, and imagine how it could look when it was first erected some 5,300 years ago.
Dolmen comes from the Farmers Stone Age period. No grave deposits were found during the excavation of the chamber. However, many flint tools, weapons, and pottery shards were excavated nearby. Fog starts to roll in as I circle the mound to find the best angles; not an easy task to do since the monument stands near the main road where the morning traffic is quite busy.
We leave the main road and head for the Nunnäs grave field that lays on the eastern side of Ringsjön. The rural road leads us among the foggy fields and pastures. Nunnäs site is located just behind a farm in Fulltofta. Unlike many other burial sites I’ve seen this looks like an old cemetery park – with its ancient trees and a stone fence. The place, also known as Grykull, comes from the Viking Iron Age and consists six stone ships, two judge rings, 35 raised solitary stones, and clumps of boulders. Originally it was much bigger; many of the stones are missing.
We’re soon back on the trail, and as we continue towards Sösdala we come across another burial site, Vätteryds, which is the biggest and best preserved Iron Age grave field in Skåne. There are around 375 stones on the pasture, but the records from 19th century mention that there were nearly 600 of them left back then.
There are 15 (!) stone ships of various design, a judge ring, two rectangular stone graves and many scattered solitary stones that perhaps once were a part of a bigger structures. The tallest boulder is over 2 meters high. Each stone setting contained a cremation burial of several generations of people. Stone ships were most likely intended for Viking chiefs and warriors. Neolithic settlement was also discovered nearby during the excavations.
According to the local folklore one of the stones was a home to a giant named Klack. Klack had a nasty habit of kidnapping the local girls. When the villagers grew tired of his doings, they attempted to fight him. The stones scattered on the field are supposed to be a memorial of this long and tough battle.
Häglinge grave field is in close proximity to Vätteryds site. It’s also a stone throw from Källundagård; the farm that supplies my bakery with rye. This is the third Viking Age burial place we’re visiting today, but no less impressive.
The stones are located on a hill, so they’re not directly visible from the road. There are two stone ships and nearly 70 standing stones on the site. However, it’s hard to imagine how the grave field once looked, since most of the stones are destroyed. What I really like about this place is the green glow and calming omnipresence of moss.
The incredibly tall boulder at the back draws my attention; perhaps once it was of great importance. I think I can see a hidden face on it, but it just might be my imagination.
Petroglyphs in Frännarp
We finally arrive here early afternoon. We eat lunch in the sun while listening to a weird bird symphony – woodpecker’s ferocious pecking and continuous croaks of a raven family circling high above our heads. The site really makes a great bird observation spot. Carvings are located a bit deeper in the thicket, overlooking a small lake.
Frännarp’s petroglyphs were discovered in 1906 by one clumsy cow that slipped on the rock slab and tore away the moss covering the carvings.
No other place in Sweden has such a diversity of wagon carvings; it’s also Skåne’s only petroglyph site that isn’t located near the coast. There are around 17 two-wheeled carriages, some of them are pulled by horses. In addition there are sun wheels, snakes, a ship (or not; my sources are contradictory), 61 cup marks, miniature foot soles and a few unidentified figures.
Symbols were most likely carved during the Bronze Age. Back then pastures and cultivated fields dominated the surrounding landscape. The presence of wagons and sun wheels not only correspond to the daily farming struggle and dependence on cycles of nature, but can also be connected to fertility rituals performed to secure a good harvest.
Enoksen Lars Magnar, Skånska fornminnen, Historiska Media, Lund 2001.
Classon Christer, Dunér Anders, Fornminnen i Skåne, Corona Förlag, Malmö 2001.