As soon as we installed ourselves in Skövde, we drove up here after a day long drive down from Bollnäs. Just in time for the sunset. Last warm rays of sunlight made the grass turn copper; swarms of flies became fairy dust. As I was walking around the meadow a pair of birds kept me company and followed me wherever I went. Even though I couldn’t identify them, I was grateful for their company for the evening, as it sometimes gets lonely among the graves. Soon after we left to catch Amundstorp in the last moments of the golden hour.
Ekornavallen is an ancient burial ground in the Falköping Municipality in Sweden. Situated in Slafsan River valley, it contains a variety of ancient monuments dating from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages.
What’s unusual, there were no settlements in the area until the 18th century. As of the late 19th century the area was plowed up, which sadly destroyed many of the precious remains.
Today Ekornavallen contains four passage graves and a gallery grave from the Neolithic period, as well as cairns from the Bronze Age, stone circles, twelve standing stones (bautastenar) – marking the Iron Age burials, eight round stone settings and one triangular stone setting. Many stones are adorned with cup marks too. It is estimated that the field was in use for over a six to seven thousand-year period.
The largest, and best known, grave on a meadow is the Neolithic passage grave Girommen. According to historians the name translates to thegiant woman’s oven. It could be a resting place of many individuals, possibly an entire family. The burial chamber is thirteen meters long and two meters wide. It stands on a barely recognizable stone setting that is 37 meters in diameter. All boulders are made of sandstone except for the granite roof stone; probably a glacial erratic from Närke. The grave was restored in the 1940s and some burial offerings such as amber beads, pottery shards and a flint chisel have been found. In recent years the walls has been filled to prevent the passage grave from further collapse.
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.
It’s been a year since my trip to Gantofta and I think the time has come to write about it. All those months I’ve kept saving it for later, hoping the memories would age like a fine wine, but instead they’ve started to wither. It’s really hard now to excavate the whole experience intact from the depths of my mind. I mostly remember the rain and my feet getting wet but also the exhilarating freedom and joy I felt after each of my tiny discoveries.
One rainy Monday in March I’ve decided to hop on a train and ramble around the Råån’s valley. My hike started at Gantofta’s station since the village is directly accessible by train from Malmö. The weather was fine by the time of my arrival but, as soon as I’ve headed for Bårslöv, it started to rain again. Undiscouraged by moisture I crossed the river and continued towards Stenlösorna Dolmen.
Stenlösorna is hidden on a neglected meadow behind private premises on the left of the road to Bårslöv. It’s overgrown with bushes and guarded by a hawthorn tree. Hawthorns symbolism in folklore is somewhat similar to an elder; it too stands at the threshold of the Otherworld. The dolmen’s capstone is covered in lichens and moss, though still some cup marks should be visible. As per usual I haven’t noticed any.
After a brief investigation I’ve turned back towards Gantofta and followed the road leading to Fjärestad. It was a 3-4 km walk along a less busy road during the worst rain; then a quick stroll through the Fjärestad Gård where the time has stopped. After a while I’ve found myself on a gravel road that led through the sleeping fields. An overgrown Bronze Age burial mound can be seen from there; looking like a crown in the middle of a field.
The rain stopped immediately after I’ve reached Fastmårupsdösen. The universe smiled at me – I could easily snap some photos. Similarly to Stenlösorna, I’ve learned nothing about it since the place hasn’t been excavated nor any on-site information is provided. I can only rely upon the dry field notes I’ve found on raa.se. In this case the capstone is also adorned with cup marks.
I’ve taken off my raincoat and had a small fika to recover my energy. I’ve had to decide whether I want to go back to Gantofta by the exact same way I came, or take a risk and go down the valley and cross the railway. Since I knew that the dolmen is aligned with Gantoftas Sliprännor I went with the latter.
So I went down the soggy meadow towards the railway. The railway itself wasn’t a problem to cross as I’ve thought before. Though a 3 meter wide river was. Surprise, surprise! There wasn’t any bridge I could take so I’ve decided to find one and walked down the stream.
As I was walking along the river I’ve crossed the Nature Reserve’s territory a couple of times. The hike would be so much easier and shorter if I wouldn’t have to crawl under the electric fences here and there. Though it definitely was fun. At this point my boots were totally soaked and I’ve started to get hungry.
In prehistoric times the region held an important central function and had been an attractive communication hub because of it’s incredibly fertile soils and close proximity to the sea. It’s quite clear from the number of visible ancient remains mainly in the form of a megalithic graves, Bronze Age and Iron Age burial mounds, settlements and fort ruins.
Closer to Gantofta, almost at the end of the nature reserve area, I’ve stumbled upon a mound with two old oak trees (found a noose hanging from one) with an unnamed passage grave in the middle. Unfortunately it hasn’t been restored yet, though it has been excavated in 1902. Back then archeologists found a few scattered deposits of grave goods: amber beads, flint tools and daggers, charred human bones, horse teeth, whetstones and ornamented pottery shards.
Just after I’ve made my final discovery, a wooden bridge appeared out of thin air. I’ve completed the quest. I could finally cross Råån safely and head back to the village.
I had a satisfying fika at Cafe Dalstugan. After talking to the lovely owner I’ve decided to walk through Gantofta to see Gantoftadösen again.
The dolmen can be found just at the end of the village. It’s also known as Jättestugan (Giant’s House). It was restored as the capstone has been broken in two. It features some cup marks as well, very visible this time.
I’ve visited Gantoftadösen already during the summer of 2017. The hike doesn’t have to end there, though last year it did for me. I headed to catch my train home. However, said summer, after continuing down the road for 15-20 mins I’ve reached the last stop on the map – Gantoftas Sliprännor.
The mysterious Giant’s Grooves are hidden in a tiny ravine under a lush foliage. This place is unreal. Like an enchanted emerald chamber; radiating green and moisture. There is a brook at the bottom too. One of the sandstone slopes is covered in peculiar grooves and cup marks.
It is unknown how, when or why the cuts have been created. They were once thought to be made by neolithic folk sharpening their flint knives and axes. Modern research shows that they were probably caused by a rotating motion instead, perhaps using a wheel or pendulum. Today it is believed that those cuts are the remains of magical and religious rituals.
Historical maps of the village of Gantofta show that during the Middle Ages there was an increased interest in owning a narrow plot of land right there, but the reasons behind it remain unknown.
Grooves are common in northwestern Skåne, especially in Kullaberga, but they can also be found on Gotland where they appear mostly on single boulders. In folk belief some of them are called sword sharpening stones.
I’ve been looking forward to spend some time away from the city for a while now. Thankfully we’ve spent the last days of December in my husband’s hometown. Oskarshamn. Deep forests, the proximity of the sea and many places with history to visit.
Hauntings at Riskasten
This is a local spooky tale I’ve heard from my husband. The story comes from either the 17th or 18th century; from the time of famine. We visited this haunted place on a Christmas Eve morning. It is to be found in the forest between the villages of Forsa and Emsfors.
Around Christmas time, two or three kids from Forsalid were sent out by their parents to beg for food. In their search they came to a farm in Fågelsjö where they received a bread from a housewife. On their way back they met a man who saw them playing with it. When the man returned home he was told it was his wife who gave children the bread. He then became furious, threw himself on a horse, rode after the boys, killed them in the woods and hid their bodies under spruce twigs.
Since then the ghosts of the children still haunt this place. Many paranormal encounters can be confirmed by the local folk. A memorial plate has been mounted and everyday fresh spruce twigs are being laid there.
Closer towards Emsfors (back in the 18th and 19th century famous for its paper industry), I saw this stone cellar but I’m not quite sure when it was built.
Cairn in Orrängen, Oskarshamn
A while ago, while browsing raa.se map, I’ve discovered a cairn in my parents-in-law neighborhood. So I’ve walked through the thicket surrounding the apartment building area, constantly peeking at the map and under my feet. Turned out that the cairn still stands, not far away from the grill place. It is also quite well preserved considering the placement. I’ve passed this place so many times and never before dared to investigate what hides behind the picnic table.
Petroglyphs in Västervik
I had high hopes for this one. I’ve checked the municipal pamphlet about Bronze Age sites in the Västervik area and planned the road trip accordingly. In reality most of the carvings are poorly marked and preserved; what’s filled in on the pictures has already faded away. Some of the places have also a restricted access – like those near Casimirborg, which turns out to be a private area.
Though I found a beautiful panel with a very much visible ship carving in Källsåker Gård just north of Västervik.
Next stop – Gamleby. According to the website the town is full of panels with petroglyphs, though mostly cup marks. The carving sites are in between the apartment buildings and it doesn’t really seem like they have any importance for the local community. The visit in Gamleby left my memory card empty and myself disappointed.
When leaving the town we found a runestone though; in close proximity to Garpedansberget. It’s a sculpture park full of trolls, tomtes and other creatures from the local folklore.
We continued towards Lofta where lays the famous Utrikestenen; now just a mossy stone that could be easily missed if not for the information plate. The boulder has some barely readable petroglyphs and cup marks that are still being filled with offerings. First of this kind I saw in person.
On the way back home we stopped at the diners in Ekeröd as we usually do when traveling on E22. Ekeröds grave field was on my list for quite a while, so I decided to pay this place a quick visit.
The grave field comes from the late Iron Age. There are few stone settings, domarringar (judge rings) and freestanding stones. Place have an unique atmosphere – feels haunted. There is a Bronze Age cairn and an offering well nearby, but sadly I had no time to investigate further.
Gårdlösaleden is one of the trails on east coast of Skåne, Österlen. The 12 km loop can be easily taken in one day, in a matter of fact – couple of hours with short breaks is enough. The hike begins in a cozy village of Smedstorp near the train station. Let’s go!
First kilometre is fairly uneventful – I need to walk out of the built-up area first. I take the gravel road that takes me trough pastures. First stop – remains of a stone ship called Alnabjär Skeppssättning (3) are up on a hill. Since it’s missing most of the stones I choose to skip it and head for the “main course” just 1 km away – three stone formations from Iron Age hidden away in a thicket.
Stones rest on a hill; from here I have a view over surrounding corn fields. There is two stone ships and one overgrown stone circle, domarring (4). A bit northwest from here there’s Silverflickans grav (5) – an Iron Age grave of a young women buried along with silver artifacts. Plants growing here are quite suggestive – elder and hawthorn are both the guardians of the Otherworld, while fireweed is a symbol of rebirth.
After enjoying my time with the stones I’m back on the route. Along the main trail there are remains of two limestone quarries – Kalvahagens stenbrott and Stora stenbrottet (6 & 7).
Soon the landscape changes as I enter the small forest with a stream running through. There’s a tiny waterfall too! A couple of meters from the wooden bridge there is a humongous lime kiln (8). Lime used to be transported here from quarries down the road, burned in order to lose weight and turn white, and extinguished with water from the stream.
As I’m out of the forest area, I cross the main road and enter the Listarumsåsen Nature Reserve. It’s so beautiful and quiet. I’m all alone here, just what I was craving for. The trail goes through the whole length of reserve, forest changes along the way – one time there is only spruce, then beeches start to dominate and it gets denser and darker. I pass a peat extraction site from the beginning of XX century (9).
There is also a peculiar Oak growing along the way, marked by a helpful hiker. Why does it stand on two legs is a mystery. Maybe it’s a tree giant, or maybe the hole is a portal to the Otherworld?
After quite some time I finally emerge from the woods. For the next 3 km the trail will lead through fields and pastures, which gives me the opportunity to focus on medicinal plant growing along the way. The abundance of the black mullein and meadowsweet sweeps me from my feet. Next July I’ll definitely come here to pick them for my herbarium, since I can’t locate them in my neighborhood. But there are also plenty of habitats of musk mallow, thistle, burdock, tansy, wild geranium, chicory, wild thyme, St. John’s wort, and I’ve spotted at least one with angelica.
The last stop on a map is Ljungavången Nature Reserve (10) which is a home to rare frog species called onion frog. Since the possibility of meeting one is close to none I decide to head for the train station.
Around the 10th kilometre I enter a small foresty area with, well, a weird theme. Here Santa Claus gnomes are everywhere. Trees are adorned with Christmas decorations, but all of them feature only Jultomten. Not gonna lie this really creeps me out at first, but then I start to get really curious. But so far I didn’t find any compelling backstory to this.
Since I’m late for my train back home, I take a coffee in a local shop and brush off all the bugs that crept on me along the way. I’m tired but my mind is at peace again. It was a good day.
Fagertofta burial ground lays north of Nässjö on a banked meadow sheltered by a forest. The area was excavated and restored in 1940s – amost all graves date to the Iron Age. The burial site is also known as Domsätet, due to the presence of dommaringar*, and Hallängen – The Hall Meadow. Never heard of this place before. I’ve discovered it in an old book I’ve got from an antique bookshop.
The grave field contains 42 ancient stone formations varied in form, shape and size. Mostly stone circles (38, including 25 domarringar) but there is also a Bronze Age cairn (for cremation burials) and a mysterious three-armed barrow with an altar. What’s unusual, one of the circles is formed from 6 tiny dolmens, also known as “lying hens”.
By the gravel road leading to the site there is an old sacrificial well, Midsommarkällan. It was used in the past for ritual ablutions during Midsummer celebrations.
We approached the site during a very hot and sunny afternoon, so shooting conditions were far from ideal. I walked around the stones for a while, briefly composing my shots and waiting for clouds to set in. Maybe it was a symptom of a sunstroke, but I swear I could hear the chanting among the dolmen ring coming from the dark forest behind it. The official information leaflet does warn about “playing around” the stones – that can make one ill.
* Domarringar – Stone circles with odd number of stones (usually 7 or 9); often with an additional stone in the middle. The name might came from a medieval view that judge rings were a kind of court places where important decisions were made. With the odd number of stones, a judgment could always pass.
You can find more photos from this location in my Flickr album.
Älgafallet – amazing waterfall on a border with Norway
Nässjö – thebutthole of Småland? I take it back now!
This road trip took us roughly 4 days. I’ve actually planned a lot (too much?) for us to see on our honey-moon-midsummer-road-trip. Some places didn’t work out – mostly waterfalls and some stone circles. Some other were a surprise as we’ve discovered them by accident. Extremely hot and sunny weather was perfect for a trip, though a bit tiring I’d say, but not so perfect for shooting. Everything went better than expected, we had a lot of fun and I’ve brought plenty of photos home. The greatest trip ever!
Don’t get fooled by Skånes flat and mundane landscape. It certainly IS the place where magic happens – ancient stones might speak to you when you dare to listen. Especially here. At the southernmost tip of Sweden, where land meets endless sky and sea.
Ales Stenar is truly a remarkable megalithic monument. You can find it in Kåseberga, a couple of kilometres east from a charming little town of Ystad. The stone complex is located on a cliff overlooking my beloved Baltic Sea. It is 67 meters long, formed by 59 large boulders in a shape of an oval ship. Worth noting: stones at both ends are much larger than the rest. These rocks have been erected probably around the end of Nordic Iron Age, but neither me, nor my scientific sources, can be sure about the exact date of creation. Opinions in this matter vary greatly – from 5,000 BC to 10th century AD.
Ales Stenar has been used as a burial ground for centuries. Excavations performed on the site in 1989 verified this theory. Many clay pots with charred human bones have been found at that time, proving that the burial rituals were performed there for many, many centuries. Other archaeological findings include traces of bonfires and feasts.
But there is more! The specific placement of the boulders denotes that this construction has been used as a solar calendar too. Those bigger stones, that I’ve mentioned before, precisely mark the sun’s positions on the sky during Summer and Winter solstices. And those can be observed while standing on the flat stone in the middle of the circle during sunrises and sunsets, respectively.
The obvious multi functionality of this place is not a surprise to me, as ancient societies worshiped their ancestors, deities and nature in one sacred space. And as of this years Midsummer, thankfully this tradition is not over yet.
You can see more photos from this location in my Flickr album.