|188.8.131.52 Viking Age||0 Contents 2 Background 2.5 Cultural 2.5.7 Sweden||Human Sacrifice 184.108.40.206|
Gamla Uppsala is an area rich in archaeological remains: seen from the grave field whose larger mounds (left part) are close to the royal mounds. The building beyond the mounds is the church and to its right is the low Ting-mound and then the museum.
Gamla Uppsala ("Old Uppsala") is a parish and a village outside Uppsala in Sweden. It had 16,231 inhabitants in 1991.
As early as the 3rd century AD and the 4th century AD and onwards, it was an important religious, economic and political centre. Early written sources show that already during pre-history, Gamla Uppsala was well-known in Northern Europe as the residence of the Swedish kings of the legendary Yngling dynasty. In fact, the oldest Scandinavian sources, such as Ynglingatal, the Westrogothic law and the Gutasaga talk of the king of Sweden as the "King at Uppsala".
During the Middle Ages, it was the largest village of Uppland, the eastern part of which probably originally formed the core of the complex of properties belonging to the Swedish Crown, the so called Uppsala Ã¶d, of which the western part consisted of the royal estate itself, kungsgÃ¥rden.
It was also the location of the Thing of all Swedes which was a thing (general assembly) held from pre-historic times to the Middle Ages, at the end of February or early March. It was held in conjunction with a great fair called Disting, and a pagan celebration called DÃsablÃ³t. The Law of Uppland informs that it was at this assembly that the king proclaimed that the leidang would be summoned for warfare during the summer, and all the crews, rowers, commanders and ships were decided.
It was not only the pagan cultic centre, it also became Sweden's archbishopric in 1164.
Gamla Uppsala lies on Fyris Wolds, a cultivated plain in the valley of the River Fyris which is densely populated in its southern part, while the northern part consists of farms.
Main article: Temple at Uppsala
A composite model of Gamla Uppsala from throughout history, as exhibited at the local museum.
Medieval Scandinavians held Gamla Uppsala to one of the oldest and most important locations in Scandinavia. The Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus held Odin himself to have resided in Gamla Uppsala far back in the mists of time:
This tradition was also known by the Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, who, however had Odin reside in nearby Fornsigtuna, whereas the god Freyr lived in Gamla Uppsala. Freyr is also said to have founded two of the central institutions of Iron Age Sweden, the Uppsala Ã¶d and the Temple at Uppsala:
Saxo Grammaticus adds that Freyr began the human sacrifices at Gamla Uppsala:
The sacrifices at the Temple at Uppsala are described through an eye-witness account by Adam of Bremen:
In the scolia, there is an additional description:
It was a symbolic moment when Pope John Paul II visited Scandinavia in 1989 and held an open-air mass at the royal mounds in Gamla Uppsala, as this was a pagan cultic centre, which became Sweden's first archbishopric in 1164.
In 2000, the Swedish AsatruSociety restarted the tradition of holding blÃ³ts at Gamla Uppsala. This was the first public blÃ³t at the place for more than 900 years. About 90-100 people attended the event. The event made frontpage news in the local newspaper Uppsala Nya Tidning as well as a full page in Expressen.
It is a testimony to the sanctity of the location in the mindset of medieval Norse pagans that Gamla Uppsala was the last stronghold of pagan Germanic kingship. During the 1070s and 1080 there appears to have been a pagan renaissance with the magnificent Temple at Uppsala described in a contested account through an eye-witness by Adam of Bremen. Adam of Bremen relates of the Uppsala of the 1070s and describes it as a pagan cult centre with the enormous Temple at Uppsala containing wooden statues of Odin, Thor and Freyr.
Sometime in the 1080s the Christian king Ingi was exiled for refusing to perform the sacrifices. Instead Blot-Sweyn was elected, but he was murdered by Ingi. One last pagan king appears to have been elected whose cognomen gave a lasting commentary of his function as king and of how he performed his duty: Eirik Arsale.
It is a testimony of Gamla Uppsala's great importance in Swedish tradition, that when Sweden received its Archbishopric in 1164, it was located in Gamla Uppsala. In practice, it had, however, lost its strategic importance due to the constant land elevation.
People have been buried in Gamla Uppsala for 2,000 years, since the area rose above water. Originally there were between 2,000 and 3,000 mounds in the area but most have become farmland, gardens and quarries. Today only 250 barrows remain.
In the parish there are more than 1,000 preserved archaeological remains, but many more have been removed by agriculture. There are cairns of splintered stone that reveal that the area was settled during the Nordic Bronze Age, but most of the grave fields are from the Iron Age and the Viking Age.
The great grave field south of the Royal Mounds is from the Roman Iron Age and the Germanic Iron Age. Near the vicarage, a few unburnt graves from the Viking Age have been excavated.
Under the present church in Gamla Uppsala have been found the remains of one or several large wooden buildings. Some archaeologists believe that they are the remains of the Temple of Uppsala, while others hold that comes from an early Christian wooden church. Churches were often built on pre-Christian sacred sites, though.
Adjacent to the present church there is a plateau of clay, the Plateau of the Royal Estate (KungsgÃ¥rdsplatÃ¥n), on which archaeologists have found the remains of a large hall.
The three large "royal mounds" at Gamla Uppsala.
The same mounds as shown in Suecia Antiqua et Hodierna (c 1700).
The Royal mounds (Swedish: KungshÃ¶garna) is the name for the three large barrows which are located in Gamla Uppsala. They are dated to the 5th and 6th centuries. As Sweden's oldest national symbols they are even depicted on the covers of books about the Swedish national identity.
In the 6th century, Gamla Uppsala was the location of royal burials. The location was chosen carefully and in order to make them majestic. The tumuli were constructed on top of the ridge.
By burning the dead king and his armour, he was moved to Valhalla by the consuming force of the fire. The fire could reach temperatures of 1500 Â°C. The remains were covered with cobblestones and then a layer of gravel and sand and finally a thin layer of turf.
In the 1830s, some scholars claimed that the mounds were pure natural formations and not barrows. This affront to ancient Swedish national symbols could not be accepted by the future Swedish king Karl XV and in order to remove any doubt, he decided to start an excavation.
The task was given to Bror Emil Hildebrand, the director-general of the National Archives. In 1846, he undertook the excavation of the nine metres tall Eastern mound with the hope of finding the grave of a Swedish king of old.
The excavation was complex and generated a lot of publicity. A 25-metre long tunnel was dug into the cairn, where they found a pot of clay filled with burnt bones and around it there were the remains of the charred grave offerings.
Among the most important finds in the Eastern mound were many fragments of decorated bronze panels with a dancing warrior carrying a spear. These panels have probably adorned a helmet of the Vendel Age type, common in Uppland (the only foreign example being the one in Sutton Hoo). There were also finds of gold which probably had adorned a scramasax, but according to another interpretation, they were part of a belt. The dead was also given several glass beakers, a tafl game, a comb and a hone.
Most scholars agree that the mound was either raised for a woman or for a young man and a woman, but as Hildrebrand reburied most of the remains, a new excavation is to be undertaken before the controversy can be settled. What is quite certain is that the dead belonged to a royal dynasty.
In 1874, Hildebrand started an excavation of the Western mound and opened an enormous shaft right into the cairn in the centre of the mound. Under the cobble stones, there were the charred remains of the funeral fire.
In the western mound were found the remains of a man and animals, probably for food during the journey. The remains of a warrior equipment were found. Luxurious weapons and other objects, both domestic and imported, show that the buried man was very powerful. These remains include a Frankish sword adorned with gold and garnets and a board game with Roman pawns of ivory. He was dressed in a costly suit made of Frankish cloth with golden threads, and he wore a belt with a sumptuous buckle. There were four cameos from the Middle East which were probably part of a casket. The finds show the distant contacts of the people of Uppland in the 6th century.
The church was the Archbishopric of Sweden prior to 1273, when the archbishopric was moved to Ã–stra Aros (Ã–stra Aros was then renamed Uppsala due to a papal request). The old cathedral was probably built in the 11th century, but finished in the 12th century. The stone building may have been preceded by a wooden church and probably by the large Temple at Uppsala. After a fire in 1240, the nave and transepts of the cathedral were removed leaving only the choir and central tower, and with the addition of the sacristy and the porch gave the church its present outer appearance. In the 15th century, vaults were added as well as chalk paintings. Among the medieval wooden sculptures there are three crucifixes from the 12th, 13th and 15th centuries.
The church from the west
From the south-east
Plan (1908) showing the present church in black.
|Uppsala, frÃ¥n 200- och 300-talen ett betydande ekonomiskt, religiÃ¶st och politiskt centrum i MÃ¤lardalen [...].||Translation: Uppsala, was from the 3rd and 4th centuries an important economic, religious and political centre in the MÃ¤laren basin [...].|
|Tidiga skriftliga kÃ¤llor visar att G. redan under forntiden var vittberÃ¶mt i Norden som sÃ¤te fÃ¶r sveakungarna av den mytomspunna YnglingaÃ¤tten.||Translation: Early written sources show that G. as early as pre-historic times was widely famous in the Nordic countries as the residence of the Swedish kings of the legendary Yngling dynasty.|
|Svearikets kung omtalas som kungen i Uppsala bl a i Ynglingatal, Gutasagan och Ã„ldre VÃ¤stgÃ¶talagens bihang om grÃ¤nsdragning.||Translation: Sweden's king is mentioned as the king at Uppsala in for instance Ynglingatal, the Gutasaga and in the Westrogothic law's appendix on the establishment of the border.|
|Under medeltiden var G. Upplands stÃ¶rsta by, vars Ã¶stra del ursprungligen torde ha bildat kÃ¤rnan i det s.k. Uppsala Ã¶d, kronans godskomplex, och vars vÃ¤stra del utgjorde sjÃ¤lva kungsgÃ¥rden.||Translation: During the Middle Ages, G. was the largest village of Uppland, whose eastern part originally should have been the core of the so-called Uppsala Ã¶d, the complex of estates of the Crown, and whose western part consisted of the royal estate itself.|