Publicada por Arith Härger / 1:35 PM /
In the year of 1963, a burial ground with 24 graves inside the bay of Sandvika on the eastern side of the island of Jøa, in Central Norway, were discovered. The bodies were buried in a sitting position, and after a close analyses the dating of the remains go back to the years 650 to 1000 AD. The unusual burial caracteristics showned that these northmen belonged to a specific group of people within the Viking society.
Unlike other graves from the Viking Age, this graveyard was unknown to the human sight, because the bodies were not placed inside a burial mound that is could be clearly visible in the terrain, or marked in any other way but rune stones or anything of that kind. These Vikings were lowered into funnel-shaped shell sand holes. This burial ground is unique in Scandinavia, and these people are the only ones to have ever been found like this - in a sitting position. So why were they placed like this?
Lets make a quick analyses of the bodies. The people in question must have been dead for at least twenty-four hours so that rigor mortis has made it possible to shape the body into a sitting position. Also, it must have been very difficult to dig out chairs in the porous shell sand, so to go into all this trouble these people were not common folk amongst their community. There is another aspect which must be taken into consideration. In 14 of the 24 graves there were found skeletons and skeletal remains; the other 10 graves were simply empty. The remains were identify has belonging to 7 women and 4 men. Analysis shows that the women in question reached an average age of 47 years. (It has only been possible to determine the age of one of the men, and he died at the age of 40.)
The women had an average height of 157.2 centimeters (5ft 2in), and the men 162.6 centimeters (5ft 4in), which is much lower than the normal height for this period. The men were as much as 10 centimeters (3.9in) lower than the average for the Viking Age (172.6 cm / 5ft 8in).
The dating of the artifacts found here, shows that these Vikings were buried fully clothed in the period between 650 and 1000 AD, (from the Merovingian period to the end of the Viking Age), and it seems like the burial custom ended when Christianity was forced with swords upon the Norse society.
Today, on the other side of the small river Hovselva (the Hof River) is the Hov (Hof) farm located in the northeast – indicating that there was a pagan temple located close to the burial ground. In all of the 24 graves there were found remnants of bonfires, so it is natural to assume that there must have been some kind of ritual that includes bonfire in connection with the funeral.
Another peculiarity is that about half of the bodies were facing north-northeast (facing the Hof itself) and half to the south-southeast. No one was facing directly east and only one body was facing directly to the west. As many as ten knifes were found in 9 different graves. They vary in length, but none of them has a blade more than 20 centimeters and consequently have not been used as Viking combat weapons. The individuals they belonged to must have used these knives for a very specific purpose. There were no other weapons found inside the graves, which is unusual for the Viking Age. However, there were also found beads, brooches, finger rings and keys, but there is no repeating pattern.
Summarizing: these people were buried in a small area close to a heathen Hof, and the dead were put down in a sitting position. There was no marking of the graves but they may have been marked with ornamental shrubs or flowers; almost all of the graves contain remnants of bonfire, and there are no traces of weapons. However, there were found many “regular” cut knives; the bodies were facing north-northeast and south-southeast. No one was facing directly towards the east.
So who were these Vikings? They might have been “hovgydjer” - pagan priests and priestesses. The knives might have been used for sacrifice, or were the tools of these priests and priestesses. If thise is the case, it is very important for the understandment of the people who practiced the magical arts. It was common in Viking Age society that the only ones to practice sorcery, witchcraft, spell-work, divination and so on, were only women. But in this community it might have been different; it's quite plausable that men also did this kind of work.
We also have to take into consideration that these specific men were very small, and possibly very fragile. So it may have been that the community found a way to give them a purpose, a trade, a way to help the community since they might have been to fragile for other harduous works. Or maybe we are in the presence of an old Shamanic custome, where men who had certain feminine qualities were revered and worked as spiritual guides. Well, this remains a mystery.