• Sweden edition
 
Dig reveals human skulls mounted on stakes

Dig reveals human skulls mounted on stakes

Published: 19 Sep 2011 11:55 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Sep 2011 11:55 GMT+02:00

Several human skulls found mounted on wooden stakes have been uncovered from a Stone Age lake bed in central Sweden in what is believed to be the first discovery of its kind anywhere in the world.

“We found two skulls that still had wooden stakes sticking out of them through a whole at the base of the skull,” archeologist Fredrik Hallgren, head of excavation with the Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen (‘Cultural Preservation Society of Mälardalen’) told The Local.

The skulls and other artifacts, including bones of wild animals, were recovered at the Kanaljorden excavation site in the town of Motala in central Sweden.

According to results from carbon-14 dating techniques, the skulls and other items are estimated to be about 8,000-years-old.

“As far as we know, this discovery is unique in the world. Nothing has been found like this that is so old,” said Hallgren.

The mounted skulls were found with the stakes inserted the full length from the base to the top of the skull.

In another case a temporal bone of one individual identified as a female was found placed inside the skull of another woman.

Altogether Hallgren and his colleagues have identified skulls or skull fragments from 11 individuals, including both men and women and ranging in age from infants to middle-age.

The bones were found in what was a shallow lake during the early Stone Age which appears to have served as a ceremonial burial site.

“Clearly this lake was some sort of holy place for the people who lived here at the time,” said Hallgren.

Archaeologists are exploring two theories to explain why the human skulls were mounted on wooden stakes before being placed in the lake bed

“One thought is that it was part of some sort of secondary burial ritual where the skulls were removed from dead bodies that had initially been placed elsewhere,” said Hallgren.

“After the soft tissue had rotted away, the skulls were removed and placed on the stakes before being placed in the shallow lake.”

Another theory is that the mounted skulls are trophies brought back from battles with other settlers in the area.

“It may have been a way to prove one's success on the battlefield,” Hallgren explained.

Further analysis is currently underway to determine if the bones are remains of locals or people with a distant geographic origin. Using DNA and other laboratory techniques, archaeologists will also try to find out if the remains found at the site belong to a single family group or persons unrelated to one another.

Hallgren said that, as far as he knew, the discovery of human skulls mounted on stakes from this period of history was unprecedented.

“There are other examples of human heads being mounted on stakes, but most of the finds are from the colonial period,” he said.

The Kanaljorden settlement excavation site has been ongoing since 2009 and is located about 500 metres from Motala’s central train station. The site dates from a part of the Stone Age known as the Mesolithic period, at which time the area around Motala was deemed an almost perfect place to live.

There was no agriculture in the area, however, with settlers instead surviving by fishing, hunting, and gathering.

Another dig site nearby in Motala gained worldwide attention in 2010 when archaeologists uncovered what was believed to be a Stone Age dildo.

The object, which measured 10-11 centimetres (4 inches) long and 2 centimetres in diameter, had been fashioned from a stag’s antler.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

12:19 September 19, 2011 by Svensksmith
Bet they weren't repeat offenders.
12:33 September 19, 2011 by Zambezi Dan
Nope... they were Stone-Age Stakeholders.
12:34 September 19, 2011 by RobinHood
BREAKING NEWS BREAKING NEWS BREAKING NEWS

Swedish police say serial killer Thomas Quick has confessed to the "Motala skulls" murders and will be charged later today.
12:48 September 19, 2011 by jamesblish
Wow, what a weird find. My first thought was execution and/or war trophy.

Btw, according to the more literal christians, the people whose heads are on stakes lived only 2.000 years after the world was created. Amazing. I bet the other animal bones they dug up were dinosaur bones.
13:36 September 19, 2011 by Nemesis
This is a brilliant find.

I look forward to reading the first scientific publications in the scientific journals on this discovery.

I wonder what there dildo collections were like. Glad to see that people back then were relaxed about sex and not puritan lunatics such as we have running about today.

@ jamesblish

Actually it is 2000 years before creationists believe the world was created.
14:34 September 19, 2011 by jamesblish
OMG, my bad. Even better. These people could tell us what the world was like before it existed.
15:15 September 19, 2011 by Rick Methven
"a Stone Age lake bed in central Sweden"

Motala, is 600km south of Ostersund, the geographic centre of Sweden, either the central bit of Sweden got a lot bigger, or they mean SOUTHERN Sweden
15:35 September 19, 2011 by maxbrando
My goodness, real heathens - and with dildos, no less. Just like the ones Sweden has today. Remember, the girls need them.
15:45 September 19, 2011 by Svensksmith
Not the girls I know.
16:06 September 19, 2011 by jostein
A different land

http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landh%C3%B6jning
16:19 September 19, 2011 by Tanskalainen
Stake tonight dear?
17:51 September 19, 2011 by Svensksmith
No thanks, it always gives me a headache.
18:28 September 19, 2011 by Åskar
@Rick Methven

It's kind of central on a North-South axis, though.
20:27 September 19, 2011 by StockholmSam
Nemesis, I agree this is interesting, but I would hesitate to project any broad generalizations about that society's views on sexuality, especially compared to ours, based on the discovery of what 'might' be a dildo. We have no idea about its history. There are dildos in millions of America's bedside tables but that does not mean the person, the community, or the national society in general is relaxed about sex.
21:35 September 19, 2011 by Tanskalainen
Were these skulls coated with taffy?
23:09 September 19, 2011 by Tysknaden
They will never find out, what this place was meant for. All that can be said: It was somehow important, and it was most likely connected to death.
23:20 September 20, 2011 by MarkinBoston
Dildos? I though sex wasn't invented until the 1960s.
02:10 September 21, 2011 by zeulf
and i quote " through a whole at the base of the skull " I wonder if that" wood" hurt ?
18:21 September 21, 2011 by jjoensuu
IMHO those skulls were probably not some "secondary burial" because who-ever was capable of placing them on stakes had an intention to communicate something to others. And that something in my opinion was fear.

Either as in "fear me, I am a great warrior" or "fear me, this may happen to you as well". Something like that.
02:04 September 22, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
@jjoensuu - exactly

Or possibly here is what's left of Sven and Olaf who refused to pay their taxes :-)
17:22 September 22, 2011 by SockRayBlue
What? Human barbarism shocks you? Take a closer look at the subtleties of government and how it had developed through the millennia.
14:41 September 23, 2011 by tadchem
I would expect 'trophies' to be placed somewhere highly visible, so they could be easily seen by residents and casual visitors. That might be on the approaches to the village, not in the cemetery. These were more likely the equivalent of headstones (pun intended) for a pre-literate culture.

I would like to see the results of DNA matching to determine the racial affinities. Were they akin to Trojans?
16:52 September 23, 2011 by MichaelZWilliamson
My guess is that if we could pole them, first they had the chop, then they had the stake.
Today's headlines
Police seeking missing Swede in London
Sofie Marie Jansson, who is currently missing in London. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Police seeking missing Swede in London

British police have issued a plea for tips in the search to find Swedish national Sofie Marie Jansson who hasn't been seen for almost a week. READ () »

University applications rocket to record high

University applications rocket to record high

Swedish universities continue to draw vast amounts of applicants with the number of prospective students seeking a third level education increasing for the seventh year in a row. READ () »

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot
Swedish artist Lars Vilks pictured in New York in 2012. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf/TT

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot

American authorities have sentenced a 20-year-old accomplice of 'Jihad Jane' to five years in prison for an attempted terror plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, after getting involved with the murder plans when he was a teenager. READ () »

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag visits a school in Tensta, one of the neighbourhoods mentioned when he and his colleagues first floated the new start zone proposal. File: TT

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input

Sweden has abandoned a plan to ease taxes for small companies in blighted areas after the European Commission challenged its legality. READ () »

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'
A typical Swedish Easter egg. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'

A Swedish microbiologist has warned that traditional Swedish Easter eggs laden with candy are an open invitation to the spread of bacteria and viruses. "Is this really a good idea?" he asked. READ () »

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour

PICTURES: A truck got wedged inside a tunnel in central Stockholm on Thursday, with authorities concerned the accident may have damaged cables in the tunnel's ceiling. READ () »

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
A Swedish Easter witch holding daffodils. File photo: TT

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter

In India, I'd notice Easter only from the traffic jam outside the churches, but here witches, egg hunts, and feathers mark the Christian holiday. The Local's Deepti Vashisht brings you the various shades of Swedish Easter. READ () »

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Chemtrails?: Shutterstock.

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe

A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. READ () »

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid
Fredrik Reinfeldt answers the constitutional affairs committee's questions. Photo: TT

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid

Sweden's prime minister on Thursday said Vattenfall itself, not its owners the Swedish state, had responsibility for the loss-making Nuon deal. READ () »

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer
Photo: TT

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer

A Swedish lawyer says the Swedish military may have broken the law when it raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Advertisement:
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

771
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com