Speculative argument over the astronomical, geometrical, geographical and mythological significance of the 67-metre long stone ship has a long history.
Now, in direct contrast to previous studies, a group currently digging at the site in Kåseberga on Sweden’s southern coast, has reported finding no evidence linking the 59 large sandstone boulders to the Iron Age and Viking era, putting previous theories about the site into question.
“No wonder,” Swedish archaeologist Martin Rundkvist told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).
“They aren’t even digging in the right place.”
Ales stenar, sometimes referred to as “Sweden’s Stonehenge” is located about 10 kilometres southeast of Ystad in Skåne overlooking the sea.
The 1.8-tonne boulders are set in the shape of a large ship and, according to Scanian folklore, a legendary king named King Ale lies buried there.
Most stone ship settings are believed to be burial monuments, and many found in Scandinavia do indeed contain one or more graves.
Yet no grave has ever been positively identified at Ales stenar, a limited geographical area given its position atop a cliff.
Archaeoastronomer Bob Lind, together with Polish archaeology professor Wladislaw Duczko, believe that their ongoing excavations reveal that Ales stenar most likely originated in the Bronze Age.
“We have not found anything from the time that the established research claims, in which the ancient monument is from 600AD,” Lind told SvD.
But according to Rundkvist, the eroded area where the team is digging has moved around a lot over the centuries.
“So what they come up with has no relevance to the discussion of Ales stenar,” Rundkvist added.
“In fact, there is no discussion of Ales Stenar in the scientific community. The discussion is just between Bob Lind and the rest of the world.”
The carbon-14 dating system for organic remains has provided seven results at the site.
One indicates that the material is around 5,500 years old, whereas the remaining six results indicate a date of about 1,400 years ago.
The latter is currently considered to be the most likely time for the creation of Ales stenar, which would date its creation toward the end of the Nordic Iron Age.
Going against the grain yet again, Lind’s team also believes the stones to be a type of calendar rather than the commonly accepted theory that it serves as a burial site.
”It is an astronomical calendar. Stone hollows are perfectly aligned after sunrise and sunset. It is statistically impossible that this was a coincidence,” Associate Professor of Geology Nils-Axel Morner told SvD.
One other alternative theory is that it may have been constructed to honour the crew of a ship who perished at sea.