‘First of its kind’: Viking shipyard found on Swedish island

A Viking Age shipyard has been found at Birka on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren, west of Stockholm, archaeologists from Stockholm University have announced.

'First of its kind': Viking shipyard found on Swedish island
Archeologists from Stockholm University at work on the site of the Viking boatyard. Photo. Paul Parker/Stockholm University.

“A site like this has never been found before,” Sven Isaksson, Professor of Archaeological Science at Stockholm University, said in a press release. “It’s the first of its kind, but the finds convincingly show that it was a shipyard.”

Birka, also referred to as Vikingastaden (The Viking City) in Swedish, is often considered to be Sweden’s first city, one of the most important trading centres in the Viking period. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an example of the city-like trading posts that sprang up in the Nordic countries during the Viking Age.

“It’s not just about the first urban environments, but shows an intensive exchange of trade goods and ideas between people”, added Sven Kalmring, associate professor and expert on ports and urbanisation in the Viking Age at the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, who led the investigations together with Isaksson.  The group’s findings have been published by Stockholm University as a research report. 

Remains of ships have been discovered in previous excavations in the area, but the latest finds have confirmed the existence of a Viking shipyard at Birka for the first time.

“Through systematic inventory, mapping and drone surveys, we can now show that Birka, in addition to the urban environment, also has a very rich maritime cultural landscape with remains of everything from jetties to boat launches and shipyards,” Isaksson said.

Archaeologists discovered a stone-lined depression in the Viking Age area of the shoreline, with a wooden boat slip at the bottom. In addition to this, they discovered a large amount of boat rivets, slate whetstones and tools for woodworking.

“The finds of artefacts from the area shows with great clarity that this is where people have served their ships”, Isaksson said.

The town ramparts around Birka functioned not only as a defence, but also as a legal, economic and social boundary. Previous investigations of harbour facilities in Birka have mostly been carried out inside the town rampart, in the area known as the Black Earth harbour area, and below the so-called Garrison. The newly discovered shipyard at Kugghamn is located, along with a number of other maritime remains, outside Birka’s town rampart, along the northern shore of Björkö.

“By investigating various maritime elements in connection with a possible house site in Kugghamn, we are now trying to get an overall view of a very exciting and previously archaeologically completely unexplored environment,” Kalmring said.

Archaeologists are still investigating other sites in Birka, including the remains of a boat landing site outside the town ramparts. They are also trying to answer the question of whether there were rules on who was allowed to dock in different areas of the city.

“Could anyone land anywhere, or did it matter if it was inside or outside the town rampart?” Isaksson said.

“There is much to ponder here. But for us, the investigation doesn’t end with the fieldwork, we continue in the lab. By using analytical laboratory techniques, we get more information out of the fragmentary source material than is otherwise possible.”

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VIDEO: Three times Sweden poked fun at Eurovision

With Sweden one of the favourites to win Eurovision this year, let's take a look at the times when the country showed up the sheer ridiculousness of the song contest.

VIDEO: Three times Sweden poked fun at Eurovision

Eurovision is often known for eyebrow-raising entries featuring bizarre local traditions or, frankly, eccentric outfits. Although Sweden takes the contest seriously when it comes to its song entries, that doesn’t mean Swedes don’t sometimes celebrate the weirdness of Eurovision.

Love Love Peace Peace

Who could forget Måns Zelmerlöv and Petra Mede’s run as Eurovision presenters in Stockholm in 2016? Zelmerlöw, who won the contest the year before in Vienna, was joined by comedian Mede, who had presented the contest in Malmö three years earlier.

The two performed a sketch titled, “Love Love Peace Peace”, an attempt to make the perfect winning Eurovision song. The clip features former winners Lordi who won for Finland in 2006, and Alexander Rybak, the Norwegian violinist who won for Norway in 2009.

Watch the clip below and see how many references to previous Eurovision entries you can recognise.



In this bizarre clip from Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest qualifiers Melodifestivalen in 2009, Swedish comedy group Grotesco perform a mid-show sketch full of Russian stereotypes, including Cossack dancers, matryoshka stacking dolls, and a chorus of men dressed like Russian soldiers. The choreography also featured several scantily clad women wearing tight-fitting shorts with a single red star splaying their legs toward the camera in unison.

The clip caused controversy in Russia, after The Local reached out to Russia’s embassy in Stockholm for a comment – a spokesperson called the song “offensive” and “disconnected”, and condemned the sketch in an official statement:

“We do not react to eccentricity by some lunatics whose Russophobia should place them in an asylum rather than on Globen’s stage.”

See the clip for yourself here:


Lill Lindfors and her wardrobe malfunction

Lill Lindfors, a Finnish-Swedish singer and comedian, presented the 1985 Eurovision Song Contest in Gothenburg following Sweden’s win the previous year in Luxembourg.

Prior to hosting Eurovision in 1985, she had placed second in the 1966 contest with the song “Nygammal vals”.

In a clip which reportedly displeased the European Broadcasting Union who manage the contest, the bottom half of Lindfors’ dress was ripped off by a piece of set, exposing her underwear.

Lindfors paused, feigning shock, before quickly pulling a new dress down from the remaining top half of her outfit.

You can watch the iconic moment here (narrated by Terry Wogan, the BBC’s Eurovision commentator for many years) and decide for yourself whether it was meant to happen or not: