Monday, October 6, 2008

Mysterious Burial of 11th Century Woman

Swedish archaeologists uncover Viking-era church Published: 3 Oct 08 17:18 CET Online: The remains of a Viking-era stave church, including the skeletal remains of a woman, have been uncovered near the cemetery of the Lännäs church in Odensbacken outside Örebro in central Sweden. “It’ a unique find,” said Bo Annuswer of the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) to the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper. “The churches that have found earlier have been really damaged. Now archaeologists uncovered four posts which mark the church, and the burial site. Such an undisturbed site is unique.” Stave churches, common in medieval northern Europe, are constructed with timber framing and walls filled with vertical planks. The site was excavated late in the summer following an examination of the area in preparation for the building of a new parish home. The discovery has raised a number of questions among archaeologists who wonder about the social status of the person whose remains were discovered in the church, which archaeologist estimate is from the 11th century. “Not just anyone was buried in the middle of a church; it hints that the person was someone very special. In modern times it was fairly common for priests to end up in a church. But commoners were kept outside the church,” said Annuswer. Annuswer added that the discovery will serve as important source of information about churches and graves from the era. “This is an undisturbed environment which shows how people buried bodies and what sort of objects people had with them in their graves,” he said. David Landes ( 8 656 6518) **************************************** What will the body itself reveal? Perhaps she was buried there for centuries before the church was built, and the builders didn't know she was there. Or perhaps she was a particularly important chieftan or even a "priestess". The Viking peoples who adopted Christianity evidently had a "loose" concept of what constituted appropriate worship, and with respect to this particular church and its congregants, perhaps it extended to the concept of a female priest. I hope further information is published on this story as it is developed!

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