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Viking Cremations

Cremation was the most common method of burial in the Vikings World. In most cases, the dead were cremated wearing their clothes and jewellery. The burnt bones and melted jewellery were then grouped together and disposed of in specific ways. The disposal methods varied from region to region. This suggests that they were following some religious practices. Generally the burnt remains would be buried or scattered, covered with earth, and then marked by stones. The cremated individual would be buried with many items for use in the afterlife. The items interred would depend on the individual’s wealth and status within the community while they were alive. Items such as jewellery, weapons, games, boats, wagons, horses…

Cremation was very common around Viking Age cities in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. These cemeteries were sometimes very large and were located very close to the settlement. The town of Birka in Sweden has at least 3,000 known graves from the city's 200-year existence. The town of Hedeby in Northern Germany has around 7,000 graves. The Lindholm Høje site in Northern Jutland, Denmark has at least 700 known graves. Due to the importance of the town Ribe in Denmark during the Viking Age it is very likely that there was large burial ground around the town, but so far only a few isolated graves have been located.

The cremations from the early Viking Age have given archaeologists a vast amount of knowledge about the daily life and customs of the Vikings. Unfortunately, the practice of cremating of the body and some artifacts has made it difficult for archaeologists because of the damaged to the bodies and the artifacts.

Cremating ceased to be the norm towards the end of the Viking Age. The Vikings began burying their dead. The acceptance of Christianity towards the end of the 10th century is most certainly the cause of this change. Eventually the practice of burying the dead with grave goods for the afterlife also stopped.

LastUpdate: 2015-04-22 09:55:28