Swedish Archaeologists Uncover Brutal 5th-Century Massacre

The skeleton of an adolescent killed during an apparent raid on the Sandby Borg ringfort at the end of the 5th century. Alfsdotter et al./Antiquity, 2018

Aliyah Kovner 26 Apr 2018, 12:26

The indiscriminate nature of the siege is further demonstrated by scattered bones from a 2 to 5-year-old child, a 1.5 to 3-month-old infant, and the remains of sheep, dogs, and a horse. It is possible that these victims died not from violence, but rather starvation or neglect soon afterward. Either way, the archaeological record confirms that no one came back for them.

Without written accounts of the event, it’s impossible to know the motivation behind this swift act of brutality. Yet due to the staggering number of valuable goods left behind, the authors conclude that the massacre was not simply "an act of outright plunder”, and is more likely to have been the result of political tensions.

The fact that these commodities were not recovered by other locals after the armed force left, along with the fact that the well-built locale was not resettled, indicates to the team that this event made a lasting impact in the cultural memory of the area.

“I do find it most likely that the event was remembered and that it triggered strong taboos connected to the site, possibly brought on through oral history for centuries,” author Ludwig Papmehl-Dufay told The Guardian.

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