Grave of 12th-century warrior discovered in Finland

Archaeologist in Finland have discovered the remains of a 12th-century warrior along with two swords, one that dates back to the Viking era.

12th century grave in Finland - photo by Simo Vanhatalo, National Board of Antiquities

Metal detectors in the southern municipality of Janakkala were exploring a field when they came across a spear tip and an axe blade. After some digging, they discovered a broken sword and called in archaeologists from the National Board of Antiquities. The archaeologists continued the dig and found the well-preserved remains of a large man (180 cm or nearly 6 feet tall).


They also found two swords, one  that dates from  the Viking-era (800-1050 AD) and another that date from between 1050-1150 AD. Simo Vanhatalo, who led the archaeological dig for the  National Board of Antiquities, explains, “There were two swords, one on top of the other, the smaller of which was a Viking-era artifact. There is now speculation that it may have been in a fire. In other words, it may have been an heirloom that was in a cremation fire. So that’s a rare combination.”

The Viking sword also has letters carved in its blade, which experts hope to decipher after scanning it with an x-ray. Meanwhile, the second sword is 120cm long, making it one of the largest ever found from medieval Finland. The items along with the other artefacts discovered in the dig, indicate the man was probably a wealthy individual.


swords - photo by Simo Vanhatalo, National Board of Antiquities

While the legs and pelvic area of the man are quite brittle, his upper body, arm and skull have been well-preserved. The archaeologists hope that scientific tests will reveal more about this individual. Vanhatalo added, “We have put out enquiries to try and find out where the man was from, where he came from, and whether he lived here, using DNA and isotope dating. And of course we can use regular radiocarbon dating to determine when he died. His head is still encased in sand and we haven’t touched it. We need to have experts to see that we do this right. This skull has been extraordinarily well-preserved, as well as parts of the torso, so we have lots of research material in terms of the skeletal structure.”

Sources: National Board of Antiquities, YLE