Viking Hall discovered in Sweden

A Viking feasting hall measuring about 47.5 metres in length has been identified near Vadstena in central Sweden. Archaeologists from Stockholm University and Umeå University used ground-penetrating radar, a non-invasive geophysical method, to locate and map the house foundation.

Using ground-penetrating radar. Photo: Martin Rundkvist. /Stockholm University


The research, carried out by  Martin Rundkvist and Andreas Viberg, can be found in the article, ‘Geophysical Investigations on the Viking Period Platform Mound at Aska in Hagebyhöga Parish, Sweden’, which was published today in the journal Archaeological Prospection.


The Aska barrow, where the hall has been found, was long seen as a burial mound. But archaeologists have now revealed that it is a foundation platform for a large building, most likely dating from the Viking Period. The hall was probably the home of a royal family whose rich graves have previously been excavated nearby.

“Parallels are known from several of the era’s elite sites, such as Fornsigtuna near Stockholm and Lejre near Roskilde. The closest similarities are however seen in a recently excavated feasting hall at Old Uppsala near Stockholm. Such close correspondences suggest intensive communication between the two sites”, says Martin Rundkvist of Umeå University


The building was about 14 metres wide and was equipped with double walls and four entrances. The measurements also indicate the presence of a large hearth with a diameter of ca. 2.5 metres.

viking hall map - photo courtesy Stockholm UniversityThe authors concluded that they have discovered:

a residence of the Viking Period petty kings of Östergötland, a faction or dynasty about which coeval written sources are silent. Nor do they say anything specific about the archaeologically attested class of feasting halls on earthen platforms, although the Beowulf poet does describe King Hrodgar’s hall Heorot as a ‘high house’.

The Viking Period of Sweden, unlike that of, for example, the Danelaw or Ireland, is just barely a proto-historical period. Östergötland is one of Sweden’s best-documented provinces in the written sources, and even here they do not permit narrative history before the thirteenth century. Only the archaeological record can help to understand earlier developments. Postulating a petty royal dynasty that held sway over Östergötland and kept a palatial residence at Aska as early as the ninth century is, from a source-critical point of view, quite a daring contribution to the debate over Viking Period politics. Indirectly, we are identifying the famous jewellery burial excavated near Aska hamlet as that of a queen who stood in personal contact with the Swedish royalty of Old Uppsala and their Danish counterparts at Lejre.

The authors also not the importance of using geophysical surveys as an affordable, quick and non-destructive way to search for underground remains. Andreas Viberg adds, “Our investigation demonstrates that non-invasive geophysical measurements can be powerful tools for studying similar building foundations elsewhere. They even allow scholars to estimate the date of a building without any expensive excavations.”


The article ‘Geophysical Investigations on the Viking Period Platform Mound at Aska in Hagebyhöga Parish, Sweden’, is published in Archaeological Prospection. Click here to access the article via Wiley