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Two 7th century warriors at an ancient burial ground in Sweden were laid to rest with comfy bedding stuffed with feathers from a variety of birds, research shows.
New microscopic analysis of the bedding shows traces of feathers from local geese, ducks, grouse, crows, sparrows, waders and even eagle owls. Logger – Viking Just the Tip I Promise 3D Hoodie
The warriors were also buried in their boats with richly adorned helmets, shields and weapons and even gaming pieces, which, along with the several layers of bedding, would have eased the journey ‘to the realm of the dead’, according to researchers.
Bizarrely, in one grave, an Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) had been laid with its head cut off – and the experts aren’t entirely sure why.
The graves are two of 15 that were uncovered and excavated by archaeologists in the 1920s in Valsgärde outside Uppsala in central Sweden.
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Excavated feathers from one of the boat graves. They are very well preserved, but brittle, densely packed and entangled
Valsgärde is described by the team as Scandinavia’s answer to Sutton Hoo – the famous English burial site near Woodbridge in Suffolk, which is the subject of Netflix’s film The Dig, starring Lily James, Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes.
Weirdly, horses and other animals were arranged close to the boats when they were buried – about 1,400 years ago.
‘The buried warriors appear to have been equipped to row to the underworld, but also to be able to get ashore with the help of the horses,’ said Professor Birgitta Berglund at NTNU University Museum in Trondheim, Norway.
‘We also think the choice of feathers in the bedding may hold a deeper, symbolic meaning.’
According to Nordic folklore, the type of feathers contained in the bedding of the dying person was important.
The weapons in the graves were richly decorated. This sword was found in one of the boat graves looked at for this study, Valsgärde 7