A skeleton at the Sandby Borg site. Photo: Kalmar county museum

Archaeologists uncover Öland massacre

2:11 min

Archaeologists have made a gruesome discovery on the island of Öland: a settlement dating back to around the year 400, where all its several hundred inhabitants were apparently executed in a surprise attack.

Archaeologist Helena Viktor, speaking to Swedish Radio's Maria Skagerlind, explains how someone - still unknown - appears to have attacked the settlement and killed everyone there.

"We have found bodies, or body parts in several different places at the site," says Viktor.

Body parts began to emerge at the site at Sandby Borg, following the discovery of ornate jewelry there.

So far, parts of more than 12 separate skeletons have been retrieved from just one per cent of the site; a settlement that Viktor believes could have been home to several hundred people in more than 50 buildings.

Among the grizzly discoveries has been a child's finger bone, and the skeleton of a young male, perhaps between 17-19 years old, with two large gashes in his head and back, probably made by a sword or an axe.

She describes the find as unique.

"It's a moment frozen in time," she says.

"Normally, as archaeologists, we tend to find sites where human remains have been buried. In this case, the skeletons lie as they fell."

She goes on to explain that the victims were left in their homes and no one has returned before her and her team.

Viktor says that it's possible survivors believed that the settlement had become haunted after the attack and so refused to return to bury their dead.

As yet, Viktor's team has found few clues that suggest who might have been behind the attack. She is hopeful however, that skeletons of the attackers, their weapons or remains of their clothing could unlock the mystery as to who carried out this massacre.

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