Iron Age elites were buried on beds down in magnificent boat tombs

In rich boat graves, nobles and chiefs were buried, in boats about 10 meters long with valuable funerary goods, including ornate helmets, weapons and armor.

But they were also careful to let the dead rest comfortably on their final flight – on feather beds and down.

The lower beds in the boat grave field outside Uppsala are unique and are the oldest known in Scandinavia, says archaeologist Birgitta Berglund of the Norwegian University of Technology and Science.

Berghof and the teachers

When researchers analyzed the content, they found, among other things, feathers of geese, chickens, ducks and birds that were found in the surrounding nature and on farms in the Iron Age regions. Most surprising was the discovery of mountain wolf feathers, the researchers behind the study wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Sciences.

Also in one of the graves there is a rock owl with a severed head lying next to the corpse.

There was a symbolic connotation in the choice of feathers. In ancient Scandinavian folklore, the feathers of birds of prey and owls were seen to prolong a death struggle, while the goose helped a wounded or sick soul free itself from the body, says Birgitta Berglund.

Archaeologists believe that the concepts of various bird droppings date back to the Iron Age and Vindel’s warrior heads.

Watch the clip to hear an archaeologist about the symbolic meaning of feathers.

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