Archaeologists Excavate The Site Of A Brutal Massacre That Occurred 1,500 Years Ago In Sweden

Violeta AyastaAP Images

Around 450 AD a group of bloodthirsty raiders invaded the village of Sandby borg on Öland Island in Sweden and brutally massacred its inhabitants, leaving the grisly remains behind for archaeologists to later discover.

A team of archaeologists that includes Helena Victor, Clara Alfsdotter and Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay recently discovered the site of this raid and with only just seven percent of the site explored have still managed to find an astonishing 26 bodies left behind after the devastation, as ScienceAlert report.

As it is known that cremation was the norm in this area of Sweden, it was readily apparently to archaeologists that this many bodies found lying around could only have been murder, as Helena Victor explained.

“You don’t find people lying around in houses. People don’t do it today, and didn’t do it then.”

While the Sandby borg village was filled with numerous artifacts such as silver pendants, rings, gold coins, brooches, and many other items, the raiders curiously did not take any of these prized possessions with them, leaving archaeologists with the belief that the raiders may not necessarily have invaded the Swedish island merely for the loot.

It is possible, however, that the band of unknown raiders might have managed to carry off some of the village’s weapons, which may have been used in rituals dedicated to their gods.

In their new study of this event, archaeologists are clear about the fact that this raid would have taken the Swedish villagers by surprise, with most unable to defend themselves against certain death.

“Damage resembling common battle injuries, such as parry fractures or facial trauma, both typically produced when facing an opponent, has so far not been identified. This pattern leads us to conclude that the perpetrators comprised a large number of people, striking simultaneously in several houses, and that several of the victims were not in a position to defend themselves.”

With excavations having been completed in just three of the homes in Sandby borg, the bodies of an infant, a five-year-old child, and a young teenager were discovered. Archaeologists also noticed that there were two badly burned bodies in these homes.

This would indicate that either the raiders had intentionally set fire to part of the village, or that the inhabitants may have accidentally set the fire themselves while frantically trying to escape.


Even though there are many other villages situated near Sandby borg, no one has ever set foot in the area and the village and bodies still remain as they were on the day when the massacre occurred 1,500 years ago.

While the reasons for this are unclear, it is certainly possible that nearby residents may have been warned over time not to trespass on the site, and that visiting it would have been a serious taboo, according to Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay.

“I do find it most likely that the event was remembered and that it triggered strong taboos connected to the site, possibly brought on through oral history for centuries.”

The new research on the 450 AD massacre in Sandby borg in Sweden can be found in the Cambridge journal Antiquity.