Macabre skeletal finds sheds new light on the Sandby borg massacre

Clara Alfsdotter inspects Sandby Borg skeleton. Photo by Daniel Lindskog (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Clara Alfsdotter inspects Sandby Borg skeleton. Photo by Daniel Lindskog (CC-BY-NC-ND)

During the excavation of Sandby borg ringfort on the island of Öland, Sweden, a number of macabre finds were made. Skeletal remains from a small child were found in one of the houses in the central block of the ringfort. This is the first child to be identified among the victims of the massacre at Sandby borg.

It is both frightening and sensational in the sense that prior to this find the results showed that there had only been adults in the ringfort when this horrific event took place, says Helena Victor, project manager at the Dept. of Museum Archaeology at Kalmar County Museum, Sweden. It sheds a whole new light on the massacre, she continues.

Died in a massacre

The excavation was carried out in September by the Department of Museum Archaeology at Kalmar County Museum, in cooperation with students from Linnaeus University. Osteological analyses have now been made of the bones that were uncovered and experts confirm that they belong to two individuals, one of which is a child of an estimated age of 2 to 5 years. In the same house the skeleton of a 50 to 60 year old man was found lying on its stomach in the central of the building.

What we can see by looking at the position in which the skeleton was found is that he was probably struck down and fell prone into the burning fireplace, says Clara Alfsdotter, osteologist at the museum of Bohuslän who conducted the analysis.

The Sandby borg research was started in 2010. Despite the fact that less than 3% of the ringfort have been excavated, the remains of over ten individuals have been uncovered and all of them show indications of having died in a massacre that took place around 1500 years ago.

The researchers are now asking for the public to help with donations so that the work can continue.

We need funding to be able to continue, Helena Victor explains. So we’re launching a crowdfunding campaign, where one of the rewards for funding will be to join us in the trench at the next Sandby borg excavation. It is the first time in Sweden that an archaeological crowdfunding campaign has been started.


The Sandby borg crowdfunding campaign will run between November 27 and December 31, 2014. You can find out more about this exceptional site on the KickStarter page https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sandbyborg/unveiling-the-sandby-borg-massacre