Mysterious Bronze and Iron Age Children’s Graves Found in Norway

Archaeologists are puzzled by the discovery of dozens of Bronze and Iron Age children’s graves in southern Norway. The burials, each marked by circles of meticulously placed stones, were found by a team from Norway’s Museum of Cultural History last year near Fredrikstad, approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Oslo, near the Swedish border.

“They’ve lain here as a secret until we found them,” said museum archaeologist Guro Fossum. “We uncovered one after another and ended up with 41 round stone formations.” The circles of stones, measuring up to 6 feet (2 meters) across, were placed together like street cobblestones but were buried a few inches below the surface. Several circles were placed around a large, central stone, and further investigations revealed burned bones and pottery shards beneath those stones.

Now, a new analysis reveals that almost all of the burials contained children who died between 800 and 200 B.C. Many of the children were infants, and others ranged from 3 to 6 years old. “The dating shows that the burial site was used over a long period, so they couldn’t all have died in the same natural disaster or outbreak of disease or epidemic,” Fossum explained.

Such a concentration of ancient children’s graves is unprecedented in Europe, according to the museum. The area surrounding the burial ground is dotted with rock carvings depicting voyages and sun worship. Experts acknowledge that infant mortality rates were likely high during that time, but they have no explanation for the children’s graves.

After securing vital samples from the site and photographing it extensively, archaeologists covered their excavations. However, one of the stone formations will soon be featured in an exhibition titled “In Memory of the Children” at the Cultural History museum in Oslo. Archaeologists also plan to analyze artifacts from the site, including pieces of pottery and a potential metal brooch.

“Analyses of the pottery fragments can tell us a lot,” Fossum said. “It doesn’t appear that all the vessels were containers for burnt bones; some were placed between the graves, and we are very curious about what was inside them.”

Archaeologists stumbled upon the burial ground while investigating a Stone Age settlement nearby. During the Nordic Bronze and Iron ages, it was common practice to cremate the dead on pyres and either bury or scatter any remaining bones, according to Fossum. A flat layer of stones in a spiral or wheel pattern was then often built over the cremation site.

However, the burial site at Fredrikstad stands out. “The graves are very close together,” Fossum remarked. “They must have been in an open landscape, with thoroughfares nearby, so everyone would have known about them. Cooking pits and fireplaces around the site suggest that gatherings and ceremonies were held in connection with burials.”

Moreover, the graves were meticulously crafted. “Each stone was sourced from a different location and placed precisely in the formation,” Fossum said. “We wondered who put in so much effort.” The answer came with the realization that most of the dead were children. “They were small children’s graves,” she said. “This was done with so much care.”

The discovery raises numerous questions about the burial practices and the societal significance of the site. Archaeologists are eager to delve deeper into the analysis of the artifacts and the site itself to unravel the mysteries surrounding these ancient children’s graves.

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