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Viking Inhumations

With the introduction and acceptance of Christianity around the late 10th century inhumation (burial with grave goods), superseded cremation as the method of burial everywhere in the Vikings World. However, inhumation was already accepted by some of the Scandinavian people very early in the Viking Age. In southern Jutland inhumation was fairly common place prior to the introduction of Christianity. Could this be the result of the influence of the Christian countries to the south? We will likely never know the answer.

Inhumation did take place throughout other areas of the Viking World. However, archaeological evidence suggests that this practice first foremost reserved for the upper strata of society, or for foreigners. Foreigners appear to have been buried according to the customs and traditions of their homeland. The Viking towns of Hedeby in Northern Germany and Birka in Sweden show great evidence of this. Both these towns have multiple grave sites which are clearly for foreigners from the east (modern day Russian). These people were most likely merchants who were unfortunate enough to die while away from their homeland. The graves are generally grouped together in their own cemetery near these two Viking towns.

That acceptance of Christianity brought about some very dramatic changes to the burial customs of the Vikings. One change was that the Vikings moved away from cremating the dead. This has left us with some of the most impressive finds from the Viking Age, because the grave goods have not been damaged by fire. The bodies were placed in caskets or perhaps wrapped in a birch-bark shroud. Since the bodies and their equipment were not cremated, the metal objects buried within them are often in an excellent state of preservation. The majority of the major none cremated Viking Age grave finds come from the 10th century, and they are in Jutland in Denmark.

Unfortunately as Christianity progressed the practice of giving rich grave gifts eventually completely died out in Denmark, and it was becoming less common elsewhere in the Viking World. Eventually the practice died out completely, so that the graves could no longer be used as a source of knowledge about everyday life and death.

LastUpdate: 2016-07-10 22:49:44