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Keywords:

  • Viking;
  • long house;
  • geophysics;
  • GPR;
  • ground-penetrating radar;
  • Östergötland

ABSTRACT

Aska hamlet in Hagebyhöga parish, Östergötland (Sweden), is famous among Viking scholars for a rich female burial under a low cairn that was excavated in 1920. The main visible archaeological feature of the site is an enormous barrow, but its contents have not been excavated. As the barrow is oval and has an extensive flat top, it has been hypothesized previously that rather than a grave superstructure, this might be an uncommonly large raised foundation for a long house. We occasionally see this type of feature at elite manorial sites from the period ad 400–1100. We have tested this idea at Aska with ground-penetrating radar, securing the clear and detailed floor plan of a post-supported hall building almost 50 m long. Its closest known architectural parallel, also sitting on a similar platform, has been excavated at Old Uppsala, the late first millennium ad political and ceremonial centre of the ancient Swedes. At Aska, it appears that we have found another such real-world correlate of the Beowulf poem's royal mead-hall Heorot, but in this case located in a smaller and less powerful polity. This all suggests a petty royal status for the owners of the Aska hall, who enjoyed connections with Scandinavia's top political elite. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.