A team of Swedish archaeologists may have uncovered remnants from a 5th century brutal massacre that some are calling the “Swedish Pompeii.”
Archaeologists have found five bodies among the ruins of a 62-square-foot settlement house on the island of Öland, just off the Swedish coast. While only a few houses have been excavated so far, the team believes it is the site of a mysterious massacre of hundreds of people.
“There are so many bodies, it must have been a very violent and well- organized raid,” says Helene Wilhelmson, a Ph.D. student in historical osteology at Lund University said in a statement.
The massacre took place during the Migration Period, a time when tribes moved out of Scandinavia and into other parts of northern Europe. How the site remained untouched for 1,600 years is yet another mystery that baffles archaeologists.
“Two of them are lying by the door as if they were running for the door and people were coming in,” Wilhelmson said, describing two of the bodies found. “I think they were just ambushed in some way and people were running into the house trying to kill them and they almost didn’t have a chance.”
One of the bodies belonged to a man who was lying on his back “that had some shock force trauma to his head and his shoulder,” Wilhelmson said. Adding, “He had obviously been killed.”
“It’s a day in life of the Migration Period, and that’s completely unique. We have nothing to compare it to,” project manager Dr. Helena Victor at Kalmar County Museum said.
While it was common practice for Scandinavians to cremate their dead, few remains have ever been recovered. "It's more of a frozen moment than you normally see in archaeology," Wilhelmson told NBC News. "It's like Pompeii: Something terrible happened, and everything just stopped."
To find some answers, archeologists used 3D modeling images to reconstruct how the massacre unfolded. “Using 3D modeling gives us the unprecedented opportunity to see all the bodies simultaneously, even though the skeletons were removed one by one,” Nicoló Dell’Unto, a Lund University archaeologist, said.
“It’s such a terrible massacre that completely destroyed the fort and everything in it. I don’t think anyone dared to go near it for a very long time,” Wilhelmson said, speculating on the reasons why the remains have remained intact for so long.