Vikings May Have Cremated and Buried Their Houses

FOR many of us, a house is just a place of abode. Other people treat their homes as a lasting legacy to be passed to future generations. 

To the ancient Vikings of Scandinavia, however, their houses are more than simply places to live in – they believe that their houses have souls and should be treated with the same reverence as humans.

Or so it appears from an article recently published in the European Journal of Archaeology which postulated that the ancient Vikings apparently conducted “house cremations,” possibly in the belief that the practice would liberate the essence of the house.

While archaeologists know that Viking burial mounds for humans were often placed on top of three-aisle longhouses that housed families and livestock in various cultures around the world, Marianne Hem Eriksen — a Postdoctoral Fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research/University of Oslo – describes a puzzling aspect of some these mounds.

Studying seven different sites in Sweden, Eriksen noted that their team was unable to find human remains, even in places where they expected such remains to have been preserved. 

“Nevertheless, archaeologists have more or less implicitly assumed that somewhere or other, there must be a deceased individual,” she noted.

In short, she believes, it’s the houses that were buried, not humans.

 

Links to Ancestors

Eriksen also believes that because the houses were passed from generation to generation, Viking houses may have been seen as a link to their ancestors. This could have been a spiritual link, but it could also have been a political one, especially if their ancestors were powerful.

Another hint that the houses may have been purposely buried lies in how the mounds were built over them. In some cases, the mounds were placed above the door of the house, perhaps as a way to symbolize its final closure.

Eriksenhas also noted that many Norse words relating to houses have their origins in words relating to the human body.

The word “window” comes from wind and eye and refers to openings in the walls where the wind comes in. The word “gable”, i.e. the top of the end wall of the house, means head or skull.

The final ‘nail’ in the house burial theory is the fact that the longhouses were burned or cremated – the well-known form of Viking burial. 

Eriksen suggests that, just as with human funerals, the cremation may have been done to “to liberate the life force of the house.” 

In fact, it may have been a way to keep the houses connected with their centuries of residents. (Mysterious Universe)

 

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