Few burial monuments in Scandinavia have
been as well studied as Bredarör on Kivik, a Bronze Age cairn,
located half a mile north of Simrishamn on the southeastern
coast of Skåne. Dated to roughly 1600 BC, and perhaps earlier,
the site measures 75 meters in diameter. It is the largest mound
of its type in Sweden. Systematically
plundered for building materials in centuries past, a central
stone chamber was uncovered in 1748, containing a central
stone-cist, measuring 3.8 meters long by 1 meter wide, formed of
upright stone slabs, the size of a human grave. The original
contents of the cist are unknown, having been removed sometime
prior to the cairn's first documention, thereby destroying
evidence which would have allowed more accurate dating.
Historically, excavation of the site has been poorly recorded.
In the summer of 1748, two farmers quarrying in the old mound
uncovered a stone tomb. They are rumored to have searched the
tomb all night in hope of finding treasure. Although, no one
knows what the two men may have found, local legend reports that
they discovered something big. Whether the tomb had been robbed
of valuables is uncertain. Previous researchers at the site
assumed that the grave was that of a middle-aged man, probably a
chieftain. Therefore the mound came to be known as
Kungagraven – The King’s Grave. In the 1930s,
archaeological work at the site revealed a second tomb; near the
larger stone coffin, raised slabs formed another burial chamber
now called Prinskammaren – The Prince’s Chamber, due to
its smaller size. However, more recent analysis of human remains
found within the chamber indicates that several teenagers were
interned within. Excavated by both grave robbers and
archaeologists, the tomb had been nearly demolished. When their
work was complete, the archaeologists of the 1930s reconstructed the mound
and opened a passage to allow visitors to tour the once hidden
burial chamber. You can view a short film of the
18th Century Drawing of the Kivik site by F. G. Feldt
Botanist Karl Linné first described the grave in 1749 in his
Skanskå Resa, p. 127. The grave-cist consists of 10 stone
slabs, set closely together, each over 1 meter (nearly four
feet) high by about 1 meter wide and 20-25 centimeters thick.
Four slabs form each side with one on each end. The grave points
north and south, and was once covered with three large
In 1750, the capstones covering the cist were removed for the
first time, revealing
images engraved on the interior face of 7 of the 8 stone
slabs forming its side walls. Neither cut nor polished, the
inner surfaces containing the pictures are relatively smooth.
Among the images are groups of human figures, including
musicians; a horse drawn cart and driver, as well as early Bronze
Age style weapons. The newly-discovered figures attracted considerable attention
and several drawings of them were made in the later half of the
18th century, including those by F. G. Feldt, Nils Wessman, and C.
G. G. Hifleling. Two of these stones were
considered lost for more than 70 years in the early 19th century, but had
been recovered by the early 20th century.
While no definitive
interpretation of these images can ever be made, their close
affiliation to other Bronze Age Rock Carvings (Swedish:
hällristninger; Norwegian: helleristningar) in the region has
been well-documented and thus the Kivik Grave petroglyphs should
be viewed in the context of the large number of rock-art sites
found throughout Scandinavia dating from the late Bronze Age
(1800-500 BC). For a sampling of a wide variety of
On The Rocks.
The area surrounding the tomb is home to many Bronze Age
Ängakåsen Grave Field, featuring a "stone boat" lies about
300 meters away. From the grave field, a pre-historic road once
led to the sea.
Other significant sites in the immediate region include:
Skelhøj on Jutland, Sagaholm in Northern Småland, and
Mjeltehaugem from Giske in Sunnmøre.
1. Bredarör på Kivik; 2.
Skelhøj on Jutland; 3. Sagaholm, Northern Småland.
Depicted on the stone slabs facing the
interior of the grave are groups of human figures, often
interpreted as participants in scenes from a ritual drama.
As the images face inward toward the grave, the individual buried in the
cairn is thus the presumed focus of the elaborate ceremony
illustrated on the slabs. The scenes are thought to
represent Bronze Age mortuary rituals, religious symbols and grave goods.
The four figures on the top right clearly represent musicians.
Three appear to blow the large curved
bronze horns known as Lur, found throughout Scandinavia.
The presence of Lur players implies
The purpose of the two figures in the U-shaped object on the
top left are unknown, but may represent drummers of some
In the center, below the musicans, 8
curved figures gather around a cistern
or altar. They may represent dancers. These draped figures, who
might be wearing hooded robes, are often identified as female,
and frequently compared to the winged and beaked figures
depicted 'dancing' in other Bronze Age petroglyphs and on the Oseberg
tapestry. In this light, these 'female' figures are evocative of the bird-guises worn by
mythological disir, including
Freyja, Frigg and the swan-maidens of Völundarkviða.
At the top of the Oseberg Tapestry (834 AD), we also find a
procession of 8 robed figures, walking behind a man carrying
a symbol, all led by a costumed horned figure. They
accompany a covered wagon, perhaps holding an idol:
similar scene appears on a Götland picture stone from the
Procession of Hooded figures on the Garde Bote
Picture Stone, Götland
On the bottom row of the same stone at Kivik, 8 complimentary male figures, gather in
two groups of four, each before an unidentified open structure,
perhaps a drum or sacrifical vat. They be musicians, priests
or warriors. On the
left, an armed man appears to lead 3 captives, perhaps human
On the adjacent stone, some of the same figures are
Remaining Stones at Kivik are Illustrated with
Bronze Age Symbols Common in Ancient Scandinavian Art
In the Summer of 2014, using forensic techniques, archaeologists
Andreas Toreld were able to recover these images from one of
the damaged stones.
their site for full documentation of their important work.
Bronze Age Axe Heads are depicted
on two of the Kivik stones
along with spoked 'sun wheels'
Bronze Age Axe
Bronze 'Sun-Wheels' found near Zürich, Switzerland.
Drawings of Bronze Age Figures found at
Grevensvænge, Zealand in 1779, dated between 600-800 BC.
Today, only part of one of these figures has been preserved
Horned Helmet from the Veskoe Bog
Bronze figures found at
Grevensvænge, Zealand in 1779.
Numerous similar figures have been found on the
Here an acrobatic figure leaps over a ship, in a similar pose to
a single figure found at
Grevensvænge, Zealand, along with the horned, axe-wielding
figures (above, right)
Another acrobat among other figures on a ship from
Axe Wielding Figures on
Petroglyphs at Tanum, Böhuslan, Sweden
Horned figure, perhaps representing a god, with armed
warriors in a boat.
The figure has also been interpreted as an oversized ceremonial
Horned figures playing Lur, perhaps dressed as Animals,
indicated by the size and shape of their legs, and possibly
Axe Wielding figure at the center
of a ceremony
on a boat
with Lur player at Tanum, Böhuslan, Sweden
Musicians and Dancers on a Boat at Tanum, Böhuslan, Sweden
Axe Wielding Figures with spoked
wheels from Tanumshede, Sweden
Here, they may represent shields.
Figures at Bohuslan often interpreted as Thor
Thor blessing a marriage
Thor in his goat-drawn chariot
Thor (with hammer) and Thjalfi face Hrungnir and Mokkurkalfi
at Tossene Panel 32-1