Photographer: Bengt A Lundberg
Gamla Uppsala högar
During the Iron Age there was a rich and well-developed community around the Uppsala mounds. There was a royal estate here and the Suiones gathered here to worship their gods. The place maintained its significance as a religious centre long after Sweden had been christianised.
For a long time the myth lived on that the Uppsala mounds contained remnants of old heathen gods. Others believed that the mounds were natural hills. In the summer of 1846 the Swedish National Heritage Board headed the work on the archaeological dig of “Odins hög” (Odins Mound), or Östhögen (the East Mound) as it is called these days. The dig showed that the mound was in fact a grave. However, no epic findings resulted from it: a few burned bones and fragments of grave goods. In 1874, the mound Västhögen (the West Mound) - at that time referred to as Frös hög (Freyr’s Mound) - was excavated and a cremation grave was discovered there as well.
The mystery of the graves
We cannot be sure who were buried in the Uppsala mounds. We do know for certain that they were important and glorified. In Östhögen there were among other things remnants of a helmet and fragments of gold objects. In Västhögen, remnants of a northern goshawk were among the items that were discovered, and it was most likely a trained hunting bird. Such birds were commonly owned by members of the top upper class at that time.
Large settlement in the 6th century
What was found in the graves were some of the few remains from a large settlement. In the 6th century A.D when the mounds were erected it was at height of its activity. During this period, there were skilled craftsmen, abundant agriculture and a royal estate there.
The first Christian church
There is plenty to indicate that the first Christian church in Gamla Uppsala was built in the 11th century. In that same spot, by Kungsgården, Sweden’s first archbishop church was erected in 1164. The church that stands there today is only half as large as the original one but if you look in its walls you can find traces of the old walls. In 1270 the seat of the archbishop was moved to Östra Aros, which eventually became the modern Uppsala. The cathedral was demoted to parish church and gained its current form during the 15th century. Gamla Uppsala with the Royal Mounds has maintained its symbolic significance, something that was especially emphasised by Pope Johannes Paulus II visit to the site in 1989.
This charming wooden building of Odinsborg was erected in 1899 next to the renowned Royal Mounds. The house is a perfect example of the national romantic style that dominated Swedish architecture around the last century. Since its construction, Odinsborg has housed a variety of restaurants.
In the autumn of 2017, Restaurant Odinsborg was forced to temporarily shut down for a number of months when examinations into water damage revealed large attacks of dry rot in three different places in the building. At the moment the work is in progress to remove the fungi and prevent further spread.
Renovations of trails at Tingshögen
The Gamla Uppsala mounds is an exciting place to visit. Many people walk here every year to experience its exciting history. The trails on the mounds are worn out and affect the ancient monument. The National Property Board of Sweden has started to renovate the trails and ground on Tingshögen (the Thing Mound). It may take a couple of years until the vegetation cover has attached itself to the trails.
The National Property Board of Sweden are preparing the ground and are making reinforcements before filling up with gravel and sand. We are also transplanting grass and so called herbal turf from a different part of the area. This method will ensure that the cover will be similar to the original one.
The work is being performed by the institution of Archaeology and Antique History at the University of Uppsala, along with the Labour Market Department in Uppsala Municipality with guidance from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Gamla Uppsala is one of the properties that the National Property Board of Sweden took over from the Swedish National Heritage Board on January 1st 2015.
- Guided tours
Place on map
754 40 Uppsala
- Year of Construction:
- Construction year: The grave mounds were erected in the 6th century.