Swedish Stonehenge Discovered: Ancient Tomb May Belong To Stone Age Chief

By Amir Khan on October 22, 2012 2:25 PM EDT

Swedish Stonehenge
A 5,500-year-old tomb belonging to a Stone Age chief, was discovered lying under the megalithic monument known as Ale's Stenar (Ale's Stones), an ancient Viking monument. (Photo: ANNIKA KNARRSTROM)

A 5,500-year-old tomb belonging to a Stone Age chief, was discovered lying under the megalithic monument known as Ale's Stenar (Ale's Stones), an ancient Viking monument. Researchers said the tomb was likely robbed of stones that were later used to construct the monument.

"We found traces - mostly imprints - of large boulders," Bengst Söderberg, lead archeologist with the Swedish National Heritage Board, told LiveScience.  "So my conviction is that some of the stones at least, they are standing on the ship setting."

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Ales Stenar is made up of 59 massive boulders arraigned in the shape of a ship, and researchers believe it to be a burial ground for the legendary King Ale. However, some of the stones show markings that echo the kind seen on Stone Age sites, leading experts to believe the stones were stolen from an older monument.

In 2006, researchers used magnetic sensors and radar to map the ground underneath the structure and found a large, circular structure approximately 541 in diameter, surrounding a 65 by 25-foot rectangle. Archeologists dug a small trench into the center of the circle last week and discovered the imprint of several large boulders. But while they didn't find a skeleton, the imprints suggest the area was a Neolithic burial site known as a dolmen, where several upright stones would surround a boulder, upon which a body would be placed.

"All of the stones had been taken away," Söderberg told LiveScience. "And I would say, most probably they are standing 40 meters away from the dolmen where the ship setting is situated."

Based on the layout, experts estimate the tomb to be 5,500 years old, making it older than Stonehenge. The burial site likely belong to an old chief, they said.

"The scenic place on the ridge must have attracted people in all times," Söderberg said. "It shows that people over a long period build their monuments and perform their ceremonies on the same sites."

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