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Vedbaek Burial: A Baby Buried Upon Swan’s Wing

Vedbaek Burial: A Baby Buried Upon Swan’s Wing

In 1975, the archaeologists stumbled upon a cemetery in Denmark. The cemetery was 6,000 years old when the archaeologists unearthed it. It consisted of one empty grave, 16 single burials, 2 double, and 1 triple grave. Both of the double graves were the final resting places of two women and two children. The most outstanding and richest Vedbaek Burial in the site was the double grave of a woman and a child buried on a swan’s wing. The “Swan wing burial” refers to this rich burial in Vedbaek.

A triple grave in Vedbaek burial. The adult man on the left was hit with the arrow and the arrowhead was still there, in the neck. Beside was a woman and in the middle a child
A triple grave in Vedbaek burial. The adult man on the left was hit with the arrow and the arrowhead was still there, in the neck. Beside was a woman and in the middle a child

The cemetery was located to the north of Maglemosen, Denmark. And it was discovered in 1975 when the Danish archaeologists excavated the site to build Vedbaek school.

“Grave 8” in Vedbaek Burial

Revealing from the surface, the burial has a quite simple name “Grave 8”. But looking inside the “Grave 8” excited archaeologists to the core. They found out the remains of a woman living 6,000 years ago and a baby next to her. The baby was placed upon a swan’s wing. The woman was around her 40s and the baby was 3 years old.

Archaeologists found the skeletons and a kind of red powder above them. Other items inside the graves included the amulet beads.

The woman of “Grave 8” suffered from a serious attack in her head. Someone attacked her with a blunt weapon. Though this injury could not deprive her of her life, it could have traumatized her eyesight and hearing ability.

The woman in Grave 8 of Vedbaek burial suffered from an attack to her back head
The woman was hit in her back head with a blunt weapon. It didn’t kill her but made her suffer permanently. She could have lost her eyesight or hearing ability

The child, whom no source mentioned whether he was her child or not, was buried with two knives. This suggested the 3-year-old baby was a boy. He was placed on the swan’s wing.

“Grave 8” remains a mystery

This Scandinavian cemetery has evoked many questions. Scholars attempt to put forward theories but none is persuasive enough. But two famous and no less interesting questions were” why the grave had the red powder” and “why the child and the swan’s wing”.

Ochre powder found inside the grave
Ochre powder found inside the grave

First, why this grave and others from Mesolithic time (Middle Stone Age) had the red powder? The “red powder” is orche which is natural rust compound. It has the red distinctive color. Some believed that the Stone-era people sprinkled the orche inside the graves to mark them so that no one would dig up the grave afterward. Some believed it served to colour the skin of the dead. Others claimed it was a part of Mesolithic ritual to paint the body or the hair of the dead.

Second, why the child and the swan’s wing? In fact, the woman held the child in her embrace and the swan’s wing was just under the child.

The swan wing burial Grave 8 Vedbaek burial. The child was inside the embrace of the woman and the swan's wing.
The child was inside the embrace of the woman and the swan’s wing.

People in Stone Age believed that swan was a holy water bird. Swan could travel anywhere, flying on the sky, swimming in the pool, and walking on the land. This suggested they could also travel into some invisible world connecting to the High Power. So the child who had his life on earth was then offered a blessing in his afterlife. The swan’s wing would carry him into a better afterworld.

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