The war-booty site

New aspects on war-booty sites – the example of Finnestorp


The war-booty site of Finnestorp was discovered in the year of 1902, when a small road was build across the wetlands of Finnestorp. During the undergoing construction work, the workers found a lot of different artifacts. They came across bone remains as well as different pieces of metal objects. These objects belonged to weapons and horse equipments. The weaponry consist of different pieces of swords, lances etc. There were also mountings for horse equipments, as well as bridles and saddles.

Rescue excavations.

After this occasion in 1902 there have only been very small excavations done during the years of 1904, 1980 and in 1992. During these occasions the finds were collected by archaeologists. All these excavations were initiated because of more or less illegal earthwork. No more then 100 items (excluding bones) were totally found during these sporadic and small ”archaeological visits”. The statement of these excavations was that Finnestorp belonged to a special category of archaeological remains. The conclusion was that Finnestorp is a war-booty site, dated to late antiquity – early medieval times (migrations period in Swedish terms).

Research project

These archaeological fieldworks did not result in further archaeological investigations, until the year of 2000, when the Finnestorp project started. This project continued in a small scale until 2004. Totally the field work was about teen weeks during 2000-2004. Today Finnestorp is an ”on going project”, which started in the year of 2008. To sum up; these investigations has produced very interesting results.

Extensive research

Our field research has been performed in two different ways. One had the purpose of getting a broad view of the finds situated in the upper part of the soil. The method used was metal detecting, witch is a simple way to get a general view of a big area. By this method it was possible for us to conclude that the wetland contained objects almost all over. Because of the amount of artifacts as well as the size of the wetland (400 x 100 m), it seems reasonable to suggest that the offering of war-booty has been done repeatedly (during migration period) and presumably in a large scale.

Intensive research

By excavating the find layer intensively in four different minor areas (totally about 240 m2) within and close by the wetland it was possible to observe ritual activities that never had been done before, on an offering site. There were fire pits discovered during excavation, which were placed close by the wetland and containined burned animal bones as well as small drops of silver. The fire pits have been 14C- dated to the same time period as the war-booty remains (about 350-550 A.D.). There is also similar dating from skeleton remains, for example from bones belonging to humans, horses and a pig. There is, as well, a similar dating from a wooden part of saddle. There are two 14C-datings that is older than the migration period. It is two human skeleton remains that are dated to the time period of the roman iron age (about 0-350 A.D.). Supposedly, these finds are from rituals including sacrifice of humans.


 If we look in a perspective, north-south, it is obvious that the best conservation condition is situated in the northern part. In this area find categories of bone, wood as well as silver and bronze objects, were very well preserved. Without exceptions were the iron objects badly preserved within the wetland area. In the middle part we discovered the fire pits, on what seem to bee a former island. In the surrounding area are the preservation conditions about the same as in the northern part, except that only horse teeths are found. Far more south, there is only artifacts found made of silver or bronze. Totally about 1000 items of artifacts have been found.

Find categories

The metal objects found belong to exclusive swords and horse equipments. The massive saddle mountings are made of bronze and/or iron. A lot of the metal objects have decorations characterized of elegant ornaments. Some ornaments are of abstract type (like stars, triangles, rosettes, acanthus etc). Other objects have zoomorphic/sculptural shape (like bird, horse, beast, mask etc). Finds of this type are rare in Scandinavia. Most finds of similar type have been found on war-booty sites in Denmark and the northern parts of Germany. But there are also some rare finds from graves. Except these Scandinavian finds there are parallels to these artifacts (mostly grave finds) and they are scattered almost all over Europe. Similar finds have been found for example in Ukraine, Poland, Baltic States, former Yugoslavia, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Spain all well in the south-eastern part of England.


What do these remains represent? For example, the find spot indicate an offering activity spread over a huge area and an ongoing custom for several hundred of years. The items represent the equipment for the highest ranked warrior, from this time period. These persons constitute a special category of warriors, fighting from the horseback, with his lance, sword, shield and probably also with bow and arrow. These warriors seem to have been belonging to the top elite level of the society from the time period.

Further research

For further research there are some aspects which should be emphasized concerning Finnestorp. Within the research field of war-booty sites, Finnestorp is exclusive in that sense that all finds is integrated in a GIS-related database. This includes find categories of metal objects as well as skeletons remains, which gives unique possibilities in all kind of GIS-related studies. Finnestorp is also the only war-booty site were investigations has taking place in the wetland as well as on the surrounding ”dry land”. Finnestorp is also the only war-booty site were radiocarbon analyses have been done on skeletons remains, wooden artifacts and structures.