One of the most impressive ancient sights along the southern coast of Skåne is found just along the beach pretty much in the middle of nowhere – but hundreds if not thousands of people will go here on an average weekend to go and see this historic relic.
Ales Stenar is the best preserved ancient ship setting found anywhere in Sweden. The ancient ship consists of 59 large stones placed at the ridge of Kåseberg with a view of the Baltic Sea. The ship setting is huge with a length of about 70 meters and a width of 19 meters.
Ales Stenar was probably built somewhere between year 500 and 1000 but there has been one excavation which has carbon dated the location to 3,500 BC. Though this kind of ship setting is particularly known in southern Scandinavia during the Viking age of between 800 and 1050 making it most likely this ship setting is also from this period and not suddenly four thousand years older than all the others.
The monument is impressive it consist of 59 boulders. The heavies of the boulders weigh up to 5 tones so it must have taken a massive effort to transport these stones to this location considering the ancient technology available back then.
The origin and use for the monument is unknown. The stone ships you see around southern Scandinavia from this era were usually grave sites for very important people – possible kings of either a small area or actually king of Denmark. This spot was at the coast of Skåne which was in the eastern part of Denmark during the Viking era. It was an integral part of Denmark up until 1660 that’s why a king buried here would be a Danish king and not a Swedish king.
There are other theories about the function of the monument. It might be an ancient calendar since it appears to be carefully places so it is aligned with the sunrise and sunset at both midwinter and midsummer. So it monument might have some relevance in a religion where the sun was important – like it was in the far north where the return of the sun after a long and dark winter was the most important part of the year. So important that the ancient Norse religion had its main Yule feast at midwinter and the time of year which is now known as Christmas in English. The Danish word for Christmas is still Jul – the church tried to change the name into Kristmesse – but it never caught on.
No matter what the use the monument had it is an impressive sight and it actually had a different use until only a few centuries ago. Its location at the coast meant it became an important landmark for the ships sailing by so it was a navigational marker. On nautical maps from 1684 the stone monument is marked and this is the oldest known mention of the monument in written sources – but it has probably been in use before this time as well.
The monument is located on the coast and it is free to visit it – if you are in southern Skåne this is clearly one of the main attractions. And judging by the number of visitors when we went – it is also the most visited attractions in southern Skåne.