Hästevads stones

Judgement ring Hästevadet
The Hästevadet judgment ring in the parish of Västra Tunhem. Photo: Gustaf Ewald / Vänersborg Museum (CC BY-SA)

Hästevads stones or Hästevadet is a so-called domarring from the early Iron Age located below the vertical cliffs of Halleberg in Västra Tunhem parish, Väne härad, Västergötland.

Ancient Monument Hästevads stones outside Vänersborg in western Sweden lies in the middle of an old burial ground, sometimes called Hästevadets burial ground, and at the foot of the mighty Halleberg (previously just called HallThe dome ring is around 19 metres in diameter and consists of 8 standing stones 1.6-2.4 metres high, placed on a raised hill.

Det finns ingen brist på äldre källor som beskriver platsen. Erik Dahlbergh besökte och beskrev platsen på 1660-talet i Suecia antiqua et hodierna, och 1746 fick Hästevadet besök av Carl Linnaeus. I sin reseskildring skriver Linné att ”många ätteplatser lågo omkring domarringen och andra närmare Ättestörtan”. På den här platsen höll The Götic League ting år 1818, 1819 och 1821, och som minne av tingen finns än idag ett minnesmärke på platsen.

The whole area was once a large burial ground with many mounds and stones. In one of the graves, a 2000-year-old urn was found that turned out to contain grain, as can be read in the documentation of the National Heritage Board in a note dated 31 October 1948. Some excavations have taken place in Hästevadet, where grave urns, shaft-hole axes, fire stones, bronze spearheads, etc. have been found. Unfortunately, most of the graves were later destroyed forever in connection with the construction of the railway, gravel pits and housing estates. Just a few dozen metres south of the judging ring, where the railway now passes, there was another judging ring.

Excavation in Hästevadet
1948-1949: Archaeological excavation in Hästevadet. Photo: Nils Ivan Svensson / Vänersborg Museum (CC BY-SA)

In Svenska Familj-Journalen, volume 12, 1873, Claës Joh. Ljungström about Ättestupan and "Hästevads Stenar" at Halleberg, and mentions the many ancient monuments "at Tunhem's vicarage", "at the Nygård estate", and "at the Forstena plain's old ancestral farm". But about the stones of Hästevad he writes:

The most beautiful stone settlement in the village is, however, that which is found at the foot of Halleberg situated along both the main road and the railway between Wenersborg and Herrljunga, and which is usually called Hästevads stones, which name is taken after the nearby farm Hästevadet.

Hästevad's doom ring
Drawing by C S Hallbeck, from Svenska Familj-Journalen / Volume 12, issue 1873.

This stone, which is found on a mound slightly raised above the surrounding ground and leveled at the top, which nevertheless now seems higher than it really was, having been dug around to obtain gravel during the construction of the Uddevalla-Wenersborg-Herrljunga iron road here, is completely round and has a diameter of thirty alnar. Its circumference is thus nittio alnar, and the stones, eight in number, stand equally far, namely slightly above tolf years apart. These stones are evidently taken from the neighbouring Halleberg, for they consist of the same matter as the uppermost and most powerful layer of the mountain, viz. trap.

Judgement ring at Hästevadet (Hästevad stones)
Sketch from 1705, from Erik Dahlberg's "Suecia antiqua et hodierna" (1716). Vänersborg Museum (CC BY-SA)

The southernmost stone, which stands so near the railway, which here has a deep "cut" that an under-wall must be made lest the side of the hill with the stone should fall out on the road, is five and a half feet high, and then following the stone from here rightwards, the others are found to have the respective heights of eight, six, seven, six, six, eight, seven feet. The northeastern stone is a seven-foot wide and smooth mound, unbroken from above and downward, but composed of four iron spikes, of which the three lower ones have been lost by those who could not distinguish between the middle and yours.

In 1754, 8 years after Carl Linnaeus' passage, Hästevadet received a royal visit from King Adolf Fredrik and Queen Lovisa Ulrika. When the royal couple saw that one of the ring's stones had fallen over, the king ordered it to be put back up. To commemorate the event, the royal couple's names were carved into the stone.

King Adolf Fredrik's inscription
The stone with King Adolf Fredrik's inscription from 1754 in the judges' ring at Hästevadet. Photo: Vänersborg Museum (CC BY-SA)

UPPER KING
ADOLPH FREDRIKS
AND DRYING
LOVISA ULRICAS
COMMAND WHEN THEY ON AUGUST 8, 1754
VISITED THIS PLACE
THIS WAS THEN OVERTURNED.
NEN ERECTED BY THE COUNTY
HÖFDINGE GREF
ADOLPH MÖRNER.

What was it then that Carl Linnaeus mentioned about the "Eating Disorder"? Well, it is Halleberg's hive he is referring to. It lies 250 metres northeast of the Domar ring, and according to legend it was there, down the vertical cliff, that old Goths hoisted sails "to Odin's island without thinking of the return journey, when all things would no longer go their way or when they had grown weary of the world and life", as Linnaeus described it.

Hästevadet and Halleberg ancient castle
Hästevad's stones with the Halleberg hill, also Sweden's largest ancient castle, in the background. Photo: Vänersborg Museum (CC BY-SA)

Until the 1920s, there was also a water source at the foot of the mountain, just below the ättestupan, which was called by the locals On Source or Oden's dam. There, according to legend, the ancestors of the Visigoths washed the dead bodies of their relatives before burial. According to a description from the 1790s, the pond then had a diameter of "60 cubits", i.e. 36 metres, but in the 1910s the pond had shrunk in size to 7-8 metres in diameter, according to records from the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämet). The pond was completely filled in between 1925 and 1926 in connection with the construction of a new house.

Oden's dam
1965: "Excavation of the Oden dam at Hästevadet." Photo: Ulf Erik Hagberg / Vänersborg Museum (CC BY-SA)

More about the Halleberg hive and the mighty ancient castle to come! If you enjoyed this article (which took many hours to research and write), please support Allmogens popular education work by becoming a member or give a gift. Then you can expect more of this! Your support = love.

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