Rane stones (Askeberga ship set)

Rane stones
Boy at the Rane stones, 1931. Photo: Riksantikvarieämbetet

Askeberga shipyard is Sweden's second largest shipyard (after Ales stones in Skåne). The ship settlement, which was erected sometime during the Iron Age, is called "Rane Stenar" on a map from 1715.

Rane stenar is located in Askeberga in Vads parish, Vadsbo härad, about 25 kilometres north of Skövde in Västergötland. What makes this set of ships a bit special, apart from the size of the stone blocks, is that it lacks stems at the ends, which has led some to make comparisons with a longhouse.

The ship is 55 metres long with a maximum width of 18 metres, and is built of 24 blocks of stone placed in pairs, which are up to 2-3 metres high with a weight of up to 15-25 tonnes each. The dating is uncertain, but according to the National Property Board, which manages the area, the shipyard is believed to have been built during the Late Iron Age, around 500 AD, or roughly 1,500 years ago.

Askeberga shipyard
Photo: Jan Norrman - 1990-06-02 / Riksantikvarieämbetet (CC BY)

So who could this Rane have been? According to a local tradition, he was a king who ruled the Vadsbo area and was buried in King Rane's Mound which lies a few kilometres to the southwest in the neighbouring village of Flistad, next to which a church was later built. However, the mound has never been investigated.

Rane was also an old name for Odin, so one could also call the ship set the Odin Stones. Some say that the Rane stones are actually in the heartland of Oden, such as the amateur historian Bengt Wadbring:

"On the way there [from Rane's stones to King Rane's mound] you pass Odenslunda. The lake Östen in the west was called in old documents Lake Oden - if ever there was a land of Odin, it must have been here, and if Brage Broddarsson and Snorre are to be believed, there was!"
Bengt Wadbring on Askeberga

Stones of Odin
Photo: Catasa (CC BY-SA)

How many men (or oxen) did it take in those days to move a stone weighing 15 tonnes? It's probably not impossible to figure out, but we can say with certainty that many man-hours were spent by the ancestors of the Visigoths to build this set of ships.

Askeberga from Before and Now 1877. Signed by A. Hedenberg.
Askeberga from Before and Now 1877. Signed by A. Hedenberg.

Five miles to the east, a similar, but smaller, set of ships can be found on a peninsula out in the Vättern in Nässja parish in Östergötland. This is called Nässja shipbuilding (RAÄ-nr Nässja 2:1) and is an oval stone circle also consisting of 24 stones without rods.

Curiosity: The word Vad, which is found in both the name of the parish and the hamlet, was written Wad in 1302 and comes from the church village and has the meaning 'ford' referring to a crossing of the Tidan.

Sources

Riksantikvarieämbetet

National Property Board

Askeberga shipyard, Wikipedia

Mats Wahlberg, ed (2003). Svenskt ortnamnslexikon. Uppsala: Institutet för språk och folkminnen. Libris 8998039. ISBN 91-7229-020-X

Getting there

Coordinates: Latitude 58.57542340000001 | Longitude 13.983879399999978

Discover more interesting places to visit at History map.

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