Uppsala mounds - Kungshögarna

Old Uppsala mounds
1890: Uppsala mounds and the church in the background. Photographer Henri Osti (1826-1914), from the Upplandsmuseet archive. Buy a print here.

Uppsala heaps, or The King's Mounds, are three burial mounds in the Gamla Uppsala archaeological area that were erected during the Late Iron Age about 1,400 years ago.

The area around the Uppsala mounds was a centre of power during the Iron Age. It was here that the Swedes gathered to worship their gods. A wealthy and well-developed society spread out around the mounds, and the site retained its importance as a religious centre long after Sweden became Christian.

In total there are thought to have been between 2,000 and 3,000 graves in the area. But in these three tombs the gods Odin, Thor and Frey were said to be buried. Today they are called the West Mound, the Middle Mound and the East Mound after their geographical location. The West Mound was thought to be Thor's, the Middle Mound Frey's and the East Mound Odin's.

The renowned archaeologist Birger Nerman (1888-1971) argued that the three tombs actually belonged to three Swede kings mentioned in the Ynglingatal - Adils, Aun and Egil.

In the summer of 1846, an archaeological excavation was begun to find out if there was any truth to the tales. The National Heritage Officer Bror Emil Hildebrand led the excavation of "Odin's Mound", Östhögen. In the centre of the mound, a stone cairn was found covering a fire pit. The excavation confirmed that there was in fact a human being buried in the mound.

Excavation of the King's Mounds
1874: Excavation of an Uppsala mound - the West Mound. A shaft was dug down to the bottom of the mound and a fire pit was uncovered. Photographer Henri Osti / Riksantikvarieämbetet archives.

In 1874 a new excavation began, this time of "Tor's mound", the West Mound. There, too, a so-called fire pit was found, as well as exclusive finds such as fragments of a Vendel helmet and a small gold filigree mask.

If you visit Uppsala högar, don't miss the Old Uppsala Church, which was built in the 12th century. The church may have been built on the site of the great pagan temple that is said to have been located in Gamla Uppsala, mentioned by Adam of Bremen as Uppsala Temple around the year 1076.

Getting there

If you are coming by car from the E4, follow the signs to Gamla Uppsala and Gamla Uppsala Church. The main parking lot is located east of the old railway.

Gamla Uppsala ancient monuments area, Uppsala, Sweden

Coordinates: Latitude 59.89805559999999 | Longitude 17.63000009999996

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