Öland (Suède): Hundreds died in 'brutal massacre' at island fort 1,500 years ago
- Violent attack took place on the island of Öland, just off the Swedish coast
- Bodies of the victims have remained 'frozen in time' since the 5th century
- Why the fort has been left untouched for 1,500 years remains a mystery
Swedish archeologists have uncovered the remains of a brutal fifth century massacre at a remote island fort, described as being 'frozen in time' like the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii.
Bodies of victims slaughtered in the violence on the island of Öland, just off the Swedish coast, have remained untouched for centuries, and were found to resemble a modern day crime scene.
Before they attack, the fort appears to have been a peaceful and prosperous place, where people lived comfortably in small huts and reared livestock for meat.
Crime scene: Swedish archaeologists have unearthed a brutal 5th century massacre at an island fort
But their peace was shattered when a group of unknown men burst in one night, butchering the residents in a vicious and unexplained attack.
Helene Wilhelmson, a researcher who specializes in the study of bones at Sweden's Lund University, said: 'It's more of a frozen moment than you normally see in archaeology.
'It's like Pompeii: Something terrible happened, and everything just stopped.'
Murdered: An archaeologist examines the body of one of the victims found lying flat on its face inside the fort
Preserved: The site on the island of Öland, just off the Swedish coast, has remained untouched for centuries, and resembled a modern day crime scene
So far five bodies have been unearthed amid the ruins of one of the huts. Two were found lying next to the door as if they had been slaughtered as they tried desperately to escape.
Why the fort has been left untouched for 1,500 years remains a mystery. One theory is that the location became taboo after the massacre, with people simply too terrified to set foot there.
During the Migration Period in Scandinavia it was customary to burn the dead, and very few uncremated remains have previously been recovered.
At an earlier excavation in 2010 the team discovered gilded brooches, raising questions as to why they were not plundered in the wake of the massacre.
Ms Wilhelmson added: 'I think they were surprised and there were so many bodies and two of them are lying by the door as if they were running for the door and people were coming in.
'So I think they were ambushed in some way and people were running into the house trying to kill them and they didn't have a chance.'
The team are now creating computerised 3-D models of the fort to reconstruct the crime scene — in the hope of solving the mystery. They have gone over the site collecting all precious metals to avoid modern plundering.
Lund University archaeologist Nicoló Dell’Unto explains: 'Using 3D-modeling gives us the unprecedented opportunity to see all the bodies simultaneously, even though the skeletons were removed one by one'.
A reconstruction of the fort on the island gives some idea what life was like was for the residents
At an earlier excavation in 2010 the team discovered gilded brooches, raising questions as to why they were not plundered in the wake of the massacre
Human bones have been found in other parts of the fort, making it highly likely that many more bodies are yet to be dug out.