Grave Disturbances: The Archaeology of Post-depositional Interactions with the Dead. 2020, 137-156
Some cases of grave reopening are easy to detect, as with large plundering holes in great mounds such as the famous case of Oseberg in Norway (see e.g. Bill and Daly 2012), but on other occasions the phenomenon is observed only through carefully piecing together the various data from an excavation. During the 2011 excavation of 21 Viking Age pit graves in the Setesdal Valley in south-central Norway, one grave was found to have a visible intrusive cut at the surface, and the excavation and the post-excavation analyses further supported the interpretation that this grave had indeed been reopened in the past. However, a number of other graves also showed irregular traits in certain aspects, although they were not recognised as reopened graves during excavation. Even though preservation was generally poor, the post-excavation work has revealed large amounts of new information about the graves, and the people and objects buried in them, and not least about the treatment of the graves at a later stage. One indication was the fairly systematic destruction of swords in the graves. Another lay in the correspondence between “empty” areas in graves and diverging stratigraphy. Initially appearing to be a one-off occurrence, the reopening of graves might actually have been fairly common.
This paper will give a short presentation of the cemetery at Langeid, followed by the possible evidence of reopened graves, as well as comparison with other reopened graves. The discussion focuses partly on the validity of the interpretations of reopening evidence, and partly on the possible motives for the re-entering of graves.