The remains of a 5,500-year-old tomb near Ale's Stones, a megalithic monument where, according to myth, the legendary King Ale lies buried, has been discovered by Swedish archaeologists. The discovery is the product of a geophysical investigation of the area carried out in 2006.
Intrigued by a circular structure measuring about 165 feet in diameter with a rectangular feature in its center, archaeologists of the Swedish National Heritage Board decided to dig a trial trench.
"The outer circle was difficult to prove, but we did find vague traces at the spot, possibly imprints of smaller stones," archaeologist Bengt Söderberg told Discovery News.
In the middle, the researchers found "several components" that are evidence of a dolmen, a megalithic portal tomb usually made of two vertical stones supporting a large flat horizontal stone on top.
"The components consisted of imprints of large stones belonging to a central grave chamber, which was surrounded by large stones and a brim of smaller stones," Söderberg said.
Oriented north-south, the 65- by 26-foot dolmen dated to the Swedish early Neolithic period, about 5,500 years ago.
"We also found a blade, a scraper and some flakes of flint. This is not unusual when it comes to this type of graves," Söderberg said.
According to archaeologist Annika Knarrström of the Swedish National Heritage Board, the dolmen was likely "the grave of some local magnate."
"However, we have little data to really tell who was buried there," Knarrström said.
The newly discovered dolmen lay just 130 feet from the spectacular Ales Stenar ("Ale's Stones"), also known as "Sweden's Stonehenge."
Located near the fishing village of Kåseberga, the structure consists of 59 stones, each weighing up to 4,000 pounds, that appear to form a 220-foot-long ship overlooking the Baltic Sea.
Although some researchers argue that the stone formation was assembled 2,500 years ago, during the Scandinavian Bronze Age, most scholars agree that it dates back some 1,400 years, toward the end of the Nordic Iron Age.
Like Stonehenge, the enigmatic stone ship has raised many theories about its purpose. According to local folklore, it was the final resting place of a legendary leader known as King Ale. Other theories suggest it was an ancient astronomical calendar, a cemetery, or a monument to the Vikings. The newly discovered dolmen might provide new clues on the pre-history of the monument.
"Our findings confirm what we have long suspected: Some stone-built monuments might have stood on the ridge long before the Ale's Stones," Knarrström said.
The older stones, as well as those making the dolmen, were most likely reused to build the stone ship.
"This discovery also confirms our belief that the site must have attracted people in all times," Knarrström said.
Photos: Top: Archaeologists clearing part of the trench with Ale's Stones in the background. Credit: Annika Knarrström, Swedish National Heritage Board.
Middle: Detail from the west brim of the dolmen. Archaeologist Annika Knarrström puts a mark on one of the many small stones in the brim, after digitally measuring its position. Credit: Bengt Söderberg, Swedish National Heritage Board.
Bottom: Ale's Stones, also known as "Sweden's Stonehenge,"
consists of 59 stones that appear to form a 220-foot-long ship overlooking the Baltic Sea near the fishing village of Kåseberga. Credit: Anders LageråsI/ Wikimedia Commons.