A report on the week in Svappavaara

In the background is Svappavaara

Last Friday I returned to Luleå after a sightseeing above the the polar circle. The aim of this tour was Svappavaara, a small community some miles southeast of Kiruna. Svapavaara is a mining community from the 17th century. The mines has been opened on several occasions, the last big venture was done during the 60’s.

The famous architect Ralph Erskine designed some housing buildings at the time named Ormen Långe (the long snake), today they are empty and abandoned, the community is somewhat on hold.


But it seems as the future holds yet another injection for Svappavaara as a new open-cast mine is planned to open in a near future and that is the reason to why we were there. To start the new mining project new roads needs to be in place so we made a preliminary search of the area to establish if any ancient- or cultural remains are in the way.

As we were in the neighborhood we also visited a few places to help the owners to find and mark some ancient monuments, a couple of hearths and a summer grave.

A summer grave is an interesting phenomena, as many farms and villages did not have a church or a cemetery of their own they buried their dead in a temporary grave during the summer and dug him or her up when the winter came and transported the dead to its final resting place.

The summer grave is found a few hundred meters from this farm, that has been abandoned in the 40’s.

As we visited one of this sites I learned of the danger of being an archaeologist working in a forest environment, as we were walking a tree branch smash into my right eye. Besides the pain my eye also got infected, so I have had some problems with my sight the last few days, it getting better though, after a quick visit to the doctors office. Due to this I haven’t really spent much time in front of the computure.

I’ll add some pictures tomorrow.

Magnus Reuterdahl


About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

5 responses to “A report on the week in Svappavaara

  • Jonathan Jarrett

    Sorry to hear about your eye, I hope you make a quick recovery. I’m a bit confused with the summer grave: what made the burial somewhere permanent more possible in winter than in summer? Are we dealing with mobile populations here, or is it to do with ground softness?

  • Magnus Reuterdahl

    The eye seems to recover just fine, I rested it through the weekend. Pirate patch and all, and got an ointment for the eye.

    Regarding the summer graves it has to do with geography, in this part of Sweden the terrain is part woodland, part mountains and part bogs, lakes, rivers and small watercourses. The easiest way to transport heavy or large objects is when the bogs are frozen. Other factors is of course the distance to the nearest cemetery, in this case ca 20 km, and the terrain in between.

    These graves are identified through different historical sources such as documentations made by the church.


    btw the photos are coming but I forgot my USB memory at home

  • Magnus Reuterdahl

    Addition; Summer graves is also a part of the Sami tradition of the 18th and 19th century and maybe more so than with the residents.


  • Johan

    Hi there!
    Nice to see some pics from my village (Svappavaara).

    But you have made a little misstake, the houses you call “Ormen Långe” in the photo, is “Solbacken”.

    “Ormen Långe” is one long house, higher up in the village, not several houses next to each other.

    This is Ormen Långe:


    • Magnus Reuterdahl

      You’re absolutely right, my bad, sorry about that but it was a good couple of days up there – fantastic sceneries.

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