The stone ship or ship setting was an early burial custom in Scandinavia, Northern Germany and the Baltic states. The grave or cremation burial was surrounded by slabs or stones in the shape of a ship. The ships vary in size and were erected from c. 1000 BC to 1000 AD.
Stone ship were an early burial custom, characteristically Scandinavian but also found in Northern Germany and the Baltic states. The grave or cremation burial was surrounded by tightly or loosely fit slabs or stones in the outline of a ship. They are often found in grave fields, but are sometimes far from any other archaeological remains.
Ship settings are of varying sizes, some of monumental proportions. The largest known is the mostly destroyed Jelling stone ship in Denmark, which was at least 170 m (560 ft) long. In Sweden, the size varies from 67 m (220 ft) (Ale's Stones) to only a few metres. The orientation also varies. Inside, they can be cobbled or filled with stones, or have raised stones in the positions of masts. The illusion of being ships has often been reinforced by larger stones at the ends. Some have an oblique stern.
Scholars have suggested both that the stone ship developed out of the desire to equip the dead with everything he had in life, and alternatively that it was specifically associated with the journey to Hel. One puzzling feature is that they sometimes occur at the base of a barrow, enclosing a flat area presumably intended for public ceremonies.
Bække, Denmark. 800 m north of Bække there is a 45 m (148 ft) ship which dates to the Viking Age.
Jelling stone ship. Under the southern mound in Jelling, Denmark, which is associated with Queen Thyra, remains of a giant Viking Age stone ship have been found, by far the largest known: either 170 or 354 m (558 or 1,161 ft).
Kerteminde fjord, Denmark, a 20 m (66 ft) ship which dates to the Viking Age.
Lejre, Denmark. An approximately 80 m (260 ft) ship of 28 stones. The ship was cleared in 1921 by a landowner, but some local people interested in history succeeded in saving the stones. Viking Age.
Ale's Stones is a stone ship in southernmost Sweden. It is 67 m (220 ft) long and 19 m (62 ft) wide.
Anundshög double stone ship at Anundshög (from the Old Norsehaugr, mound) has a total length of 100 m (330 ft) and one of the ships is 25 m (82 ft) wide. In the same area there are several smaller stone ships.
Askeberga stone ships is Sweden's second largest stone ship, measuring 55 m (180 ft) in length. It is, however, the most remarkable one as it is made of 24 enormous boulders, weighing about 25 tonnes each.