Situated in the Baltic Sea, off the eastern coast of Sweden, Blå Jungfrun (meaning ‘blue maiden’) is an island, whose reputation as an evil and dark place plays a prominent role in Swedish folklore. Its unique topography, of dense forest interrupted with bare grounds covered with caves and mysterious stone labyrinth, actually adds to its notoriety as the abode of witchcraft, black magic and supernatural powers. That is not all, though. A team of archaeologists, working in the area, has found valuable evidence that point to strange cave rituals performed by Stone Age humans, some 9,000 years ago.
Home to the Swedish National Park, the island is inaccessible to visitors at night. As confirmed by 16th century Swedish author Olaus Magnus, in his writings, it is widely believed that the island is the meeting place ofor witches before Easter, every year. Legend has it that anyone who tries to remove a piece of rock, from the site, will suffer a lifetime of misfortune and bad luck. The discovery made by the archaeologists was recently presented at the annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, in Scotland. The team said:
[The island’s] huge boulders and steep cliffs provide a dramatic landscape, and for centuries the uninhabited island has been associated with supernatural powers.The time depth of these stories is shrouded in mist but could be considerable.
It was while examining the site, last spring, that the archaeologists stumbled across two caves, whose unique interior suggests that the area was inhabited during the Mesolithic Stone Age era. In one of the caves, a huge hollow, measuring around 2.3 ft (nearly 0.7 m) in diameter, was carved into a vertical wall, with a fireplace lying immediately below it. The other cave contains an altar, of sorts, which could have been used to place offerings to the deities. The team, consisting of researchers from Sweden’s Kalmar County Museum and the Linnaeus University, reported:
The results are astonishing and reveal extensive human activities on the island in the Mesolithic Stone Age. In two caves, distinct ritual features were identified… We believe the hollow is man-made and that the fireplace has been used in connection to hammering out the hollow, probably [on] several occasions.
While it is difficult to discern what exactly the caves were used for, the archaeologists believe that the one containing the giant hollow could have served as an “theater” or stage. Upon squeezing through its extremely narrow entrance, the ancient humans might have stood above the cave and looked down at the “fireplace spectacle”. According to the team, the sound of hammering into the hollow, coupled with the fire display, could have been a form of Stone Age entertainment.
The presence of a hammerstone and a separate area for grinding up stuff suggests that the second cave might have been an altar, for placing offerings to the gods. In the space between the two caves, the archaeologists found a 520 sq ft (around 48 sq m) rock shelter, containing pieces of stone tools and seal remnants. Carbon dating has revealed that the seals were consumed nearly 9,000 years ago. Talking about the find, Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay, of the Kalmar County Museum, explained:
A few people could have been sitting or standing, perhaps just resting or spending the night during sporadic stays on the island. However, more-specific activities with ritual elements to [them] cannot be ruled out, such as feasting in connection to the rituals performed in the nearby caves.
Furthermore, the researchers have uncovered a layer of quartz, below of the caves in the area, which could have been used to build tools and weapons. According to Papmehl-Dufay, the second phase of their investigation will commence in spring, next year.