An island of the coast of Sweden, long associated with witchcraft and curses, is home to a group of caves that had rituals performed in them 9,000 years ago. The discovery of the caves on the island Blå Jungfrun has opened up many questions about the island’s past, and who might have once lived there.
Live Science reported on Sept. 22, that according to a centuries old legend, the island is the meeting place for a group of witches that gather every Easter to worship Satan. The island has an assortment of other curses and omens associated with it, including a taboo against taking rocks from the island, which is said to bring bad luck.
A group of archaeologists described the island: “huge boulders and steep cliffs provide a dramatic landscape, and for centuries the uninhabited island has been associated with supernatural powers.” The team was presenting their findings at the European Association of Archaeologists’ annual meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. While the team has uncovered a great deal about the island, the origins of legends surrounding it are still a mystery. “The time depth of these stories is shrouded in mist but could be considerable,” they said.
The archaeologists have been studying the caves on the island since 2014 and believe that a variety of different rituals may have been performed there. The researchers described one of the caves as having possibly been an altar where offerings to deities might have been given, while the other cave resembles something like a stage where rituals could be performed. “The results are astonishing and reveal extensive human activities on the island in the Mesolithic Stone Age,” the archaeologists said.
In one of the caves there appears to be a large hollow carved into the rock that is about 2.3 feet in diameter, with a fireplace just beneath it. “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,” Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay, an archaeologist with Kalmar County Museum, said. While the team of researchers aren’t positive on what sort of rituals were performed in the space, the layout of the cave has provided a few hints. “The entrance to the cave is very narrow, and you have to squeeze your way in. [However,] once you’re inside, only half of the cave is covered and you can actually stand above the cave and look down into it, almost like a theater or a stage below,” said Papmehl-Dufay.
Papmehl-Dufay thinks that perhaps the hollow played an important part in a ritual or ceremony with the “act of producing the hollow could have been the important part, perhaps even the sound created while doing so.” In the other cave, the researchers found a hammerstone and a place for grinding up materials, and between the two shelters is a small stone structure that appears to have been used as a resting place. The archaeologists found small stone tools in the hut along with seal remains which, when tested, revealed that the inhabitants probably lived around 9,000 years ago.
Much more is yet to be discovered on the island, which is shedding a good deal of light on the ancient past of Sweden.