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Viking Laid to rest for Likely “Mirror Afterlife”

Viking Burial
Image: © NTNU University Museum

Archaeologists in Norway have unearthed the 1,100-year-old grave of a Viking warrior, whose steel sword was placed in an unusual spot: on his left side.

Though the sword’s sinistral position is still somewhat perplexing, one theory is that the Vikings perceived the afterlife to be a mirror image of the real world, so whoever buried this warrior may have been accounting for that, said Raymond Sauvage, the excavation’s project manager and an archaeologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) University Museum. According to that theory, the warrior would have been left-handed and worn the sword at his right hip, so the 2.6-foot-long (80 centimeters) sword was simply buried on what would have been his “mirror” side, Sauvage said.

“Usually, the swords in Viking graves are placed on the right-hand side,” Sauvage told Live Science in an email. “Normally, a warrior would [fasten] his sword on the left side” so that it could be pulled out by the right hand. This discrepancy — that is, that Vikings buried their swords on the opposite side of the body from where weapons were typically worn — has led some archaeologists to think that the Vikings believed in a “mirror world” afterlife.

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