Degerhamn, Öland island (Kalmar county), SWEDEN
Öland, the second largest island of Sweden, is located in a favourable position in the Baltic Sea, between the Swedish mainland and Gotland island, about 400 km south of Stockholm. Öland, once known as Oelandia, is connected to the mainland over the Kalmar Strait by the 6 km long Öland Bridge, which was opened in 1972 and is one of the longest in Europe.
Öland was an important site during the Iron Age, due to its strategic location, although archaeological excavations indicate the island was settled much earlier, about 8000 BC, as witnessed by evidence dating from the Palaeolithic and showing the presence of hunter-gatherers on the island, who migrated there in the early Stone Age from the Swedish mainland thanks to an ice bridge. Spread across Öland there are burial grounds from the Iron Age to the Viking Age, including stone ships, as well as 19 identified Iron Age ring-forts.
The whole of Southern Öland island is dominated by a vast limestone plateau and is a UNESCO World heritage Site since year 2000, thanks to its quite unique agricultural landscape, which includes more than 140,000 acres of arable land, grazing fields, villages, ancient forts and water. Southern Öland boasts also beautiful wildlife areas, such as the Stora Alvaret, a unique alvar nature area, which features many endemic and rare plants not to be found anywhere else and is also a real paradise for many migratory birds. The most notable and the southernmost of the Iron Age ringforts on Öland is the Eketorp fortification, which is often referred to as Eketorp Castle, and is strategically situated 1,7 km from the Baltic Sea, right in the middle of the Stora Alvaret natural area, in Dergerhamn village, in Mörbylånga municipality.
Eketorp was extensively reconstructed and enlarged during the Middle Ages and is today the only ring-fort on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding an amount of over 26,000 artefacts. The first visitors arrived in 1978 – by that being one of the oldest such sites in Sweden and one of those with most archaeologists involved. The archaeological excavations took place between 1964-1974, revealing that Eketorp had three different buildings phases: two during the Iron Age (Eketorp I: 300-400 AD; Eketorp II: 400-650 AD) and one during the Middle Ages (Eketorp III: 1170-1240 AD).
The project "Eketorp Rediviva" led and funded by the National Heritage Board provided the development of authentic reconstruction, cultural research and experimental archaeology. The wall and the houses have been rebuilt directly on the ancient ruins according to traditional craftsmanship techniques and using period materials. The houses, like the fort itself, are mostly made of stone, with some of them decorated and furnished as they might have look during the early phases, while others represent the later medieval one. The well in the courtyard has been there since the oldest period and is still giving water.
Today the Eketorp fortress is an open-air and living museum of great scientific and educational value, as well as one of Öland’s most valued destinations. The Iron Age and the Middle Ages come alive there thanks to a faithfully reconstructed historical environment peopled by interpreters and living historians dressed in period costumes and portraying historical characters from the past. Inside the fort the visitors can meet also artisans and merchants dressed in period clothes and showing the typical medieval daily chores, see domestic animals roaming around, visit the houses or take part at interactive workshops, trying several tools and experiencing a variety of live-in activities and games that are both fun and educational.
The site provides as well living history displays, battle reenactments, guided tours, which are often carried out as role-play in first-person interpretation, several programmes specially tailored for children and students, and a wealth of crafts displays and workshops. Finally, a museum within the castle walls hosts themed temporary and permanent exhibitions, including a selection of the huge amount of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the decades long excavations.
Info & Contact
Location: 380 30 Degerhamn, Mörbylånga Municipality, Kalmar County, Sweden
Tel.: +46 485 662000
Kalmar Läns Museum - Eketorps Borg
Address: Askeppsbrogatan 51, Ångvarnen 104, 39121 Kalmar, Sweden
Tel.: +46 480 451303
Öland Tourist Office
Address: Trollhättevägen 4, 386 80 Mörbylånga, Öland island, Sweden
Tel.: +46 485 89000
Image: Eketorps Borg unless otherwise credited
Text sources: Eketorps Borg, Wikipedia, Öland Tourist Office
Eketorps Borg and Öland island on Google Maps:
Eketorp, the Iron Age fort: