Ales stenar (Stones) is Sweden's largest preserved "ship setting" - stones set in the layout of a ship. We do not know for certain what function the stones have had through the ages, or what the ship setting symbolised for the people who created it.
67 metres long and 19 metres wide, Ales stenar is one of the largest ship settings in the Nordic region. It comprises 59 carefully selected stones weighing between 500 and 1800 kilos. Ship settings date from two periods - the late Bronze Age (ca. 3,000 - 2,500 years ago) and the early Iron Age (ca. 1,600 - 1,000 years ago). Archaeological tests can be used to determine the age of Ales stenar. The Carbon-14 dating system for organic remains provides seven results at the site. One dates the material at around 5,500 years old, whereas the remaining six indicate a date around 1,400 years ago, probably the most likely time that Ale stenar was created.
Ales stenar - why was it built?
Ship settings are generally regarded as burial monuments, and many of the settings found in Scandinavia do contain one or more graves. Yet no grave has ever been positively identified in the limited area that has been subject to archaeological research at Ales stenar.
If the site is not a grave, what function can the monument have had? One theory is that the ship setting was constructed to honour the crew of a ship who perished at sea. Another theory is that the ship was built to determine various times of the year. The alignment of the stones in relation to the sun is such that the sun sets over the north west tip of the monument at midsummer, and rises at the opposite tip at midwinter.
For long periods the ship setting was covered by loose sand. In 1916, when the monument was first restored, only 16 of the 59 stones were standing upright. Sand was removed and the fallen stones were re-erected. In 1956 the area was restored for the second time, but unfortunately, no simultaneous archaeological investigations were carried out. Instead, the soil around the stones, which may have contained any number of finds, was transported away.
Mystery of the stones
Ales stenar has held a fascination for hundreds of years. There are numerous theories as to the function and significance of the ship, but very few indisputable truths. One sure fact, however, is that the site has never been such a visitor attraction as it is today. The mystery surrounding the purpose of the ship setting, the stunning location and wide open views attract more than 750,000 visitors every year.
Ales stenar is situated on the coast at Kåseberga in the county of Skåne in Southern Sweden, around fifteen kilometres south east of Ystad. The car park in Kåseberga has information signs giving directions to the monument, located some 700 metres away up on the ridge.
In Kåseberga harbour there are a number of cafés, restaurants and fish smokehouses.