Thursday, 20 September 2018

Karum’s Alvar, Öland

Road Trip 2018, Part 17

“An alvar is a biological environment based on a limestone plain with thin or no soil and, as a result, sparse grassland vegetation. Often flooded in the spring, and affected by drought in midsummer, alvars support a distinctive group of prairie-like plants. Most alvars occur either in northern Europe or around the Great Lakes in North America. This habitat supports a community of rare plants and animals, including species more commonly found on prairie grasslands. Lichen and mosses are common species. Trees and bushes are absent or severely stunted. --- The use of the word alvar to refer to this type of environment originated in Scandinavia. The largest alvar in Europe is located on the Swedish island of Öland […and…] has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” [Wikipedia]

We did not go as far south on Öland as the area known as the Great Alvar; but there are areas with similar nature in the mid/north half of the island too. You have already seen a bit of it in some of my earlier posts from Öland. And after our visit to the green oasis of the Solliden Palace Park (previous post), we took another detour inland (eastwards) to  Karum’s Alvar – an old grave field including an impressive Bronze Age stone ship, known as Noah’s Ark.




2018-07-18-11 Karums alvar, gravfält


“Straight in front of you you see the ship setting Noaks ark, with tall stones both fore and aft. The grave is from the Late Bronze Age, 1100-500 BC. There are also raised stones and stone settings from the Early Iron Age, 500 BC-400 AD. Several graves have been investigated, and the dead had been cremated. The graves contained belongings such as finger rings and clasps. Some had swords and spearheads with them. – The burial ground is part of our cultural heritage and protected by law.”


The whole grave field is around 370 x 50 meters, and besides the big stone ship, there are also other types of old burial mounuments. The stone ship is 36 m long and 3,5 m wide. The rows of stones laid across the ship here are thought to symbolise the thwarts, and a big stone in the middle may mark the position of the mast.

After the long hot summer this year, there was hardly green patch to be seen on the alvar; but I understand that in spring, it can be quite a different experience, full of colourful rare flowers. Have a look at the photos in the German Wiki article if you want to see some views from this place with a bit more colour!


  1. I did not know about the stone ship - this is fascinating!

    1. Meike, while I feel I've "always" known about stone ships as part of our history, I do agree they're fascinating! ;)

  2. This is so unique and special. Plus I did not know any of this, and loved learning about it. The shape of a ship is so appropriate too! Makes me think of the mythical River Styx. This is a beautiful mosaic; was it at the burial site as well; as an illustration?

    1. Ginny, yes, the illustration was part of an information sign at the site. I have seen other ship settings before, but as far as I can recall, those were all a little different, built with higher raised stones. In my mind I have always associated the shape of them with the Viking ships. But the Vikings were late iron age; and this stone ship is said to be bronze age. So it would have been as ancient history to the Vikings, as the Vikings are to us!

  3. I love Sweden's stone ships! Roy showed me one in the south of Sweden a couple of months ago. It was very interesting. I like to ponder on what people did there in the past.
    PS I hope this comment goes through. I have been having trouble getting my comments to 'stick'.

    1. Kate, now I'm curious to know which one it was that you saw! But perhaps it will turn up in some future blog post of yours...? The biggest stone ship in Sweden is called Ales Stenar, in the province of Skåne. I think the outline of that one is more than twice as big as this one, plus the stones much higher. Some people think of it as Sweden's equivalent of Stonehenge and also believe that it was used as a kind of calendar for the summer and winter solstices.

  4. the stone ship outline is AMAZING and now I know what an alvar is. I popped over to see the field of flowers. it is lovely with or without the flowers.

  5. What amazing scenery! Must visit.


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