The Kalvestene: a reevaluation of the ship settings on the Danish Island of Hjarnø

Erin Sebo, Chelsea Wiseman, John McCarthy, Paul Baggaley, Katarina Jerbic, Jonathan Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ship setting site on the island of Hjarnø, known as the Kalvestene (“the calf stones”), is a grave field made up of ten small ship settings dating to the Viking Age. Although it is a comparatively small site, textual evidence suggests that, surprisingly, the Kalvestene were well-known, at least in some parts of medieval Scandinavia. The site is unusual among Danish grave fields in that all the settings are ship shaped, with no surviving circle, oval, or triangle settings, mounds, or other monument types. It has been assumed that this anomaly is due to natural erosion and anthropogenic intervention because Ole Worm’s 1650 description and drawing of the site indicates there were once more than twenty settings, including circle settings. This article reconsiders that assumption using a range of interdisciplinary approaches and evidence. It critically analyzes medieval and early modern written records and surveys previous studies of this site (including those unpublished), offers a reinterpretation of geophysical data alongside aerial photogrammetric and LiDAR data, and presents the results of our survey of the Kalvestene. In particular, we aim to answer three questions: how accurate is Worm's study? How do the ship settings at Hjarnø compare to other Danish ship settings? And, why were the Kalvestene famous?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-163
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date23 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • burial
  • Iron Age
  • medieval Scandinavia
  • stone ship
  • Viking


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