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The medieval Battle of Visby left behind a mass grave of children and elderly soldiers still wearing their chainmail

The bones of 1185 fallen soldiers from the Battle of Visby are now placed in a museum to become the largest battlefield skeletal collection in Europe.

The battle took place near the town of Visby on the island of Gotland, Sweden’s largest island.

Danish king, Valdemar IV led the Danish army to battle the inhabitants of Gotland. The Gotlanders were no match for the Danish soldiers. Their inexperienced force was mainly composed of minor nobles, freemen, and even children and the elderly. Many of them were slaughtered during the battle and buried in mass graves. The Danes were victorious and did not suffer heavy losses.

For archaeologists, the battle left a legacy of the remains of a medieval battlefield. Skeletons of the soldiers and citizens were still clad in their chainmail and armor. Some skeletons even had spears and knives protruding out of them.

The site of the battlefield was first exhumed in 1905 and 300 bodies were discovered. Later excavations took place in 1912 and 1928 until 1185 skeletal remains were uncovered. These excavations were important in archaeological history because it was the first time that mass graves were excavated.

The excavations also revealed that at least a thrid of the Gotlander warriors were elderly or juveniles. Most of the bodies were randomly thrown into the graves except for 20 skeletons that were placed in parallel to each other in an east-west alignment. There were five mass graves discovered in total.