Bear burials

Guovža, the bear, had a special place in pre-Christian Sámi culture.

There are many descriptions of rituals involved in bear hunting, but they all explain that once the bear had been eaten, its bones should be collected and buried.

These bear burials have been found in Sámi areas of both Norway and Sweden. They are often found in scree or rocks and therefore resemble scree burials. Just as with people, the bear could be provided with burial gifts.

The bear burials vary and their appearance does not always exactly conform with what we find in written sources. This may be due to variations from place to place and over the course of time. The oldest bear burial which has been dated is from the period 220-325 AD. The most recent has been dated as 1640.

Myrstad, Ragnhild, 1996: Bjørnegraver i Nord-Norge. Upubl. hovedoppgave, UiT.
Schanche, Audhild, 2000: Graver i ur og berg.

Ceavccageađge/Transteinen i Mortensnes. Govva/Foto: Mihkku Solbakk