Having grown up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Swedish-born Saga Vanecek was no stranger to colder climates. So when her family moved back to Småland in Sweden in 2017, she was prepared.
Saga loved growing up in America, but Sweden, where her mother’s family lived, was a new adventure just waiting to be had. Little did she know that the adventure she was about to have would put her more in touch with her Viking roots than she had ever anticipated.
Visiting the Lake
Saga, 8, and her father Andy Vanecek were enjoying a fun summer day down at Vidöstern lake in Tånnö, Småland. It was a rare warm day and Saga wanted to take advantage of it by swimming in the lake that was nearest to their property. Andy agreed and decided to relax on the bank to keep an eye on things.
The water levels had been low that day and Andy had asked her to move one of the buoys they’d released a bit further out. He needed to make sure to warn boats about the underwater slab of concrete in the lake. Saga did as she was bid, enjoying the sunshine and taking her time.
From Andy’s perspective, waiting on the shore, his daughter seemed distracted at the very least. He was getting impatient though and wanted her to finish. The World Cup game was about to start, and as much as he was glad to see her having fun in their new home, he really wanted to see how it turned out.
Working quickly, Saga finished her task but decided to stand on the shore for a while and skip stones into the lake water. When she ran out of stones, she picked up sticks and threw them in as well. Suddenly, she noticed something on the shores of the dwindling lake. It was some kind of stick, but unlike any that she’s seen before.
Blade in the Lake
“I picked it up and was going to drop it back in the water, but it had a handle, and I saw that it was a little bit pointy at the end and all rusty,” she explained to The Local. Holding the sword up, she called to her father saying, “Daddy, I found a sword!” Like a living Arthurian legend, she had indeed pulled an ancient sword from among the stones.
Just a Plaything
At first glance, Andy Vanecek didn’t know exactly what his daughter was holding up. If it was a branch or a stick of some kind, it certainly looked strange from a distance. Upon closer inspection, he quickly realized that it was bent like a sword. Could it have been an old toy some child had left by the lake?
Andy came over and took the sword from his daughter’s hands to examine it closer. He felt the heft in his hands, saw the powdered rust it left on Saga’s hands and realized that the object she was holding was indeed a real weapon. He was surprised to say the least, but very curious where the obviously ancient sword had come from.
They brought the sword home and then proceeded to ask one of Andy’s colleagues, who has an interest in history and archaeology, about the relic. The friend took one look at the rusted blade and informed them that it was most likely an authentic relic, though he didn’t want to hazard a guess as to when it hailed from.
Archaeologists and historians quickly jumped on the find, including Mikael Nordström from Jönköpings Läns Museum. He explained that the reason Saga even saw the sword at all was due to the fact that the lake water at the family’s summer house was so low due to drought. Still, he admits the find is significant and that it’s not every day one steps on a sword in the lake.
Mikael Nordström took the sword and examined it. His initial findings indicated that the blade was at least 1,000 years old, though further examination soon revealed that it might be even older than that. It could be from the 5th or 6th century, which actually puts it before the age of Vikings.
“It’s 85 centimeters long, and there is also preserved wood and metal around it,” Nordström explained. “We are very keen to see the conservation staff do their work and see more of the details of the sword.” This restoration process will of course take time but will be worth that time in the end.
Saga’s finding of the sword has prompted others, including some other members of the museum staff, to carry out other searches of the area near Vidöstern lake. None of the initial searches resulted in any other important finds from that era, though they did find an 18th-century coin. Then, one of the teams uncovered something significant.
Museum officials discovered a brooch which they believe to be from the same prehistoric era as Saga’s sword. When asked what that meant, Nordström explained that the results were as yet inconclusive. He did admit that it might indicate the place could be a place of sacrifice or that graves might be nearby.
Keep It Secret
At the same time though, Nordström and the museum staff asked that Saga and her family not tell anyone about the sword. The fear was that if the find went public before they were ready, people might head down to the scene on their own to find the delicate artifacts before the archeological team could and inadvertently destroy them.
Saga kept her word … sort of. The only person she ended up telling was her best friend and she told her before she had been given the directive not to go blabbing it about. Recently, the museum gave her permission to spill the beans and she did so by having a party in school to celebrate.
Saga’s teacher and her class were excited to hear about the find, but it seems that no one was more excited about it than Saga herself. Nevertheless, the eight-year-old’s experience hasn’t changed her that much. Her goals are still to become a doctor, a vet, or a Parisian actress someday, not an archaeologist.
That said, she seems to enjoy learning about “old stuff” more than she had before finding the sword. Andy Vanecek, on the other hand, loved the idea of his daughter finding what appeared at first to be a Viking Sword. Originally hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Andy is a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
“I think maybe I found it harder to keep secret than she did,” Andy explained in a recent interview. “It’s cool that it will be in a museum and it might even say ‘Saga’s sword’ and it might be there for thousands of years. We didn’t put it on Facebook or anything until yesterday, and now it’s really blowing up!”
Reward and Recognition
The National Archives of Sweden, which has since taken over control of the sword, has not yet revealed whether Saga will be involved in any future projects or even receive a reward for the discovery, of the sword. But there is hope that she’ll at least get credited for finding the ancient blade by the lake that day.
Anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of Saga’s sword is going to have to wait a while. The process of cleaning, refurbishing, and conserving the blade is a lengthy one and it can be very complicated because of the wood and leather elements on the weapon. The important thing is preserving it properly so that even future generations will be able to view it.