During the course of the eleventh century runic monuments came to be erected in Christian cemeteries in central Sweden. The earliest examples of churchyard monuments in this area are the early Christian grave monuments, often called Eskilstuna cists, which in their most elaborate form consisted of a lid slab, two side slabs and two gable slabs forming a stone cist standing visibly on the ground. Early Christian grave monuments were an integrated part of the late Viking Age runestone tradition, which changed during the course of the eleventh century due to influence from Christian customs and mentality. Due to the change of context, from a landscape setting to the Christian churchyard, the runic memorial tradition was transformed on several levels, not only materially but also conceptually.
In order to understand the diverse expression within the runestone tradition it is of interest to decipher how, when and where transformations take place. The discussion in this paper focuses on the interplay between runestones and early Christian grave monuments, as well as the relationship between stone sculpture and burial customs in eleventh-century central Sweden. I argue that differences within the late Viking Age runestone tradition are closely connected to variations in burial customs. I will furthermore suggest that regional diversity in burial and commemorative practices within this area reflects various levels of Christian organisation.