Posts Tagged ‘Denmark’



Merovingian wine jug found in Denmark cemetery.

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Image From Nordjyllands Historiske Museum

Topic: Iron Age village
During evaluation of land prior to the construction of a new hospital in Aalborg, Northern Denmark, archaeologists uncovered an Iron Age village dating back around 2000 years. The settlement differs from other sites of this period because of its well preserved condition, including a number of houses complete with fireplaces, chalk floors and cobbled paving.

The village covers an area of ​​approximately 4 ha., and excavation has so far located about 40 houses. However, this number is expected to increase greatly during full excavation, but initial reports show they are not all contemporary, and represent repeated reconstruction and rebuild over hundreds of years.

Usually, only traces of the postholes are left to understand the layout of a house, but the village had been covered over with a thick layer of soil, that had protected it after abandonment. Several of the houses had floors created out of chalk for the living area, while other parts of the buildings appeared to be used as stabling for animals. Preliminary studies show bones found were mainly from the butchering of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, but the inhabitants supplemented their diet with fish from the nearby fjord.

In addition to discovering the core of the settlement, archaeologists also found traces of the quarry pits south of the village, where chalk was excavated for the house floors. Traces of cultivation was also noted in the form of ard marks (plough) and this could shed light on aspects of the village economy and agricultural production.

Early example of a cat

A surprise discovery was the skeletal remains of a cat – which has caused some excitement – as this domestic variety was first introduced to Denmark from the Roman Empire during the Iron Age – making this a very early example. Previously, the earliest known domestic cat came from a cremation grave in Kastrup, Jutland dating to c. AD 200.

The osteological finds have supplied a potential area of further work as the team uncovered a greater than expected quantity of horse bones. Horses were usually seen as a sign of wealth during this period, and the number of remains opens up questions concerning status.

Larger cultural landscape

The village forms part of a larger cultural landscape in southeastern Aalborg around the village of Sonder Tranders where there is evidence of many other settlements and burial sites.
The area at South Tranders is also rich in metal finds from the Viking and Middle Ages that have been discovered by detectorists.

The results of this investigation can now be combined to further develop understanding of the Iron Age from a south Scandinavian perspective.

The archaeologists from the North Jutland Historical Museum have so far evaluated 58 ha., of which 54 ha. has already been released to the construction of the hospital. They are currently waiting to see how large an area of ​​the village will be affected before deciding how much more work can be undertaken.

Source: Nordjyllands Historiske Museum

Original article:
past horizons
Jan 17, 2014

A large quantity of Iron Age pottery was recovered along with the animal remains. Image: © Nordjyllands Historiske Museum

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Topic: Preparing hunted game

Big-game hunts about 12,000 years ago involved feasting on a meaty morsel popular with today’s gourmets, followed by chopping, hauling, bone tossing, jewelry making and boasting.

All of these activities are suggested by remains found at a prehistoric Danish butchering site, called Lundy Mose, which is described in a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Bone fragments belonging to wild boar, red deer and aurochs were unearthed. But the hunters clearly had a taste for elk meat, since elk remains were prevalent at the site, located in South Zealand, Denmark.

“Due to very good conditions of bone preservation, Lundby Mose offers exceptional opportunities for detailed reconstruction of exploitation patterns, and allows a very precise picture of the different activities involved in elk exploitation,” archaeologist Charlotte Leduc of the University of Paris wrote.

Her detailed analysis of the remains determined that the hunters first cut around the elk heads and other parts of the body in order to remove the hides. At least one of the hides then likely became a perishable container, comparable to a garbage bag, upon which refuse was placed and later bundled.

The hunters then removed meat from easy-to-access parts, such as the limbs, and likely feasted on it right then and there. No roasting pit or evidence for fire is mentioned, so it might have been consumed raw.

All skeletal parts containing marrow — now a delicacy in many fine restaurants — were fractured to enable its extraction.

Wietske Prummel of the University of Groningen, who analyzed another prehistoric Northern European butchering site, told Discovery News that marrow was usually “consumed by hunters immediately after butchering. It was their reward for the successful kill.”

The hunters skillfully cut around the body, trimming fat and boning meat for later easy consumption. Leduc thinks much of the meat could have been transported to a nearby settlement site.

Before that happened, however, the hunters removed select bones, such as from the long limbs, likely for making bone weapons and tools. They also removed the antlers.

The elk’s shoulder blade bones were taken out and afterwards, back at the settlement, “were sometimes worked and used presumably as knives for fish processing,” Leduc suspects.

As the hunters worked, they appear to have dumped waste material onto the reserved hide. It was later tossed into a nearby lake.

The front teeth of the elks were missing, suggesting “a specific status of front teeth for the hunters,” according to Leduc. Other prehistoric hunt scenes support this theory, as do discoveries of prehistoric tooth bling.

This series of events likely played out countless times, even long before 12,000 years ago.

“Modern humans hunted and butchered large game and cooked the meat from circa 45,000 years ago when they arrived in Europe,” Marcel Niekus of the University of Groningen, told Discovery News.

The practices probably even went back to Neanderthal times, but not necessarily to the benefit of these now-extinct members of the human family tree.

A prior study in the Journal of Anthropological Science, authored by Fernando Rozzi of France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), suggests that around 30,000 years ago, a person in France might have consumed a Neanderthal child and made a necklace out of its teeth.

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Beowulf and Grendel

Topic: Royal feasting hall

Archaeologists in Denmark have excavated the sixth-century great dining hall at the centre of the epic work

The dark secrets of the legend of Beowulf, England’s oldest work of epic literature, are gradually emerging from under a field in eastern Denmark.

Archaeologists in the country’s earliest royal ‘capital’ – Lejre, 23 miles west of modern Copenhagen – are investigating the joys of elite Dark Age life in and around what was probably the great royal feasting hall at the violent epicentre of the Beowulf story.

The archaeologists – led by Tom Christensen, director of the Lejre investigation – have so far managed not only to find, excavate and date the late 5 or early 6 century building most likely to have been Lejre’s first royal hall (described in Beowulf as `the greatest hall under heaven’), but have also succeeded in reconstructing what was on the menu at the great feasts held there.

Scientific study this year of the bones of literally hundreds of animals found near the hall, shows that they feasted on suckling pig, beef, mutton, goat meat, venison, goose, duck, chicken and fish.

Other finds from around the hall have included fragments of glass drinking vessels, 40 pieces of bronze, gold and silver jewellery, pottery imported from England and the Rhineland – and the wing of a sea-eagle, whose feathers may well have been used for fletching arrows. Twenty other gold items were found just a few hundred metres away.

The discoveries, reported in the current issue of BBC History Magazine, are of international importance.

“For the first time, archaeology has given us a glimpse of life in the key royal Danish site associated with the Beowulf legend’’, said project director Dr. Christensen, curator of Denmark’s Roskilde Museum, four miles from Lejre.

The Danes plan to put the finds on permanent display next year at Roskilde and Lejre Museums.

In the Beowulf legend – which is believed to have influenced some aspects of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and was turned into a 150 million dollar Hollywood film six years ago – a young nobleman from southern Sweden goes to neighbouring Denmark to save its ruling elite from the depredations of a monstrous man-eating giant called Grendel. The monster had entered the Danish king’s great feasting hall at Lejre, while the king and his warriors had been sleeping off an evening of feasting and drinking, and had succeeded in devouring a number of them.

On meeting the king, Beowulf offers to rid the land of the monster. The king accepts – and Beowulf waits alone in the great hall for the giant to attack again. In the epic battle between the two that then ensues, the giant is defeated and retreats to a cave beneath a nearby lake where he is finally killed by Beowulf.

As well as investigating the hall most likely to have been the one associated with the Beowulf legend, the archaeologists have found, excavated and dated six other royal feasting halls in Lejre.

They have discovered that the early Danish monarchy used each hall for only a few generations, before dismantling them and building a new one – usually on or very near the same site as its predecessor. Detailed examination of the buried remains of successive feasting halls has shown that they were used between around 500 and 1000 AD. All were roughly on the same site – except for the one associated with the Beowulf legend which was 500 metres to the north.

It may be that the change in location was somehow connected with events described in the legend, part of which actually states that the early royal hall, was in fact abandoned – because of the depredations of Grendel. Whether Grendel (meaning quite literarily ‘the destroyer’) originally existed in some less legendary form – perhaps symbolizing a malevolent spirit responsible for disease and death, or a particularly fierce-looking human enemy – is as yet unknown.

The quasi-legendary high status individual that Beowulf is based on probably lived in the 6 century AD. The story of his exploits was most likely brought to England by Scandinavian (potentially southern Sweden originating) settlers in the 6 or early 7 century AD. The poem was then written by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, probably sometime in the 7th or 8 centuries.

A tiny, silver and gold-covered bronze box in the form of a pendant, decorated with dragon-like motifs, from Lejre, dating from the sixth century, the era associated with the ‘Beowulf’ legend2 / 3

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By David Keys August 26, 2013

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Topic: Outhouse gives up information to archaeologists

The find comes as archaeologists are busy excavating many areas around the city in advance of construction of a new Metro line. Here, archaeologists dig at the site of the original Vesterport gate (Photo: Musem of Copenhagen)

Ancient loo reveals 18th-century Copenhagener’s eating habits

Two 300-year-old latrines unearthed from beneath Kultorvet Square are offering up answers about how everyday Copenhageners traded, ate and suffered in the 18th-century. And those answers are accompanied by some still powerful odours.

”Well, it smells like rotten eggs,” archaeologist and excavation expert Hoda El-Sharnouby told Politiken newspaper.

El-Sharnouby’s team made the stinky but stunning find which includes two outhouses filled with nearly 300-year-old faeces.

The privies and their contents are remarkably well-preserved, thanks to the low oxygen content in the city’s soil.

“That smell is such good news for us archaeologists, because that’s how we know that the contents are well-preserved and have not been eaten up by bacteria,” El-Sharnouby added.

With all the digging going on around Copenhagen these days as part of the Metro Cityring subway project ancient faecal finds have turned up in a few spots, but the thing that makes the Kultorvet faeces so special is that it is packed with well-preserved clues.

“There is an insane quantity – it’s going to take me months to look through it all and analyse all the contents thoroughly. But I can already see that they ate seasonal things, raspberries or blackberries, and apples. Somebody ate an apple core and it came right out the other end,” archaeobotanist Mette Marie Hald, who is in charge of analysing the plant content of the Kultorvet faeces, said.

“They ate cherries, figs and flax seeds. I have also found seeds from weeds that grow in rye fields, so they were definitely eating rye bread or rye porridge,” she added. ”We only expected to find barley porridge and local farmstead food, but we have found a whole range of plants which could possibly tell us something about trade contacts in the past.”

Less appetisingly, Hald has found evidence of intestinal worms and mites in our forefathers’ faeces.

The find may also provide new understanding about the lifestyles of the lower social classes in Copenhagen in the 1700s, because the Kultorvet toilets were apparently public facilities, accessible to all.

“It’s as close to the person, the body and everyday life as you can come,” Hald added.

The privies were used for the last time just before the great fire of 20-23 October 1728, when large parts of Copenhagen burned to the ground.

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