Category Archives: DENMARK

Archaeologists discover giant defensive minefield from the roman iron age

Archaeologists discover giant defensive minefield from the roman iron age

Archaeologists have unearthed a massive structure in Lolland that is believed to have been used to ward off an attacking army back in the Roman Iron Age.  So far, 770 meters of the structure have been detected.

In 2013 a team of archaeologists from the Museum Lolland-Falster in Denmark discovered a vast ancient “hole belt”: a defense land work featuring over 1000 long lines and rows of small holes dug into the ground.

According to archaeologist and Museum Inspector, Bjørnar Mage, talking to TV2 EAST , this hole belt was designed to slow down hostile advancing armies from the south coast of Lolland and it was built during the reign of the Roman Empire in Europe, and while 770 meters of the belt have been measured, museum staff estimate it may be up to twice as big.

The hole belt is thought to have been located about a kilometer from the coast between two impassable wetlands meaning attacking enemies advancing into Lolland, would have been seriously hampered, says Bjørnar Måge.

Since 2013, two smaller excavations have studied the hole belt but this recent excavation was the first to illustrate how large this ancient military feature actually was, and revealed that it had built at one time in a major constriction project.

The massive structure may have stretched 1.5 km across Lolland.

Tomb of the Pagan Prince

The hole belt might have been built in the days leading up to a major battle , but maybe it was a reaction to a concrete threat where you “wanted to make sure you had time to defend yourself against an advancing enemy,” says Bjørnar Mage in a Nyheder article. And this apparent immediacy in the building of the structure is supported in the fact no evidence has been discovered that the belt was ever maintained after its construction and it appears that it had been left to lapse.

So far, three-hole belts have been found to the east of the main belt, but a number have been found in Jutland. However, this belt is much wider than any of the Jutland examples.

Bjørnar Måge believes the building of the hole belt required “considerable strength and hinterland” and that it was beyond the abilities of the average local farmer, leading him to suspect that “a local warlord or prince” was behind the construction.” He said it takes “time and a lot of manpower” to build such a large defense force and this is only something that would make sense if there was a “major man behind it.”

Perhaps lending weight to this line of thinking, not far from the hole belt in the town of Hoby near Dannemare, archaeologists discovered a stone built tomb dating from the Roman Iron Age but the researchers have not yet been able to associate the two sites yet.

Hundreds of markers map out the elements of the hole belt.

Imagine For A Second, The Horror Of Being Trapped In A Hole Belt

The coasts of Denmark during the late Iron Age were invaded by armies from Norway and Eastern Europe but no historical records exist pertaining to military activities in the north of the country, but the belt indicates a major battle was prepared for.

Putting ancient hole belts in context, Bjørnar Måge compares them with “modern minefields” designed specifically to delay advancing enemy forces. According to writers J.E. and H.W. Kaufmann’s 2018 Classical to Medieval Fortifications in the Lands of the Western Roman Empire, “Caesar’s Lilies”, were Roman-built ditches about 1 meter (3.3ft) deep containing sharpened wooden spikes and Bjørnar Måge, said Viet Cong soldiers used “ Caesar’s lilies” against American soldiers as recently as the Vietnam War.

Example of Roman Lilia at Rough Castle, Antonine Wall.

The archaeologists in Denmark believe the hole belt was designed to delay advancing armies so that the native army could get into the most tactically suitable positions, from where they could “shoot the attackers with arrows from towers” arranged behind the hollow belt.

But at this time no archaeological remains of such towers have been found, says Bjørnar Mage, however, towers were not needed to seriously hamper an advancing Roman army, for example:

Imagine you are on the front line of a Roman army. You’ve just spent eight months advancing into Denmark, sleepless and weary having defended your camp from native guerrilla attacks every night. Your sword is blunted chopping the skeletons of Denmark’s indigenous peoples and you are standing amidst your 6000 brothers in arms when you are deafened with the war cry “We Are Legion” as your field commander signals you to advance into the hole belt.

Tip-toeing around thousands of wooden spikes and deep pits your advance is slow, but you are almost at the other side and stop to take a breath, and to prepare your psychology for another mass-slaughter.

But then, your accumulated worst fears arrive in one nightmarish moment as the Danish infantry begin to thin, making way for their special forces who ride forward through the morning mist: 200 mounted cavalries armed with bows who fringe the hole belt.

Realizing their destiny, panic spreads among your men and most are reduced to whimpering as the sky quickly darkens with thousands of heavy oak, iron-tipped arrows, and for the last time your thoughts turn to your family and the swaying wheat fields from whence you came, and to where you will now return, courtesy of the hole belt.

Unfortunately, due to its environmental circumstances, the Lolland hole belt is rapidly disappearing and Bjørnar Mage said that if the site had been left for as little as five more years “there would probably be nothing left” and he says only the bottom five centimeters of the belt have been preserved in many areas of the structure.

Borgring: 1000-year-old Viking fortress uncovered in Denmark

Borgring: 1000-year-old Viking fortress uncovered in Denmark

In Borgring, Denmark, archaeologists have uncovered a nearly circular Danish ring fortress, dating from 975-980.

It is believed that the fortress was built during the reign of Harald Bluetooth – the Danish king, who also was credited with the country’s first unification.

In Denmark the Borgring Fortress was first discovered since 1953, and experts believe that there are many more to be identified around the country.

Archaeologists have discovered a Danish ring fortress in Borgring, Denmark, that dates back to AD 975-980 (ringed in red)

Researchers from Aarhus University discovered the fort using LiDAR technology, which revealed the tell-tale geometric outline of a ring fortress.

They then worked with experts from the University of York to use geophysics and radiocarbon dating of excavated timbers from a gateway to confirm the remarkable early medieval find.

Dr Helen Goodchild, who led the study, said: ‘After the LiDAR discovery, I was brought in to try and confirm that the site was indeed a ring fortress.

‘We’d had success at another Trelleborg site – Aggersborg – in the north of Jutland using fluxgate gradiometry, and so we hoped to get similar results here.

‘After trudging a distance of a marathon in grid formation collecting the data, I was delighted to see that the ramparts and even what looked to be some of the large structural timbers were showing in the results.’

The excavations confirmed the outline of the fortress, as mapped by the gradiometer survey.  The front of the rampart (mound) was marked by a continuous line of postholes from a vertical cladding of sturdy, approximately 0.4–0.45 meter-wide timbers, forming a perfect circle with an outer diameter of 144 meters. 

Archaeologists uncovered the fifth known Viking Age ring fortress in Denmark, which would have looked similar to this Swedish fortress reconstruction.

A few traces of timber constructions were also discovered by the researchers.  At the outer face of the rampart, the team discovered the remains of an 70mm-thick charred plank, set about 0.4 metres into the soil and leaning at a slight angle. 

At the opposite end of the section they found thin, horizontal traces of six planks, laid side by side along the inner face of the rampart, covering an area of around 0.9 metres. 

Trelleborg-type fortresses were constructed in AD 975–980 by the famed Viking king Harald Bluetooth.

The fortresses represent a huge investment of resources and manpower and are considered to demonstrate Harald’s immense powers of organization and control, as well as a strategic vision to defend his Danish kingdom.

Reconstruction of a Viking ring fortress.

Ring fortresses are circular, and can measure up to 250 metres in diameter. They are thought to have been made in an attempt to build a defensive network similar to that introduced by the Anglo Saxons, who created fortified centres at semi-regular (approximately 30km) intervals from the ninth century AD.

The researchers now hope to use LiDAR technology to analyze other areas around Denmark and believe that there are more of these ring fortresses awaiting discovery. 

Ring fortresses are circular and can measure up to 250 meters in diameter. They are thought to have been made in an attempt to build a defensive network similar to that introduced by the Anglo Saxons. Pictured is a ring fortress discovered on the Danish island of Zealand
The remains of the ring fortress were discovered in Borgring, which is just south of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen

In their paper, published in Antiquity, the researchers wrote: ‘The site offers the first chance in many years to investigate one of the most distinctive monument types of the Viking Age.

‘Such investigations may provide the most exciting new lines of evidence, and sustain a revised view of the Viking Age Trelleborg-type fortresses. 

‘Rather than static architectural and military monuments, we should instead see them as dynamic moments in the high-stakes power games of the early Middle Ages.’

Well-Preserved 3,000-Year-Old Pre-Viking Sword Unearthed in Denmark is Still Sharp

Well-Preserved 3,000-Year-Old Pre-Viking Sword Unearthed in Denmark is Still Sharp

Two locals from Zealand, Denmark’s largest island, decided to walk around the field in the remote west city of Svebolle in the evening.

The decision was fortuitous to take their metal detector with them because it would allow them to uncover a major find

The two amateur archeologists began digging after the device alerted Ernst Christiansen and Lis Therkelsen to something beneath the ground.

Around 30 cm down, they spotted what looked like the tip of a spear. Christiansen and Therkelsen contacted Museum Vestsjælland — a group of 11 local museums that cover the archaeological excavation and conservation of regions in the area — who revealed that the discovery was a 3,000-year-old sword from the Nordic Bronze age. 

It was also a testament to the craftsmanship of the people in Scandinavia at the time.

The visible decorations on the hilt of the sword.

“The sword is so well-preserved that you can clearly see the fine details. And it is even sharp,” the museum wrote in a press release.

Museum inspector Arne Hedegaard Andersen, who joined Christiansen and Therkelsen on the day following the discovery, reaffirmed how incredibly maintained the sword was.

Museum inspector Arne Hedegaard Andersen holds the discovery.

The Nordic Bronze Age, circa 1700-500 BC, was sandwiched between the Nordic Stone Age and the pre-Roman Iron Age. During this time period, bronze imported from Central Europe replaced previously popular materials like flint and stone.

The impressively preserved bronze sword, which predates the Vikings by around 1,000 years, remained untouched since the Bronze Age. About 32 inches long and still fairly sharp, the museum believes that it dates to phase IV of the Bronze Age, or between 1100 and 900 BC.

Though the leather that made up the sword’s grip had long rotted, the pommel and hilt show intricate bronze work, clearly decorated by skilled workers.

The details suggest that it was an expensive piece of weaponry, likely used to indicate status rather than in actual battle. Additionally, warriors during this time tended to use clubs, spears, or axes for fighting purposes.

Though the Scandinavian people joined the Bronze age through trade relatively late compared to other European nations, the local workmanship was of a higher standard. So although the religion, ethnicity, and language characteristics of the people during this time period are largely unknown, they left behind a rich archaeological legacy.

Ernst Christiansen and Lise Therkildsen with the Bronze Age sword.

One of the main ways we know about life in Scandinavia during the Bronze Age is through rock carvings called petroglyphs, which depict images of daily life, great events, and supernatural beliefs of the time.

There have been several exciting archaeological discoveries in Denmark in recent years.

In June 2016, team of three archaeologists who call themselves Team Rainbow Power uncovered the largest-ever find of Viking gold.

In October 2016, the discovery of a 5,000-year-old stone map shed light on ancient farming and topography. And in 2015, a trove of 2,000 mysterious-looking gold spirals also from the Bronze Age was discovered on Zealand

Bronze Age Fashion – The “Egtved Girl” Showed Remarkably Modern Taste

Bronze Age Fashion – The “Egtved Girl” Showed Remarkably Modern Taste

The well-preserved Egtved Girl was one of the most well-known burials of the Danish Bronze Age found in 1921. Her woolen clothing, hair, and nails were perfectly preserved, but all her bones were missing.

Scientists who studied the remains of the ancient teenager and discovered surprisingly that the girl of Egtved was not from Denmark and had traveled great distances before her death.

A study published in the journal Nature details the results of modern tests done by scientists. Strontium isotope analysis on Egtved Girl’s molar, hair, and fingernails, combined with examination of her distinctive woolen clothing, have revealed she was born and raised hundreds of miles from her burial site in Egtved, in modern Denmark. Findings show she likely came from The Black Forest of southwest Germany, and she traveled between the two locations via ship frequently in the last two years of her life.

According to LiveScience, the Egtved Girl’s oak coffin was uncovered in 1921 from a Bronze Age archaeological site near Egtved, Denmark. The grave was found within a burial mound of dense peat bog and has been dated to 1370 BC.  

Inside the coffin, the 16 to the 18-year-old girl was buried. She is believed to have been of high status. The teenager had been laid on an ox hide and covered by a rough woolen blanket.

The clothing is worn by the Bronze Age teenager, Egtved Girl.

The contours of where her dead body had lain are still visible, pressed into the ox hide beneath her. She was of slim build, with mid-length blonde hair, and her clothing—a short string skirt and small, midriff-baring, sleeved top—caused a sensation when revealed in the 20s. Around her waist, she had worn a large, spiked bronze disc decorated with spirals. Even now people recreate the stylish Bronze Age fashion.

Other grave goods included bronze pins, a sewing awl, and a hair net. Local flowers decorated the top of the coffin (indicating a summertime burial), as did a small bucket of beer made of honey, wheat, and cowberries.

The Egtved Girl’s coffin during excavations in 1921.

Another body was found with Egtved Girl in her coffin. Ashes and bones comprised the cremated remains of a small child recovered near Egtved Girl’s head. The identity of the child, who was about five or six years old when he or she died, is not known. No DNA could be recovered from either set of remains, so their relationship is a mystery.

Scientists found that the soil composition of the grave worked as a microclimate, preserving some items and destroying others. Rainwater seeped into the hollowed-out, oak-trunk coffin, but it was starved of oxygen. These conditions decayed the bones completely away but left behind excellently-preserved fingernails, hair, scalp, a small part of her brain, and clothing.

Senior researcher Karin Margarita Frei, from the National Museum of Denmark and Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen analyzed the Bronze Age girls’ remains, according to Science Daily.

Hair and clothing found in the coffin of the Egtved Girl.

Analysis of the high-status teenager’s remains, as well as the cremated bones of the young child, showed that the pair had spent much of their lives in a distant land, thought to be Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) in Germany.

“If we consider the last two years of the girl’s life, we can see that, 13 to 15 months before her death, she stayed in a place with a strontium isotope signature very similar to the one that characterizes the area where she was born. Then she moved to an area that may well have been Jutland.

After a period of c. 9 to 10 months there, she went back to the region she originally came from and stayed there for four to six months before she traveled to her final resting place, Egtved. Neither her hair nor her thumb nail contains strontium isotopic signatures which indicates that she returned to Scandinavia until very shortly before she died.

As an area’s strontium isotopic signature is only detectable in human hair and nails after a month, she must have come to ‘Denmark’ and ‘Egtved’ about a month before she passed away,” Karin Margarita Frei told Science Daily.

The exceptionally-preserved hair of the Egtved Girl. Her burial dates to 1370 BC.

This movement makes sense to researchers. Kristian Kristiansen of the University of Gothenburg told Science Daily, “In Bronze Age Western Europe, Southern Germany and Denmark were the two dominant centers of power, very similar to kingdoms. We find many direct connections between the two in the archaeological evidence, and my guess is that the Egtved Girl was a Southern German girl who was given in marriage to a man in Jutland so as to forge an alliance between two powerful families.”

The bronze belt disc found on Egtved Girl may have come to the area via the busy trade routes of the day.  The spiral decorations are said to be related to a Nordic solar cult, and the bronze is thought to have originated somewhere in the Alps. Further, the wool that made up her clothing came from sheep outside of Denmark. The ‘fashionable’ Egtved Girl and her mysterious tiny companion have captivated people since their discovery in 1921. Modern research brings the life and death of the prehistoric girl to light in amazing detail and gives us a better understanding of early European people.

But she is not the only teenage girl found in Denmark that has created a stir in the last few years. In 2017, it was announced that another famous Bronze Age burial of a teenage girl, this time found in Jutland, Denmark was also a traveler from faraway lands. Strontium analysis of the 16- to 18-year-old Skrydstrup woman suggests she originally came from Germany, the Czech Republic, France, or Sweden.

As archaeologist Karin Frei of the National Museum of Denmark told ScienceNordic, “We can’t say with 100 percent certainty where she [the Skrydstrup woman] came from, and we may never be able to, but she definitely wasn’t Danish. It gives us so many new perspectives. Now we know that Egtved Girl was not an isolated case.” These studies show that early European mobility was more dynamic than previously believed; Bronze Age people were trading and traveling long distances, quickly.