Category Archives: DENMARK

Rare Ancient Stamps Found in Falster May Show Way to an Unknown King’s Home

Rare Ancient Stamps Found in Falster May Show Way to an Unknown King’s Home

In the center of Falster, southeast of Denmark, a man with a metal detector has made an important discovery. The discovery is so important that it could help write a few chapters for Danish history or at least the local history of Falster.

While Lennart Larsen was out on a rainy day and searching for anything of historical value, he suddenly heard a faint beep in his equipment, and when he checked the ground, he discovered small, interesting objects, unlike anything he had seen before.

A faint beep has indeed revealed a special stamp in the ground – a so-called Patrice – that was used to make gold images, which are believed to be gifted to the gods.

The Museum Lolland-Falster has been informed. The only two-centimeter-long object in Falster’s soil may be a trace of a former royal power on Falster, the museum said.

“This indicates that we are standing in a place that has meant some trade and probably also had some form of cultic activity. And although it’s a bit wild to say, it could also indicate that it was once a center of power on Falster,” museum inspector and archaeologist Marie Brinch from the Lolland-Falster Museum told Tv2 Øst.

This small discovery could be crucial to our comprehension of Lolland and Falster’s history.

She emphasizes that the discovery was made in an area with names dating back to the Viking Age or even earlier and that the marshland was discovered in an area that had been sacrificed to the gods in the century preceding the stamp’s creation.

Archaeologists have before come across several signs of activity from the Iron Age and the Viking Age have been found,  including an enormous shipyard and a large castle from the Viking Age at Falster. However, only a small number of discoveries have been made that can demonstrate where the island’s wealthy elite resided in the years prior to the beginning of the Viking Age. The new find may help to shed light on that.

Researchers have determined the tiny objects are stamps from the era just before the Viking Age. They were created between the years 500 and 700.

According to Margrethe Watt of the National Museum, who collects and researches ancient gold coins and stamps, these are extremely rare. There have only been 28 stamps discovered in the entire Nordic region, including the one from Falster, and it is a very unique stamp. South of the Baltic Sea, no stamps or gold coins have been discovered.

This is what the figure may have looked like. However, whether the drawing behind the person’s head is a tuft of hair can determine whether it is a man or a woman on the stamp.

“The stamps are all very special. We only find them in the most important places of residence – those that we call the central places in the technical language. These are the places that we associate with the greatest magnates or kings. That’s the league we’re in here. And this stamp is at the same time very much for itself in its style,” she says.

“On the stamp from Falster, you can see a person in fine clothes, standing with their hands at a very special angle. The hands are down, and the palms are visible. It is something that we know in both Christian and pre-Christian cultures as either a sign of submission or a revelation. It is also a symbol that we see in many churches today, Watt explains.

Neither the god nor the king were shown as weak or flawed in any way. And you don’t see that on the stamp from Falster either.

Photo: Museum Lolland Falster

“This means that it is either a royal figure who submits to a god – or that it is a god who reveals himself to a human being,” she says.

“It is actually difficult to see if it is a man or a woman who is depicted. You would see that by the fact that there is a tuft of hair on the back of the piston. But it may well appear that there is, she says, and emphasizes that it requires further investigations to determine whether this is the case.

As there may be more finds in the ground at the site, Museum Lolland-Falster does not yet want to publish where the find was made – but states that it was made in central Falster.

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

The Pre-Viking sword was found by metal detectorists in eastern Denmark.

On the large island of Zealand, located in eastern Denmark, two amateur archaeologists fortuitously decided to bring their metal detectors along with them on a stroll through a field one evening.

While on their walk, the metal detector’s alarm sounded, and the pair from the small town of Svebølle, Ernst Christiansen and Lis Therkelsen, made a startling discovery: They dug into the earth, about a foot underground, and uncovered what appeared to be one end of a sword.

Ernst Christiansen and Lis Therkelsen with the 3,000-year-old sword they discovered.

Believing that it might be a discovery of considerable significance, they decided to get ahold of someone with more expertise before extracting the find. So, they reburied it, and the next morning they contacted the Museum Vestsjælland to report the discovery.

A Remarkably Well-Preserved Pre-Viking Sword

The museum’s inspector, Arne Hedegaard Andersen, went out with them the next day, and together they unearthed “an incredibly well-preserved sword,” dating back approximately 3,000 years—to a time that predates the Vikings by about 1,000 years.

Examining the pre-Viking sword.

The weapon is 82 centimeters in length, and although the leather hilt had long since rotted away, still, it was in remarkably good condition, considering its age.

“The sword is so well-preserved that you can clearly see the fine details. And it is even sharp,” stated the museum in a press release. It is also believed that the artifact had remained untouched since the Nordic Bronze Age , between 1,100 to 900 BC.

The sword comes from the Nordic Bronze Age.

Incredibly Rare and Ornamental

Although it is hardly unheard of for people in Scandinavia and northern Europe to uncover ancient relics such as jewelry or coins under the soil, swords such as this one are incredibly rare.

This sword in particular seems to have been more of a status symbol for its owner rather than a weapon.

The intricate bronze work likely required great skill to fashion. Used more commonly in those days were clubs and axes as a means for actual fighting.

The sword is one of many that has been unearthed in the last few years, and the Danish National Museum currently has a backlog of ancient finds still waiting to be properly studied and cataloged. In the meantime, though, this sword will be displayed in Kalundborg Museum, where sightseers may enjoy its splendor, while it waits its turn.

Viking Swords.

Hoard of 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed in Denmark

Hoard of 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed in Denmark

Hoard of 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed in Denmark
The silver coins were found about 5 miles from the Fyrkat Viking ringfort, near the town of Hobro.

Nearly 300 silver coins believed to be more than 1,000 years old have been discovered near a Viking fortress site in north-west Denmark, a museum has said.

The trove – lying in two spots not far apart – was unearthed by a girl who was metal-detecting in a cornfield last autumn.

“A hoard like this is very rare,” Lars Christian Norbach, the director of the North Jutland Museum, where the artefacts will go on display, told Agence France-Presse.

The trove includes Danish, Arab and Germanic coins as well as jewellery from Scotland or Ireland.

The silver coins were found about 5 miles (8km) from the Fyrkat Viking ringfort, near the town of Hobro. From their inscriptions, they are believed to date back to the 980s.

The trove includes Danish, Arab and Germanic coins as well as pieces of jewellery originating from Scotland or Ireland, according to archaeologists.

Norbach said the finds were from the same period as the fort, built by King Harald Bluetooth, and would offer a greater insight into the history of the Vikings.

There could be a link between the treasure – which the Vikings would bury during wars – and the fort, which burned down during the same period, he said.

Archaeologists have said they will continue digging next autumn after the harvest. They hope to find the burial sites and homes of the troves’ one-time owners.

People working at the site.

The most pivotal stories and debates for Europeans – from identity to economics to the environment

The Vikings believed that burying their treasure allowed them to find it again after death.

The artefacts will go on public display in July at the Aalborg Historical Museum. The girl who made the discovery will receive financial compensation, the amount of which has not been made public.

5,000-year-old ‘bog body’ found in Denmark may be a human sacrifice victim

5,000-year-old ‘bog body’ found in Denmark may be a human sacrifice victim

5,000-year-old 'bog body' found in Denmark may be a human sacrifice victim
The archaeologists first found the bones from a human leg, and then a pelvis and a lower jaw with some teeth still attached.

Archaeologists have discovered the ancient skeletal remains of a so-called bog body in Denmark near the remnants of a flint ax and animal bones, clues that suggest this person was ritually sacrificed more than 5,000 years ago. 

Little is known so far about the supposed victim, including the person’s sex and age at the time of death. But the researchers think the body was deliberately placed in the bog during the Neolithic, or New Stone Age.

“That’s the early phase of the Danish Neolithic,” said excavation leader Emil Struve, an archaeologist and curator at the ROMU museums in Roskilde. “We know that traditions of human sacrifices date back that far — we have other examples of it.”

Dozens of so-called bog bodies have been found throughout northwestern Europe — particularly in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, where human sacrifices in bogs seem to have persisted for several thousand years.

“In our area here, we have several different bog bodies,” Struve told Live Science. “It’s an ongoing tradition that goes back all the way to the Neolithic.”

The archaeologists hope that wear on the teeth could indicate the person’s age when they died, and that the teeth themselves may contain ancient DNA.

Ancient bones

The ROMU archaeological team found the latest set of bones in October ahead of the construction of a housing development. The site, which has now been drained, had been a bog near the town of Stenløse, on the large island of Zealand and just northwest of the Danish capital Copenhagen. Danish law requires archaeologists to examine all land that’s to be built on, and the first bones of the Stenløse bog body were found during a test excavation at the site, Struve said. 

The site near Stenløse was originally a bog, but it’s been drained for use as farmland. A housing development is due to be built there next year.

The archaeologists will now fully excavate the site in the spring, when the ground has thawed after winter. But the initial excavations have revealed leg bones, a pelvis and part of a lower jaw with some teeth still attached. The other parts of the body lay outside a protective layer of peat in the bog and were not preserved, he noted.

Several animal bones found near the human remains indicate this was an area of the bog used for rituals.

Struve hopes that the sex of the body can be determined based on the pelvis and that wear on the teeth may indicate the individual’s age. In addition, the teeth could be sources of ancient DNA, which might reveal even more about the person’s identity, he said.

Archaeologists from the ROMU museums supervised the digger making the initial test trench at the site near Stenløse.

Bog bodies

Struve said the flint ax-head found near the body was not polished after it was made and may have never been used, and so it seems likely that this, too, was a deliberate offering.

A flint axe head found next to the human remains seems never to have been used; its in a style that dates to about 3600 B.C.

The oldest bog body in the world, known as Koelbjerg Man, was found in Denmark in the 1940s and may date to 10,000 years ago, while others date to the Iron Age in the region from about 2,500 years ago. One of the most famous and best-preserved bog bodies is Tollund Man, who was found on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula in 1950 and is thought to have been sacrificed in about 400 B.C.

A few of the bog bodies seem to have been accident victims who drowned after they fell in the water, but archaeologists think most were killed deliberately, perhaps as human sacrifices at times of famines or other disasters.

Miranda Aldhouse-Green, a professor emeritus of history, archaeology and religion at Cardiff University in the U.K. and the author of the book “Bog Bodies Uncovered: Solving Europe’s Ancient Mystery” (Thames & Hudson, 2015), said ancient people were likely well aware that bogs could preserve bodies.

“If you put a body in the bog, it would not decay — it would stay between the worlds of the living and the dead,” she told NBC News.

High-status Danish Vikings wore exotic beaver furs

High-status Danish Vikings wore exotic beaver furs

Beaver fur was a symbol of wealth and an important trade item in 10th Century Denmark, according to a study published July 27, 2022, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Luise Ørsted Brandt of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues.

Written sources indicate that fur was a key commodity during the Viking Age, between 800-1050 CE, but fur doesn’t often survive well in the archaeological record, so little direct evidence is available.

Previous reports have used the microscopic anatomy of ancient fur to identify species of origin, but this method is often inexact. All in all, not much is known about the kinds of furs the Vikings preferred.

Map of studied sites (a) and examples of included fur: b) Hvilehøj C4273-97, fragment 1, c) Hvilehøj C4280c, d) Bjerringhøj C143. Graphics: Luise Ørsted Brandt and Charlotte Rimstad.

In this study, Brandt and colleagues analyzed animal remains from six high-status graves from 10th Century Denmark. 

While no ancient DNA was recovered from the samples, perhaps due to treatment processes performed on furs and skins and probably due to preservation conditions, identifiable proteins were recovered by two different analytical techniques. 

Grave furnishings and accessories included skins from domestic animals, while clothing exhibited furs from wild animals, specifically a weasel, a squirrel, and beavers.

These findings support the idea that fur was a symbol of wealth during the Viking Age.

The fact that beavers are not native to Denmark suggests this fur was a luxury item acquired through trade.

Some clothing items included fur from multiple species, demonstrating a knowledge of the varying functions of different animal hides, and may have indicated a desire to show off exclusive furs.

The authors note the biggest limiting factor in this sort of study is the incompleteness of comparative protein databases; as these databases expand, more specific identifications of ancient animal skins and furs will be possible.

The authors add: “In the Viking Age, wearing exotic fur was almost certainly an obvious visual statement of affluence and social status, similar to high-end fashion in today’s world.

This study uses ancient proteins preserved in elite Danish Viking burials to provide direct evidence of beaver fur trade and use.”

DNA analysis reunites Viking relatives in Denmark after 1,000 years

DNA analysis reunites Viking relatives in Denmark after 1,000 years

The 150 bones have been lent to the Danish museum by the Oxfordshire Museum in Britain for three years. Separated for 1,000 years, two Viking warriors from the same family were reunited last week at Denmark’s National Museum, as DNA analysis helps shed light on the Vikings’ movements across Europe.

DNA analysis reunites Viking relatives in Denmark after 1,000 years
Two skeletons of relatives lie in a showcase at the National Museum of Denmark, after one of them was found in a mass grave in Oxford, Britain, and will be reunited in the exhibition ‘Join the Vikings – the raid’ later this month, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

One of the Vikings died in England in his 20s in the 11th century, from injuries to the head. He was buried in a mass grave in Oxford. The other died in Denmark in his 50s, his skeleton bearing traces of blows that suggest he took part in battles.

DNA mapping of skeletons from the Viking era — from the eighth to the 12th century — enabled archaeologists to determine by chance that the two were related.

“This is a big discovery because now you can trace movements across space and time through a family,” museum archaeologist Jeanette Varberg told AFP.

Two of her colleagues spent more than two hours on Wednesday piecing together the skeleton of the man in his 20s, from the remains freshly arrived from Oxford.

Employees from the National Museum of Denmark unpack the skeleton of a man found in a mass grave in Oxford, England, in Copenhagen.

The 150 bones have been lent to the Danish museum by the Oxfordshire Museum in Britain for three years.

The historical consensus is that Danish Vikings invaded Scotland and England in the late eighth century.

The younger of the two men “may have been cut down in a Viking raid, but there is also a theory that they (the skeletons in the mass grave) were victims of a royal decree by English King Ethelred the Second, who commanded in 1002 that all Danes in England should be killed,” Varberg said.

It is very rare to find skeletons that are related, though it is easier to determine the relationships for royals, according to Varberg.

While the two were confirmed to be relatives, it is impossible to determine their exact link. They may have been half-brothers, a grandfather and grandson, or an uncle and nephew.

“It’s very difficult to tell if they lived in the same age or they differ maybe by a generation because you have no material in the grave that can give a precise dating. So you have a margin of 50 years plus or minus,” Varberg said.

Ancient golden neck ring found in Denmark

Ancient golden neck ring found in Denmark

A one-of-a-kind golden neck ring from the Germanic Iron Age (400-550 A.D.) has been discovered in a field not far from Esbjerg on the Jutland Peninsula in mainland Denmark.

Ancient golden neck ring found in Denmark

The ring weighs in at almost half a kilo (446 grams) and is designed with crescent-like depressions. The decoration is so meticulously detailed that the crescent shapes on the two rings are ever so slightly different: the crescents on the outer ring have eight decorative divots inside them, and the crescents on the inner ones have six. The broadest point of the ring measures 21 centimetres in diameter.

The embellishments on the ring are so rare, which makes it a “masterpiece of almost divine quality,” as termed by the South West Jutland Museum.

That kind of decoration is only known from fewer than a dozen similar rings found in Denmark. And this is by far the most elaborate, most finely worked of them. It is the only one with a soldered plate with intricate gold thread decoration.

The experts noted that the ring was deliberately buried and hidden away and that the inhabitant to whom it belonged did not sacrifice the ring to the gods, which was common practice in that era.

“When sacrificing items at that time, it usually took place in wetlands and bogs and the like. We know a large wetland existed near the discovery site, so if it was sacrificed to the gods, it would have been located out there instead”, Claus Feveile, curator at the Ribe Viking Museum, said in a statement.

The golden neck ring was discovered by metal detectorist Dan Christensen in October 2021.  Christensen when he found the neck ring, immediately alerted museum staff.

In the week following the discovery, the entire field was scanned with metal detectors in case the ring had been part of a larger grouping of precious objects scattered by agricultural activity. (Previous examples of neck rings from this period have been found in pairs.) Nothing turned up.

Subsequent full excavation of the find site revealed evidence of a settlement under a thin layer of plow soil, including roof-bearing post holes from multiple three-nave longhouses dating to between 300 and 600 A.D. The neck ring was found inside one of the longhouses.

It was recovered from below the plow layer, so archaeologists believe it was buried where it was found.

Archaeologists don’t think it has been moved since, as the golden neck ring is in mint condition and has maintained its shape.

Initially, the neck ring will be exhibited at Museet Ribes Vikinger up until December 23.

Bone Analysis Offers a Glimpse of 19th-Century Working Mothers

Bone Analysis Offers a Glimpse of 19th-Century Working Mothers

A 19th-century rural Dutch village had unusually low rates of breastfeeding, likely because mothers were busy working, according to a study published April 13, 2022, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Andrea L. Waters-Rist of the University of Western Ontario and colleagues.

Artificial feeding of infants, as opposed to breastfeeding, is considered a fairly modern practice, much rarer before the advent of commercially available alternatives to breast milk.

However, studies of past populations in Europe have found that breastfeeding practices can vary significantly with a regional cultural variation. In this study, researchers examine a 19th-century dairy farming rural village in the Netherlands to explore factors linked to lower rates of breastfeeding.

Bone Analysis Offers a Glimpse of 19th-Century Working Mothers
(Frederick Bloemaert (printmaker), Abraham Bloemaert (designer), Nicolaes Visscher (publisher)/Rijks Museum

Breastfeeding leaves its mark in the bones of infants in the form of altered ratios of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes. In this study, researchers tested isotopic signatures in the remains of 277 individuals, including nearly 90 infants and children, from Beemster, North-Holland.

They found little to no evidence of breastfeeding, surprising given that this community exhibit features commonly associated with breastfeeding communities of the time, such as a Protestant population of moderate socioeconomic status, and mothers commonly working in or near the home.

Since other evidence indicates that mothers in 19th century Beemster were commonly working as dairy farmers, the researchers suspect that a high workload and a ready supply of cow’s milk as an alternative infant food source were important factors contributing to these low rates of breastfeeding.

At a few urban archaeological sites, mothers who worked long factory shifts have been found to have low rates of breastfeeding, but a similar phenomenon has not been found in a rural population until now.

Future studies on more sites will help elucidate how regional cultural practices impacted rates of breastfeeding over time, and in turn, how these factors have impacted infant health over recent centuries.

The authors add: “Artificial feeding of infants is not just a recent phenomenon.

Female dairy farmers from 19th century Netherlands chose to not breastfeed, or to wean their infants at a young age, because of the availability of fresh cow’s milk and high demands on female labour.”