Category Archives: DENMARK

Missing for 400 years: Archaeologists discover missing 17th-century warship

Missing for 400 years: Archaeologists discover missing 17th-century warship

The Copenhagen Post reports that the wreckage of the Delmenhorst, one of the first ships constructed from drawings, was found some 500 feet off the coast of Denmark during offshore construction work.

The warship, konow almost completely buried in the seabed, was grounded in 1644 during the Battle of Fehmarn, fought between the Danes and a Swedish and Dutch fleet as part of a brief conflict called the Torstenson War.

It is the last Danish sunken ship missing from the fateful battle, which turned out to be the final battle of the King Christian IV era – he lost his right eye in battle four months earlier.

Realising that the battle had been lost, the ‘Delmenhorst’ was intentionally grounded near Rødbyhavn in the final hours of the battle to a joint Swedish/Dutch fleet because the Danes hoped to defend it using a massive cannon in the harbour town.

However, the crafty Swedes sacrificed one of their own ships by setting it ablaze and sailing it into the ‘Delmenhorst’, which consequently caught fire and sank.

The Delmenhorst will remain on the seafloor for now

End of Danish power

The battle was waged as part of the Torstenson War, which signalled the end of Denmark’s time as a European power. After the loss, Sweden replaced Denmark as the leading power in the Nordic region. 

The Delmenhorst, located about 150 metres off the Danish shore, is unique because it is one of the first ships constructed from drawings. 

The wreck was discovered as part of the work on the Fehmarn Bridge connecting Denmark and Germany.

Because the wreck is almost completely buried in the seabed, archaeologists will leave it in the hope that experts will have the technology to glean information from it in the future.

A well-preserved 400-year old ship has been found in the Baltic Sea

A well-preserved 400-year old ship has been found in the Baltic Sea

Although the company reported wrecks of some so-called 1st or 2nd World War wrecks at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland, Badewanne divers descended on one of the biggest surprises during their long career of diving the wrecks of this eastern extension of the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea has been an exceedingly important trading itinerary since the Middle Ages, as the navies of Holland and England needed endless supplies of wood, tar, and hemp, all of which were available around the Baltic.

The Hanseatic League dominated the trade from the 13th century but the highly powerful merchant fleet of the Dutch Republic acquired dominance of the trade during the 17th century.

A well-preserved 400-year old ship has been found in the Baltic Sea
Port side hull view of the stern of the wreck. Decorated stern cabin window holes are visible.

This trade received a significant boost in importance and profitability after Czar Peter the Great founded his new capital St. Petersburg at the estuary of Neva river, in the easternmost part of GoF.

One ship type rises above others and becomes the mainstay of this trade: the Dutch “Fluit” ship, a three-masted ship with very capacious hull design, carrying no guns, and allowing a very large cargo capacity.

In addition, the Fluit ships utilized a very novel and advanced rigging using cleverly designed pulley and tackle systems for hoisting the yards and sails and controlling them.

These advanced technical features facilitated a much smaller crew than earlier ship types, making the trade more profitable. Another totally novel feature onboard the Fluit ships were that the entire crew lived “abaft of the mainmast” – Master, mates, bosun, cook, and all ratings, all occupied the same space ‘tween decks and ate at the same table.

This was very unusual in contemporary society, let alone in the highly hierarchic maritime world. Fluit ships were dominant in the Baltic trade between the late 16th to the mid-18th centuries. However, very few of these once common ships have survived, even as wrecks.

Therefore, it was to our great surprise when descending on a wreck at 85 meters depth, expecting to see an early WW1 minesweeper or a schooner sunk during WW2, we realized that we are looking at an almost completely preserved Dutch Fluit ship! She rests on even keel on the seabed, with most of her rigging scattered around her.

There is only slight damage from a pelagic trawl. The trawl seems to have swept her from a bow towards the aft, dislocating the stem, damaging the poop deck, and the topmost part of the typical Fluit transom somewhat.

Apart from these damages, the wreck is intact, holds are full, and all side planking is firmly in place. Even the damaged parts and components of the transom decorations, such as the “Hoekmen”, or the “Strongmen” may be found on the bottom behind the stern. Luckily, only very small bits of the trawl netting remain on the wreck.

Anchor windlass in the bow, viewed from the starboard side.

It is only in rare places around the world, including the Baltic Sea, where wooden wrecks can survive for centuries without being destroyed by chemical, biochemical and biological decaying processes.

Due to low salinity, absolute darkness, and very low temperatures all year round these processes are very slow in the Baltic. Perhaps most importantly, wood-boring organisms such as shipworm cannot live in such an environment. Even in temperate seas, all wooden wrecks vanish in decades, unless buried in sediments.

This find, a practically intact and complete Dutch Fluit ship, the Queen of the Baltic trade from almost 400 years back, is a good example of the importance of the Baltic Sea, and especially the Gulf of Finland as a special cellar of the sea.

Only here the environment preserves the wrecks, which are plentiful due to the sea being a very important trade route and battleground for many wars during centuries.

And all of these wrecks are within the range of modern technical diving methods! Badewanne team will continue documenting and investigating this significant wreck in co-operation with the Finnish Heritage Agency of Antiquities and other partners, Including Associate Professor Dr. Niklas Eriksson, Maritime Archaeologist, Univ. of Stockholm, Sweden:

“The wreck reveals many of the characteristics of the fluit but also some unique features, not least the construction of the stern. It might be that this is an early example of the design.  The wreck thus offers a unique opportunity to investigate the development of a ship type that sailed all over the world and became the tool that laid the foundation for early modern globalization,” says Dr. Eriksson.

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.

Stone Age “chewing gum” yields 5,700-year-old human genome and oral microbiome

Stone Age “chewing gum” yields 5,700-year-old human genome and oral microbiome

Experts of the University of Copenhagen have been able to extract a complete human genome from a “chewing gum” which is thousands of years old. It’s a new untapped source of ancient DNA, according to the researchers

Archaeologists found a “chewing gum” type of birch pitch, which was 5700 years old during excavations on Lolland. In a new study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen succeeded in extracting a complete ancient human genome from the pitch.

This is the first time that an entire ancient human genome was extracted from anything other than human bones. The new research results have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The Associate Professor Hannes Schroeder of the Globe Institute of Copenhagen University who led the research says, “It is amazing to have a  complete ancient of the human genome from anything other than bone.”

‘What is more, we also retrieved DNA from oral microbes and several important human pathogens, which makes this a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains,’ Hannes Schroeder adds.

Piece of birch pitch from Syltholm, southern Denmark

Based on the ancient human genome, the researchers could tell that the birch pitch was chewed by a female. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time. They also found that she probably had dark skin, dark hair, and blue eyes.

Artistic reconstruction of ‘Lola, based on the information from the DNA found in the birch tar.

The birch pitch was found during archaeological excavations at Syltholm, east of Rødbyhavn in southern Denmark. The excavations are being carried out by the Museum Lolland-Falster in connection with the construction of the Fehmarn tunnel.

‘Syltholm is completely unique. Almost everything is sealed in mud, which means that the preservation of organic remains is absolutely phenomenal,’ says Theis Jensen, Postdoc at the Globe Institute, who worked on the study for his Ph.D. and also participated in the excavations at Syltholm.

‘It is the biggest Stone Age site in Denmark and the archaeological finds suggest that the people who occupied the site were heavily exploiting wild resources well into the Neolithic, which is the period when farming and domesticated animals were first introduced into southern Scandinavia,’ Theis Jensen adds. 

This is reflected in the DNA results, as the researchers also identified traces of plant and animal DNA in the pitch – specifically hazelnuts and duck – which may have been part of the individual’s diet.

In addition, the researchers succeeded in extracting DNA from several oral microbiotas from the pitch, including many commensal species and opportunistic pathogens.

‘The preservation is incredibly good, and we managed to extract many different bacterial species that are characteristic of the oral microbiome.

Our ancestors lived in a different environment and had a different lifestyle and diet, and it is, therefore, interesting to find out how this is reflected in their microbiome,’ says Hannes Schroeder.

The researchers also found DNA that could be assigned to the Epstein-Barr Virus, which is known to cause infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever.

According to Hannes Schroeder, ancient “chewing gums” bears great potential in researching the composition of our ancestral microbiome and the evolution of important human pathogens.

‘It can help us understand how pathogens have evolved and spread over time, and what makes them particularly virulent in a given environment.

At the same time, it may help predict how a pathogen will behave in the future, and how it might be contained or eradicated,’ says Hannes Schroeder.

The study was supported by the Villum Foundation and the EU’s research program Horizon 2020 through the Marie Curie Actions.

1,000-year-old Viking toilet uncovered in Denmark

1,000-year-old Viking toilet uncovered in Denmark

Did you ever wonder where the Vikings went for Toilet? Or perhaps you didn’t really think about it. We don’t always think about how it used to be with the world’s luxury today, especially a thousand years ago.

A 1000-year-old toilet dating back to the Viking age was found in Denmark in Stevns Municipality, in the town of Strøby on the farm called Toftegård.

This toilet seems to have been in a small house or maybe an outhouse. By using the carbon 14 method on the feces, it shows that it dates back to the Viking age, and therefore there is a big probability that this is the oldest toilet discovered in Denmark.

According to the Ph.D. student Anna S. Beck from the museum in southeast Denmark, this was a random discovery. She says, quote: We were looking for small houses called grubehuse, which are small workshop cabins, on the surface, it looked like them, but we soon figured out that it was something else.

We know of outhouses from the late Viking age and from the early middle ages, but not from villages or farms. People just thought that they used their feces as manure in the fields or just used the stable where they had their animals. The logic behind this is, that people in the cities just wanted to get rid of it, but in the country, it was a resource to grow their crops. So I got very surprised when the results from the samples came back.

There could be more of these discoveries to be uncovered in Denmark, but it could also be one of a kind discovery. According to Anna, the people in this community might have been inspired by the people in the Mediterranean, after an expedition, and built a version of it when they returned home.

According to Anna S. Beck, Archaeologist could have overlooked finds like these in the past, because they didn’t think toilets existed outside the cities. In the results from analyzing the feces, they found traces of honey, which is something animals rarely eat, especially in the same spot for years. If the Vikings ate bread with honey or drank mead is unclear, but there was definitely pollen from honey in the soil.

The Vikings were not the only ones who loved honey, even the Danes today are still in love with their sweet honey, and lucky for the Danes they live in the country with the worlds best honey, at least according to a big beekeeping conference in Istanbul in Turkey last year.

Personally, I always buy the Danish brand, not just because of its quality, but also because it is important to support your local farms, but I don’t brew mead nor do I put it on a piece of bread, I like it in my tea, taste much better than sugar.

Anyway back to the subject, it seems that this farm was not just an ordinary farm, but a big farm with a wealthy community and a community with a high status.

Their living quarters were a big hall 10 x 40 meters, and it seems that they have been living there for generations, because there were 4 other great halls close by, which dates further back. While this seems to have a community of high status, it was not on the level as Gammel Lejre.

As Anna says the Vikings did not pick their house from a catalog, which of course makes sense, and I would love to see what kind of gifts our soil has in store for us in the future. Just like there are variations in how the Vikings practiced their faith and which Gods and Goddesses were important to them, there also has to be some differences in their architecture.

Not all the Archaeologist agree with Anna S. Beck, and she has generally met resistance to the idea. Some Archaeologist thinks that the excrements could have been put in the hole by other means, and not necessarily have been a Viking toilet.

According to Anna the thought that excrements were used in the fields requires, that the people had a modern and rational ratio to their life.

We know that In other cultures all over the world, the treatment of excrements has been complicated cultural, as well as social, rules and taboos. By looking at the toilet culture we can learn a lot from their standards and rules within their society.

We know that people and animals lived together under the same roof for more than 1000 years in Scandinavia. But in the late Viking age, the people and the animals started to distance themselves from each other. The people might have changed their habits and not just walked into the stable and sit among the animals.

Since the excavation started in 1995, and only a third of the area 47.000 m2 of more than 160.000 m2 has been investigated, there might be more treasures from the past, laying in the soil ready to be discovered.