The Bronze Age
|The Bronze Age lasts from around 1800-500 BC. The period has left distinct traces in the landscape of the Sound region, where the many burial mounds rise in the fields.
Large amounts of beautifully processed bronze objects from the period have been found. Many of them are markedly symbolic expressions of the Danish cultural heritage. For example the sun chariot and musical instruments like the lures.
The period around1800-500 BC are called the Bronze Age in Nordic history because tools, weapons and jewellery were mostly made of bronze.
In the Bronze Age we see the first signs of a stratification of society with a marked social inequality. It is evident that it was the richest people who were buried in the artificial burial mounds in the most visible places in the landscape. The Bronze Age was characterized y a culture, which is marked by affluent burial gifts in the numerous mounds. The larger population density and the fact that they removed grass from substantial areas for the burial mounds caused an increased pressure on the nature resources. However, the mild climate and the large areas with untouched forests meant that they could still feed everybody.
In the eyes of the present the Bronze Age´s oldest part is characterized by the fact that it has left extremely tangible traces in the landscape in the form of these burial mounds. The mounds are very conspicuous in Jutland, but there are highly visible relics of the past in Scania and in Zealand too. One of the best preserved finds from the older Bronze Age is the Egtved girl in ”Storhøj” at Egtved in Jutland.
It is also in the Bronze Age that we, via the petroglyphs, are given an insight into the the rich imagery of that time. In the Sound region we see them, for instance, in Scania in Österlen, in north eastern Scania and in Bornholm.
Among the many bronze finds there are elaborated, religious artefacts. Among them is one of Denmark´s national symbols, the Sun Chariot, which was found in North Zealand.
By the Bronze Age´s transition to the Teutonic Iron Age the first half-timbered houses appear. The style of building from earlier times with massive walls built of timber/planks was now replaced with simple wood frames and in these the walls were built with clay. We often find large clay excavations close to settlements from that time. These have later been filled with waste.
|We find the largest burial mound field in Scandinavia in Steglarp in Vellinge south of Malmø.
Today the amount of burial mounds is heavily reduced.
The Burial Mounds of the Bronze Age
A burial mound also known as a barrow is a burial place consisting of earth, stone or both. There are several types of burial mounds. They can be round or long. The height varies. The tallest burial mounds measure up to 20 metres.
The largest barrow field in the Sound region, actually in all of the North, can be found in Steglarp at Vellinge south of Malmø. Today most of the burial mounds have been removed or largely reduced in height. But the enormous building projects, which in magnitude can be compared to the church building of the Middle Ages, illustrated by the fact that there have been more than 5000 of these burial mounds just in Scania. Today around 2000 have been preserved. A map of the remaining burial mounds in Scania shows that they are mostly situated in the coast areas and by the larger navigable rivers.
The Largest Burial Mound in Scania
Burial Mound Map from Scania
The Dating of the Burial Mounds
From burial mounds in Jutland we have made certain year ring datings, which indicate when the mounds have been constructed. These dates are surprisingly close to each other. Below is the list of the result of the year ring dating from the oak coffins, which were found in the burial mounds. The years, which are not precise, may vary with +/- 25 years.
Trindhøj around 1330 BC.
Trindhøj around 1333 BC.
Trindhøj around 1356 BC.
Borum Eshøj around 1345 BC.
Borum Eshøj around 1353 BC.
Egtved 1370 BC.
Lille Dragshøj around 1370 BC.
Storehøj in Barde 1373 BC.
Guldhøj around 1381 BC.
Guldhøj around 1381 BC.
Mølhøj in Uge around 1396 BC.
Since the wood coffins are from the time of the building of the burial mounds, we can establish that the mounds have been constructed within a very limited period of time, which only spans two generations.
The dead took food and drink with them to the land of the dead, but they also took precious objects like jewellery and weapons. Compared to the burial customs of the Stone Age this is an entirely new custom. This change, and the short time, indicates that there was perhaps a form of dynasty, which dominated the society of that time. In that case this dynasty had wide contacts in the south of Europe.
The Egtved Girl
In the burial mound, ”Storhøj” in Jutland they made a remarkable discovery in 1921. From the burial mound, which is situated at the village Egtved just south of Vejle, a 2 metres long wood log coffin surfaced during the excavation. A dendrological examination indicated that the coffin was from the older Stone Age around 1370 BC. The dead was a young woman 16-18 of age and at her feet there was a bundle with the burned bones from a 5-6 year-old child. By the girl´s head there was also a small box made from birch bark with bone parts from the same child.
The Egtved girl was lying on cow skin and was covered in a woolen blanket. The Egtved girl, who is exhibited on the National Museum in Copenhagen, is considered one of Denmark´s best preserved Bronze Age finds, although the girl´s skin and body parts are gone. Still the burial mound find is unique as the girl´s dress is very well-preserved.
The upper body was covered by a short-sleeved jersey. The jersey was skimpy leaving part of the stomach bare. A nakedness, which was further accentuated by the fact that the miniskirt was hanging low on her hips. The dress was made from a string skirt and around the waist she had a woven belt, where a bronze belt plate with a spiral pattern was mounted. In the belt she had a comb made of horn. On both arms she had arm rigs and she had an earring in one ear. On her feet she had cloth moccasins lined with grass.
The dress in particular still gives rise to discussions and theories among the researchers. Mostly because is differs from all other similar finds from the period, where the women were much more practical and decently dressed for the hard field work. Was she a prostitute? A slave? Well, they would hardly have spent a burial mound and a burnt offering on her if she was. A closer examination showed that the child hardly could have been hers.
Falsification of History
For the researchers of that time (1920´s) the girl´s attire was a shock. Could it really be true that the young women of the Bronze Age dressed indecently? That must be wrong! They must have forgotten to put on the rest of her clothes, when they buried her.
In of the first reconstruction drawings of the deceased they dressed her in a decent foot long dress. On the dress they placed the miniskirt. Now the girl looked exactly like a house maid in the strait-laced middle-class of the 1920`s. The provocative miniskirt had become an appropriate apron!
The Egtved Girl
The Egtved Girl´s Miniskirt
The Skrydstrup Girl
In southern Jutland around 1 kilometre from Vojens, they excavated a Bronze Age mound in 1935 in Skrydstrup field. In the bottom of the mound they found an oak coffin grave, however the coffin itself had crumbled. The coffin had been covered by some stones and here they found the body of a young woman. She had been lying in the coffin on cow hide and was dressed in a jersey with long sleeves and wrapped and covered in woollen, woven cloth. Next to her was an elaborately made cap.
However, most remarkable was the girl´s hairstyle. It was almost rococo in style. An impressive piece of work which she can´t have done alone. Moreover she had a gold ring in each ear.
The rich grave find strengthen they theory that it is people from the highest strata of society, we find in the burial mounds of the Bronze Age.
The Skrydstrup girl is, like her contemporary, the Egtved girl, are exhibited in the National Museum in Copenhagen.
The Skrydstrup Girl
The Skrydstrup Girl´s Reconstructed Haircut
|Petroglyphs, i.e.signs or pictures carved in stone are found all over southern Scandinavia, but also elsewhere in Europe. They have been carved in the younger Stone Age and the Bronze Age periods
In the Sound region a large number of picture petroglyphs have been found in Simrishamn in Scania and in Bornholm.
What are Petroglyphs?
Petroglyphs are pictures and signs, which in pre historic time was carved and ground into heller, i.e. smooth stones and rock surfaces. The phenomenon is known from all over the world in different times. In the North the oldest petroglyphs exist in Norway and Middle Sweden.
In southern Scandinavia the predominant proportion of the petroglyphs has been made in the Bronze Age, of these the saucer shaped depressions make up half of them, among the rest are the stylized pictures of ships. Representations of human beings are depicted in situations, which reflect the fertility cult of the Bronze Age.
The Saucer Shaped Depressions
The so-called saucer shaped depressions, round hollows carved in stone, is the oldest known form of petroglyphs and they exist on both sides of the Sound. The meaning is unsure. In many dolmens and passage graves from the younger Stone Age, you can see depressions carved in the top side of the cover stones. For instance in the dolmens in the woods around Elsinore: Klosterris Hegn and Horserød Hegn.
And on the stately Snarringe dolmen at Skegrie between Malmø and Trelleborg there are no less than 268 saucer shaped depressions carved into one of the cover stones.
Saucer shaped depressions also exist in loose stones and on rock sides. There are many of them especially in the north western and north eastern part of the landscape.
The saucer shaped depressions can be dated to the end of the peasant Stone Age and the Bronze Age. On the oldest datable find in the North was made in Fosie in Malmø. A woman belonging to the so-called ”battle axe culture”, had a larger round stone with two carved depressions in her grave from 2.300 BC.
Petroglyphs in the form of pictures exist in large amounts close to Simrishamn in south eastern Scania and in the northern part of Bornholm. The areas Järrestad, Simrislund in Skåne and Allinge in Bornholm are known names for people interested in petroglyphs. Here is a vast number of ships, oxen, footprints etc.
Interpretation of ”The Dancing Man from Järrestad”
In Järrestad there is a petroglyph of a strange man. The legs are twice as long as his body and the head with two horns are extremely small.
What are the horns on this figure? It looks as if they are stuck on a helmet, as the Bronze Age in fact had horns on their helmets. In the National Museum in Copenhagen there are two quite unique bronze helmets, which support this assumption. Two tall, curved bronze horns are stuck on the helmets. The front of the helmet is shaped like a face with eyes, eyebrows and a crooked nose. Helmets like this probably didn´t have a practical function as protection in a battle situation. The function must be ceremonial.
The dancing man from Järrestad has heavy and marked lower legs. This is not unusual in petroglyphs from the Bronze Age and is often interpreted as if the dancer wore leg pads or leather pads to protect his shins
Moreover the man has a bronze sword hanging from his waist.
That this is a religious picture is clear from the way the man is depicted. Both his hands are stretched out in worship.
The Järrerstad Dancer
Traces from the Past
Another exciting petroglyph exists in Frännarp, about 30 kilometres north of Kristianstad in Scania. A number of chariots have been carved into a rock here. These chariots are direct copies of chariots known from Egypt and Greece from around 1400 BC. The Frännarp petroglyph indicates that there must have been connections to countries in the south.
This is also the case with the famous Kivik grave A large number of carved stones show the coffin in the middle of the grave. In one of the stones there is a man on a chariot drawn by two horses.
The Kivik Grave
|The sun chariot is a Danish national treasure – a unique Bronze Age find shaped in bronze and gold.
The sun chariot is dated to around 1.350 BC, but wasn´t found until 1902 in Odsherred, North Zealand.
The sun chariot is exhibited in the National Museum in Copenhagen.
The Sun Chariot
The Sun Chariot is a Danish national treasure – a unique Bronze Age find shaped in bronze and gold. The Sun Chariot is a hollow cast figure of a horse drawing a sun disc. The horse and the disc are standing on the remnants of six wheels and the horse and the disc have eyes, wherein lines once were drawn. The sun disc is coated in gold and fine patterns i circular motives is marked on them.
The Sun Chariot was found September 7th , 1902 in Trundholm Bog in Odsherred, North Zealand, in conncetion with the first ploughing of the area. The finder, Frederik Willumsen, took home the find and let his son play with it believing that the figure was and old toy. However, the Sun Chariot was damaged already in the Bronze Age, when it was left behind – probably as a sacrificial gift in the bog. In 1998 they used a metal detector to find several fragments of the six wheels on the figure. The figure has been dated to the older Bronze Age – around 1350 BC.
The Sun Chariot testifies to the religion in the Bronze Age. The sun was then the central theme in religion. The people of the Bronze Age imagined that the sun was transported across the sky in the day. In the morning a fish took the sun to a ship, which transported the sun until noon. The sun horse took over then and brought the sun to the afternoon ship. In the evening a snake took the sun to the underworld, which was below the flat earth. Down here the sun was dark, while it was transported in night ships back to the starting point in the morning, where the fish took over again. Thus the day´s cycle was maintained forever by the helpers of the sun – the fish, the horse, the snake and the ships
The scheme of things on the Sun Chariot is supported by several petroglyphs as well as decorations on razors (1100 - 500 BC.). The gilt sun disc on the sun chariot is placed so you can see the chariot move from left to right, i.e. in the sun´s direction. The opposite side of the Sun Chariot doesn´t have the gilt sun disc – it is the darkened sun at night o nits way from right to left with its starting point at sunrise. Thus the Sun Chariot illustrates, with its two different sides, the sun´s movement in the course of 24 hours.
In the petroglyphs and on the razors the horse draws the sun in one line. Thus the wheels on the Sun Chariot is not a part of the story. The wheels have been put there so the sun disc and the horse could be moved back and forth to illustrate the sun´s movements at religious ceremonies.
The Back of the Sun Chariot
The Bronze Lures
The Town Hall Square in Copenhagen