|In Uppåkra, south of Lund, a complete temple from pagan times has been excavated. The find is unique. The temple was not particularly big , just 13 metres long and 6,5 metres wide.
Through many archaeological excavations in the Scanian villages along the Sound, we have been able to determine that most of the medieval villages date back to the end of the Viking Age, i.e. the end of the 10th century – beginning of the 11th century. The same pattern is evident in many places in the rest of Denmark. The explanation must be that a strong central government took over at this time and introduced a new organisation, which covered the then important villages. It is probably not wrong to note that the beginning of this restructuring began through Harald Bluetooth´s conquest of the Sound region, in all probability in the end of the 970´s.
In earlier times the settlements were scattered in the landscape, but now all farms were placed close to each other in so-called “town streets”. From the Malmo-area there are many examples of so-called pit houses. Characteristically they are 4x5 meter in size with a roof post in every house end and was dug approximately 1 meter into the ground. These pit houses are often seen far from the settlements in the “town streets”, despite the fact that they are contemporary with these.
An example of a farm in a town street from the 11th century is the large long house, which was found in Tygelsjö village just south of Malmo. Usually the long house faced east. Heavy post holes show that the walls were plank walls; the house had a width of six meters and a length no less than 30 meters. Angle dug post holes outside the walls show that the roof´s rafters went down in the ground. The pitch makes 8 metres of roof height probable.
In Lockarp, another of the villages in the present Malmo, a whole magnate farm from the 11th century has been excavated. North was the large hall building with bow shaped long walls. South of his four houses form a group in an open square with large living quarters in the south. In the middle of the square there was a building with a smaller part jutting out towards the east, probably a wooden chapel. In all probability the archaeologists have found the first magnate farm in the new town, which was created on the place a thousand years ago. This is the oldest mission time and you may ask yourself why the graves are missing. Perhaps they had already built a church farther away; perhaps they did not bury the Christian way as we know it. We don´t really know.
Trelleborg Fortresses in General
In Denmark there are remnants of the four so-called ” trelleborg fortresses”. The fortresses have had a very uniform and strictly geometrical structure. The fortress type had a circular rampart with gates facing the four corners of the world. Two crossing roads have gone through the fortress and the uniform long houses are grouped in four-winged yard formations along the main roads. Close to the gates there was a church.
Earlier they thought that these fortresses had been built by the Viking King Sweyn Forkbeard and had functioned as training camps for the forces, which were sent to England. However, by way of year ring dating we have been able to prove that the fortresses have entered into the unification of the kingdom, which Sweyn Forkbeard´s father Harald Bluetooth carried through in the 970´s.
The best preserved ring fortress is Trelleborg in Zealand. 16 long houses have been found inside the ramparts and 15 in fan-shape just outside. 157 Christian graves have been found outside one of the gates and mark the place of the wooden church. Year ring dating shows that the fortress has been built around the years 975-978.
In Funen there was a trelleborg fortress in Odense. All traces above the ground has disappeared now entirely. However, excavations have been made in the moat outside the fortress. A piece of wood has been dated to just after 980. There is a church close to the fortress.
The ring fortress Fyrkatis situated app. 70 kilometres north of Aarhus in Northern Jutland. 16 long houses have formed four groups of farms inside the ramparts. Via year ring dating the time of the construction established to the middle or the end of the 970`s. Remnants of a church outside of the ramparts have not been found, and there have been any archaeological excavations in the area.
Aggersborg at the north coast of Limfjorden is the larges of all the trelleborg fortresses. The diameter is an impressive 240 metres. Inside the ramparts there were no less than 48 long houses in 12 large, square groups. Just outside the northern gate the stone church from the early Middle Ages remains. It substituted the wooden church, which must have been built here by Harald Bluetooth.
Reconstruction of Fyrkat
The Design of the Trelleborgs
In the middle of the medieval town Trelleborg at Scania´s south coast well-preserved remnants of the trelleborg fortress, which gave the present town its name, has been found. The lower parts of the ramparts and the dry moats, which are situated outside the ramparts, could be seen along the western quadrant, while smaller excavations towards east and south revealed the total size.
Contrary to the Danish fortresses, Trelleborg´s fortress has not been circular, but the deviance from the circular shape is minimal. Another special feature is, that they haven´t found upright holes from building activity inside the fortress area. As the rampart has been added later, there must have been long houses there. Very likely they have been of a type, which do not leave any traces, for instance because the walls have rested on a wooden foundation above ground.
A no wooden objects have been preserved; it has not been possible to make a year ring dating. However, with the so-called C14 technology the time has been established to be around the 970`s.
Trelleborg in Scania
The Asa temple in Uppåkra
In Uppåkra just south of Lund we have found and excavated a complete temple building from pagan times. The find is completely unique. The temple was not very big, only 13 metres long and 6.5 metres wide. It had faintly curved long walls of rough, vertical oak planks, or ”sticks”, which had been dug down in a groove in the ground more than a metre deep. The middle part of the building, which were separated from the outer walls, consisted of four enormous wooden posts. The holes in these are unusually large and the depth is remarkable – more than 2 metres. The archaeologists found at least three different floor levels, which signifies that the temple had been rebuilt several times during its existence. From the building, perhaps as early as the 5th and 6th century to the Viking Age.
The building had three entrances, two to the south and one facing north. Each opening was framed by strong side posts and the south western opening had an advanced part. There is no doubt that this was the main entrance of the temple.
In the wall grooves and the post holes several hundreds gold coins were found. These paper thin, very small, gold pieces are believed to have been used as sacrificial gifts. Each one was struck with motives representing men or women. The fact that they were found in such a large number in the post holes and wall planks in the Uppåkra temple, indicates that these magnificent coins were sacrificed in connection with the building of the temple.
In the Uppåkra temple two fantastic finds have been made. Just next to the fireplace, which is placed in centrally in the building, they have dug down a bronze cup and a glass bowl. This was probably done in the 7th century. The roughly 20 centimetres tall cup is decorated with a band of thin gold pieces, which is struck with pictures. There are no cups like it and it may be made on the spot. The glass bowl is from the area north of the Black Sea and is dated to the 6th century.
In connection with the temple building in Uppåkra sacrifices to the gods have been made. Many lance and spearheads have been found near the temple south as well as north of the building. Several of them have been deliberately destroyed by bending and twisting the points. Noth of the temple there was a heap of destroyed weapons. Here they also found remnants of a magnificent helmet and plates for shields. The sacrifices may be in connection with the god, Oden, who was the war god. A small bronze figurine from Uppåkra represents a man with a horn clad helmet. The figurine only has one eye. This may signify that the figurine represents Odin, which is consistent with the weapons sacrificed in the area.
A Reconstructed Temple
The building archaeologist Sven Rosborn at Fotevikens museum recreated the temple in 2004. The enormous dimensions of the post holes and the plank wall construction and the fact that the whole building was excavated, makes it rather easy to calculate the probable size. As the four post holes in the middle of the building had enormous proportions and the post holes were so deeply embedded in the ground, the reason can only be that the post have formed a tall middle tower, which has towered above the rest of the building. A later reconstruction has been made by archaeologists in Lund, but that does not take into consideration the differences in the archaeological material and must thus be an improbable model, which is not based on what the available source material actually says about the construction.
The Uppåkra Temple
The Post Holes of the Uppåkra Temple
The Sacrifical Finds of the Uppåkra Temple
The Interior of the Temple