|Prehistoric Scandinavia is the period before the Middle Ages. It is also the period where there are no written sources; instead we must look at and interpret the archaeological finds.
Traces of the past are still in the landscape, but most of the source material lies, or had lain hidden under the ground.
Unlike the Middle Ages where most of the source material is archived, we must go to the museums to get to know the prehistoric age.
Most parts of the present Denmark and Scania have been cultivated and built-up since the ice began to withdraw around 15.000 years ago. In the Sound region countless visible traces from this early period in history have been preserved.
Thanks to the traditional interdisciplinary collaboration between natural science/archaeology and history in Denmark and Sweden you end up with a fair general view of our joint past.
A deeper understanding of this, however, does demand a general view of which terms are udually used about prehistoric times. It is usually divided into three main periods:
But huge changes occur within the many thousand years. In order to understand these changes we use these terms in Denmark at present:
|Early Stone Age /Hunter Stone Age:||About 12.000 BC - about 4.000 BC.|
|The Maglemose Culture||About 9.000 BC – 6.800 BC.|
|The Kongemose Culture||About 6.800 BC – 5.400 BC.|
|The Ertebøl Culture||About 5.400 BC – 3.900 BC.|
|Late Stone Age/Peasant Stone Age: ||About 4.000 BC - 1.800 BC.|
|Early Neolithic Age||About 3.900 BC. - 3.300 BC.|
|Mid Neolithic Age||About 3.300 BC. – 2.800 BC.|
|Single Grave Age||About 2.800 BC. – 2.400 BC.|
|Late Neolithic Age||About 2.400 BC – 1.700 BC|
|Bronze Age: ||About 1.800 BC. – 500 BC.|
|Late Bronze Age||About 1.700 BC. – 1.000 BC.|
|Early Bronze Age||About 1000 BC. – 500 BC.|
|Iron Age: ||About 500 BC. – 1100 AD.|
|Pre-Roman Iron Age||About. 500 BC. - 0|
|Roman Iron Age||About. 0 – 450 AD.|
|Teutonic Iron Age||About 450 AD. – 750 AD.|
|Viking Age||About 750 AD.– 1100 AD.|
|The Stone Age is term for the period about 12.000 BC to 1800 BC.
This long period is often divided into the older and younger Stone Age.
Flint was the most common work tool and weapon
The flint axe finds are mostly from the younger Stone Age. Photo: Fotevik Museum.
Early Stone Age
|The Early Stone Age spreads over about 12.000 BC until about 4.000 BC.
Characteristic for the period is that relatively few people lived in the Sound region and that these people had not settled in the sense that they cultivated the soil.
The first hunters´ families met an Arctic climate with a tundra-like landscape, while the families, during the latter part of the period, lived in large and dense forests full of wild animals.
Some of the oldest traces after human beings in the Sound region are the Stone Age finds, which were found at Mölleröd close to the Finja Lake in northern Scania. Reindeer hunters here left worked up flint especially in the form of arrowheads.
Another find from our oldest ancestors comes from Segebro in Malmo´s northern edge. This settlement is dated to about 8. 300 BC.
Segebro is situated in Malmo´s northern outskirts. For a short period of time one or more reindeer families about 8000 BC settled here to hunt. They left a large amount of worked up flint, which were used as different tools. It wasn’t a big settlement, but traces after a large tent has been found.
We have also found to places, where the reindeer hunters have sat splitting flint stones for scrapers, knives and arrowheads. Here were heaps of half-finished tools. With round stones they hammered chips and splinters from larger flint blocks. These oblong chips they then worked up further. A number of them became strong points, which were used for weapons. Others had a sharp edge and they were used for scrapers
These first Malmo residents were nomads. The animals were their foundation of life. From reindeer and moose they had meat, but also skin for clothes, tents, transport packing and much more. The animals´ tendons were used for sewing thread, the bones and the horns became work tools. The tents were made from animals´ skins, the women cooked the meat, which the men after successful hunts brought home to the camp. With the flint tools they could work up skins, wood and the animals´ horns and bones.
Settlements under the Water
In the older Hunter Stone Age, the water level in southern Scandinavia was considerably lower than today. This explains why there is a large amount of pine stumps deep down on the bottom of the Baltic. Fishermen from Bornholm have through the 18th century drawn in tree stumps from 30 and 80 metres depth in their nets; clear proof of how low the water level was back then. The Sound was, during most of the older Stone Age just a narrow water area with a number of larger and smaller islands.
The Temperature Rises and the Ice Melts:
In connection with the rise in temperature globally, large masses of ice melted and the surface of the oceans rose. In the period 7.500 BC until about 6.000 BC the surface of the Sound rose to almost 3 metres over the level of today. Gradually the water drew back and formed the coast line we know today.
On the bottom of the Sound we therefore find numerous Stone Age hunters´ settlements. Most of the ones we know are 7.000 years old.
The Find at Limhamn:
One example of such a Stone Age hunters´ settlement is the find at Limhamn. When they dug up mud at Limhamn´s harbour in 1891, they also found turf and worked up flint. Among other things from 13 stone axes.
The find came from a settlement from 5000 BC in two or three metres depth under the surface of today´s Sound.
The find at Hven:
Another ”subterranean” settlement in the Sound has been found near the island, Hven. On the nearby mainland just south of the island, is the town of Landskrona, where the small river, Saxåen, today ends in the Sound. When the water in the Sound was much lower than today, the river ended at Hven. From this former river there is deep groove on the bottom of the Sound today.
By examining the river ravine´s sides, divers have been able to trace several hidden settlements. One of these lies on the Pilhaken ground.
From a bottom level seven metres under the surface the former river ravine reaches steeply downwards to a depth of 14 metres. On the edges of the racvine the archaeologists found remnants of a settlement. The different traces were inside a thick layer of mud. There were large amounts of flint tools, bones from aurochs, red deer and roe deer and they showed that our early ancestors did not live by fishing alone.
Found at Espergærde, North Zealand:
Just in front of Egebæksvang Church on the coast road, divers have recently observed a settlement under the water.
Skateholm and Vedbæk
In Skateholm at the south coast of Scania, just east of Trelleborg, is one of the largest known settlements in southern Scandinavia from the youngest part of the older Stone Age, about 5. 600 BC to 4. 700 BC.
Apart from traces after simple huts, a large number of graves have been found. The settlement is fairly contemporary with the settlement, which Danish archaeologists unearthed in Vedbæk on the Danish side of the Sound. Together these two settlements give us invaluable information of the people of that time and their living conditions.
The Vedbæk find is exhibited in G. Holtegård, Zealand, while the Skateholm find can be seen in Trelleborg Museum, Scania.
Reconstruction of hut
In 1955 a house owner on the coastal road found traces after the many settlements in the Sound region from around 5.000 BC.
Archaeological excavations at the site uncovered three human skeletons, five dog skeletons and a number of flint axes, antler axes and handles for these. The antler axes as well as the handles were ornamented in geometric patterns, which were common to the hunter groups of South Scandinavia.
From the find we can see that the Stone Age hunters at the place have lived off fishing and hunting in the forests. Here they hunted deer, pigs, fur animals and birds.
Ornament on the Axe
Late Stone Age
|This period of our Nordic past spreads over about 4.000 BC until about 1.800 BC.
Agriculture was far more common and the settlements more per
This period in our Nordic past covers 4.000 BC until 1.800 BC.
It is characteristic that agriculture spread and the population thus became more settled than before. This also changed the way people lived together. The tools, the flint axes, changed and new ways of storage became necessary, for example pottery. Instead of a population, which mainly lived off hunting and fishing, it was now the crops from the increasing agriculture, which became principal basis of existence. This is also why the period is called The Peasant Stone Age.
The Peasant Stone Age is normally divided into three periods referred to by the archaeologists as:
The Megalith Graves
The burial customs of the period means that there are still distinct traces in the cultural landscape of the Sound region after these early and enterprising peasants in the form of large stone graves. The so-called dolmen and passage graves. They are commonly called megaliths
In current Denmark we know about 6000 dolmen and 700 passage graves, but it is often only remnants, which can be seen.
Calculations estimate that there have been 20-25.000 of these megaliths in the period 3.500-3.200 BC. (See Odense Museum) A very interesting social historical phenomenon.
Traditionally the dolmens are dated the Eolithic period and the passage graves to the Paleolithic period, but the two megaliths are inextricably linked.
The large stone graves were for several hundred years used as single graves (chieftains?) and later as the common burial ground for the local area.
A special type of graves, the so-called ”long mounds” was a kind of forerunner for the dolmens. They have been dated to the oldest part of the Peasant Stone Age – i.e. the part, which is referred to as Eolithic.
The long mounds can seem very impressive even though the height often is a few metres. The width is less than 10 metres, but the length can be considerable. The long mounds are the first known monumental graves from the past above the soil.
Unlike the later long dolmens the burial chamber itself is not built of stone, but of wood. What characterizes a long mound from outside is that the oblong, rectangular grave area has a border marking made of upright stones.
An example of such a long mound is the so-called ”Jättegrav” by Trelleborg in Scania. Here are about 60 stones left around the grave area, but in the Stone Age there have been more than twice as many. The grave is only about 5 metres wide, but on the other hand all of 64 metres long. This makes it the largest of its kind in Sweden.
Round Dolmens and Long Dolmens
Dolmens are stone chamber graves, where large stone blocks are placed on supporting stones. Among the dolmens we distinguish – according to shape - between round dolmens and long dolmens. The spaces between the large stones have been filled out with smaller stones on top of each other.
Nowadays we often see dolmens, which are completely free-standing. It was not like that in the past. At that time these grave chambers were almost hidden under a layer of earth.
The Skegri dolmen
The Gantofte dolmen
Dolmen from Höör in Scania
Dolmen at Klosterris in North Zealand
Nowadays we often see dolmens, which are completely free-standing. It was not like that in the past. At that time these grave chambers were almost hidden under a layer of earth.
Often the edges of the mound formed a square platform marked with border stones. The remnants of a long dolmen has been excavated in Fosie outside Malmø. It was reconstructed in Scania´s Animal Park close to Höör in the middle Of Scania.
Often the edges of the hill formed a square platform marked with border stones. The remains of a long barrow have been excavated in Fosie outside Malmø. In the 1980´s it was reconstructed in Scania´s Animal Park close to Höör in the middle of Scania.
In North Zealand, at Trollesminde close to Hillerød, one of Denmark´s biggest long barrows: ”Rokkestenen” was found in 1855. The long barrow is 40 metres long and 25 metres wide and consists of a coffin shaped burial chamber, which is encircled by a number of border stones – some of the to metres in height. The roof of the pang barrow, the cover stone measures two times three metres and weighs approximately 12-14 tons.
During the excavation of the enormous cover stone they discovered that the stone could be rocked to and fro. Hence the name ”Rokkestenen”.
Hillerød Municipality has in collaboration with the National Museum cleared the area around the relic in 2007, so we are able to enjoy the sight in the field between Peder Oxes Allé and the motorway.
Long barrow at Hillerød
The passage grave is a rectangular or oval grave chamber, which was often used as a collective burial place. They have been built inside a relatively short period of time and belong to the Paleolithic period about 3.200 BC.
The passage graves are an architectural further development of the dolmens in the way that the grave chamber itself – sometimes there are two - is rather big and has several cover stones. In order to enter the grave chamber one must go through a 4-6 metres long and narrow corridor.
On the Scanian side of the Sound there are two well preserved passage graves, one at Barsebäck, and one at Ålabodarna. You can crawl into both of these Stone Age graves. Remember to bring a flashlight!
On the Danish side of the Sound there is a well preserved passage grave in Roskilde, with admittance all year round. And in the woods and fields in Elsinore municipality there are many more or less well-preserved traces after dolmens as well as passages graves.
The Passage Grave in Gillhög
The flint axe is a tool, which is connected to the Peasant Stone Age. It took strong axes to cut down the big trees, first and foremost hardwood, which formed large and dense woods in the landscape 3.000 years BC.
The Core Axes
They knew flint axes well in the hunters´ Stone Age, but they were light and could not be used for cutting down large trees. The hunters´ flint axes were the so-called ”core axes”, which were rather crudely formed and cut from a smaller, oblong flint. They also had the so-called ”flake axes”, which was made by splitting a larger flint block.
The Pointed-Butted Axes
During the Eolithic period about 3.900 BC – 3.300 BC the sharpened flint axes began to surface in southern Scandinavia. First came the so-called “pointed-butted axes. The axe type has been found in large amounts in Scania and in Zealand. As early as the end of the 19th century the legendary Swedish archaeologist Montelius pointed out that this type was the oldest sharpened flint axes. The pointed-butted axe was grinded thoroughly and sharpened towards the butt. It has no narrow sides; the two vaulted sides join in a sharp edge.
The Thin-Butted Axes
In the Paleolithic period an entirely new type of flint axes surface. They are often much bigger and longer. They are called “thin-butted”. They are flat and narrower towards the neck. The length varies from 15 to 40 centimetres.
The change of the flint axe from the pointed-butted to the tin-butted must have served a specific purpose – forest clearing. With the bigger axes they now had an efficient tool to clear the forests and thus expand the farm land.
The Stone Age man apparently took the landscape into possession at this time.
Another proof of the fact that the early hunter society became more settled in the Eolithic period is the rich occurrence of pottery from the period. Pottery is fragile and is not suited for the vagrant existence of the hunter society.
The Funnel Beaker Culture
A characteristic trait in the abandoned settlements from the Eolithic period is the many special pottery finds, the so-called ”funnel beakers”. The name indicated that the pottery has the form of a beaker with a neck. The oldest funnel beakers were rather clumsy containers. But the people who used them must have been settled and certainly not people travelling. The funnel beaker pottery can thus be considered a greeting from the first farmers in Scania and in Zealand
In this from of pottery we see man´s desire artistic display. The wet clay was and is an excellent material when it comes to design and decoration. It is interesting that that the sparse decoration of the beakers is almost identical on both sides of the Sound, which indicates that there must have been close contact among the population in the Sound region.
Stone Age Pottery
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
|The Iron Age stretches from around 500 BC to 1100 AD. The last part of the period is also referred to as the Viking Age.
Well preserved bog bodies from the period provide a good picture of how the people of the day looked.
The Iron Age covers the years 500 BC to 1103 AD. The last part of the period is the Viking Age and opinions are divided as to when this period ends. In 2007 the Swedish archaeologist, Sven Rosborn, argues like this: ”The year 1103 has lately been said to be a logical year, as this was the year when the archbishopric over all the North was established in Lund. Earlier 1050 or 1066 was pointed out as the end of the Viking Age, but there are no important events during these years, which have played an important part in the North”.
Although the entire period is called the Iron Age, we should not forget that iron probably was a valuable raw material. It wasn’t until the end of the Iron Age that the production of iron was increased to the extent that the material could be used more commonly.
Contacts to the Roman Empire
As early as the time around the birth of Christ there were many contacts between the Teutons in northern Europe and the great Roman Empire. However, the expansion of the Romans in the north led to conflicts.
Around 100 AD some of the Germanic peoples, Cimbres and Teutons – possibly settled in Jutland – went south in large flocks. This emigration is the first known of the so-called migrations. Many more were to follow, however, not until several centuries later.
The Border Guarding
During the expansion of the Romans north the rivers Rhine and Danube played an important part. Here the Roman developed a border guarding system, the so-called “limes” with fortified strongpoints. During the rule of Domitianus (81-96 AD) these limes constituted an infinite road bordered by wooden watch towers. Half a century later the wooden towers were replaced with stone towers and by the beginning of the 300th century, ramparts and moats were constructed around the strongpoints.
More than a thousand watch towers and about a hundred citadel or strongholds has been located along this border through all of northern Europe.
Archaeological Finds at Ystad and Kristianstad
Both in Denmark and Scania the archaeologists can confirm the contacts with the Roman empire of that age. Two graves in Scania are quite unique in this connection. In Öremölla in Skivarp north west of Ystad they found a grave as early as the 19th century, which contained a large Roman made bronze kettle. The dead had been cremated in his chain mail, which, with the rest of the bones, had been placed in the kettle. Moreover he had Roman made glasses and iron weapon with him on his last long journey
Another magnificent find has been made by contemporary archaeologists from the Region Museum in Kristianstad. When excavating an Iron Age grave site in Farlöv north of Kristianstad they came upon a bronze kettle filled with burned bones from two men. A closer analysis of the kettle showed that it was Roman
Besides the cremated bones remnants the kettle contained two warriors´ weapons. Two swords, two lance points, two spearheads, two so-called ”skjolbuckler”, which in that day was placed in the middle of the shields with two shield handles, two pairs of spurs and two tiny human figurines made from thin bronze plates.
A Militant Time
Southern Scandinavia abounds in finds from the Iron Age. Especially the period 200 BC to 400 AD indicates a very rough and bloody time. Large sacrificial finds of weapons and other forms of war equipment has been found here, especially in Jutland.
Sacrificial Finds in Lakes and Bogs
The many weapons and the war equipment are war trophies from defeated opponents, which posterity has come upon in lakes and bogs. It is believed that the conquered soldiers´ weapons and equipment are gratitude sacrifices, given to gods we don´t know today. However the victors have made sure that they could not be used again by making them useless. The swords are broken, the spearheads too and artistic ornaments are destroyed.
It is remarkable that no traces of human beings have found here. The poor people, who carried the weapons and the rest of the war equipment, have probably been killed somewhere else or has been taken away as slaves.
The Weapon Graves
Weapons have been found in many Iron Age graves. In Scania 43 weapon finds from the Iron Age. Among them one grave site in Simris in Österlen and one in Albäcksbakken west of Trelleborg. The latter directly on the beach by the Baltic and this is one of the largest grave sites in Scania. In three of the graves weapons were found, for example spearheads and lance points.
The grave site at Simris consists of 102 graves. Six of them weapon graves containing lance points, spearheads and swords. The weapon graves at Simris are far richer than those excavated in Albäcksbakken. In one of the graves they found a shield, spurs and handles for drinking cups and pottery
There are other rich finds related to the weapon graves of the Iron Age in Scania. In Fulltofta and in Sösdala, in the middle of Scania, they have come upon remnants of buried silver plates for horse equipment from the 5th century AD. The Sösdala find consists of almost three hundred small parts, which were part of the ornament of two horse head straps and at least five saddles. The objects have been deliberately destroyed and arranged in a way, which can be compared to the traditions of the time in Central Europe
Down in Europe
The horseman people, the Huns, invaded large parts of Europe in the years 375 AD – 451 AD. A number of sacrificial finds from Hun chieftains from this time present the same incomprehensible and destructive picture of destructions and burial of horse equipment as seen in Sösdala and in Fulltofta. This is no accident. The finds in Scania indicate that there must have been close connections to Central Europe, so close connections that they have left traces in religious rites and burial customs
Maybe “the Danes” were strongly represented in the international grouping of that time? Maybe a part of the adventurous youth was on active duty with the Huns and brought back some of their traditions?
Iron Age Grave Site
The bogs in Jutland contains a number of bog corpses from the oldest Iron Age to just after the birth of Christ. The special storage conditions have preserved these prehistoric human beings and through knowledge and a number of sciences we continuously gain new insights about our ancestors.
The Huldre bog woman has been found in a bog in Djursland in Jutland in 1879. The dating is still somewhat unsure, but it is believed that she was buried in the bog around 55 AD. Especially the clothes are well-preserved; she was dressed in a fur cape of sheepskin a skirt woven of naturally coloured wool. The corpse has been kept in the National Museum´s store for many years.
In the peat bogs in Jutland in the 1950´s they found several well-preserved bodies from the oldest Iron Age around 3-400 BC. Internationally known is the Tollund man – perhaps the best preserved prehistoric human being in the world. He is so life-like to look at that the police in Silkeborg was first on the spot, when they found him. It is a man of approximately 30 years of age, who apparently was hanged. We don´t know why. Perhaps a sacrifice to the gods? The Tollund man is exhibited in Silkeborg Museum.
Close to the Tollund man they found another body, the Grauballe man. He was from the same time, but his throat was cut from ear to ear. The Grauballe man is exhibited in Moesgaard Museum in Århus.
As early as 1938 they had found the Elling woman. She was approximately 25 years old and had been, as the Tollund man, hanged. Her haircut is the best preserved haircut from the Iron Age. Remarkable is her plait of almost one metre, which was rolled up in her neck at the time of her hanging.
The Huldre Bog Woman
From the time right after the birth of Christ there is written material, which has information about the conditions in northern Europe. The writers are all from the Mediterrenean culture and thus give a rather onesided view of the Teutons. Tacitus´ great book ”Germania” is an often quoted source. Only one part is dealt with here. It is about hospitality:
”Att utesluta någon från sin bostad anses som respektlöst; varje german, allt efter sina möjligheter, mottar sin gäst med ett väldukat bord. När hans förråd är uttömda, blir han som nyligen var värd en guide och följeslagare till andra och utan invitation går de till nästa hus. Det gör ingenting, de mottagas med samma hjärtlighet. Ingen gör åtskillnad på en nära bekant och på en främling när det gäller gästfrihet. Det är brukligt att ge den ankomne gästen vad han vill ha och vill man återgälda med en present mottagas den med tvekan.”
How different a picture does this text give in comparison to the sacrificial and weapon finds of archaeology, which all suggest a hard time? How did reality look at the time?
It is not until the Beowulf that we encounter a literary text, which can be linked to its origin here in southern Scandinavia. However, the writer is unknown, but the text deals mostly with the Danes. The text contains stories which in all probability refer to real events. The text is regarded as one of pre-English literature´s stranger works. Thanks to Beowulf´s uncle, Hygelak, some researchers think that they are able to link the Beowulf text with a known event. Hygelak may thus be identical to the Geatic or Gautic king, which was defeated and killed around 515-525 AD during an expedition against the Frankish coast.
The family relations of the hero Beowulf are surprisingly detailed and spans several generations. Beowulf was the son of the chieftain Eggtheow. His mother was the daughter of the Gautian King Hredel and his uncle was Hygelak. The Beowulf text centres on three of Beowulf´s heroic deeds. With his Gauts he sails to the Danes to liberate them from the monster Grendel, who ravages the halls of the Danish King Hrodgar. The other battle is against Grendel´s mother, a terrible wonder. Beowulf´s last battle is against a cruel dragon, which guards a great treasure. It is in this last part of the text, when Beowulf has killed the dragon and he himself, fatally wounded, sits trying to look to the past and future that a wealth of interesting information appear. The hero is worried about what will happen after his death. Will the Franks and the Frisian revenge Hygelak´s violent deeds. The Swedes too, must revenge Hygelak´s deeds. Great battles had been fought between the Swedes and the Gauts and friendly relations were not certain.
In the Beowulf text a number of peoples are mentioned. The Gauts live in Vädermark and when Beowulf sails out to perform his heroic deeds he steers the ship to the West Danes. In the text Hrodgar is mentioned as the king of the East Danes. During the fight against Grendel the North Danes are standing outside the hall and hear the sound of the battle inside. In the poem it is also mentioned that Beowulf´s father in his young years had to flee from the Gauts´ land to the South Danes. Thus the Danes seemed to have been divided into different groups. The great question, which is always asked in connection with this unique literary work, is, where did the Gautian people live? That it hardly can be Western or Eastern Goths in Sweden is apparent in the fact that they crossed the sea in order to come into contact with this people. With that Western Gotland as well as Eastern Gotland may be excluded. Are Gauts the same as Goths? That may be so, but is not likely that they battled the Frisians and the Franks in the North Sea on the other side of Jutland. On the other hand Jutland would have to correspond to the descriptions of Vädermark, the Gaut country.
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