15. Danes, Heruls, Angles and Jutes
17. Early Viking Period
|1. Introduction||2. Gold and Coins|
|3. Climate||4. Houses and Villages|
|5. The Graves||6. Weapon Sacrifices|
|7. Religion||8. The Gold Horns|
|9. Animal Ornamentation||10. Appearance|
|11. Runes||12. Ships|
|13. Danevirke||14. King Ongendus|
Germanic Iron Age followed the Roman Iron Age and is so called because the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist, and Central Europe then became dominated by Germanic peoples, especially the Franks, which was an association of indigenous Germanic tribes. Most archaeologists and historians support that the Germanic Iron Age lasted from 400 AD to 793 AD when Vikings attacked the monastery Lindisfarne in England
Timeline from the Neolithic to historical time.
Precisely because the Roman culture was destroyed, there was no longer classic authors, who could report to later times what happened in the northern countries. No
Pliny or Tacitus wrote down what travelers had reported to them, and therefore we have a
regrettable parenthesis in the history of Denmark for the period.
King Frode orders way open for the army - illustration by Louis Moe in Saxo's Danmarks Krønike.
It is not so that we do not have reports, which have their origins in Germanic Iron Age. We must believe that many of Saxo's and Snorre's tales about ancient Danish kings origin from the Germanic Iron Age. Saxo tells of King Frode's war against the Huns, which must have been in the 400-500's. The Icelandic saga of Hervor and Heidrek contains reports of fighting between Goths and Huns, which points to the 400's.
The Danish royal line starts traditionally with Gorm the Old in the 900's, but there have been many kings before him that we call prehistoric kings. In the Beowulf poem, Vita Willibrordi of Alcuin, Lejre Chronicle, Roskilde Chronicle, Svend Aggesen's Denmark Chronicle, Saxo's Gesta Danorum, Frankish yearbooks and Icelandic sagas - including Snorre's saga on the Norwegian kings, and a few other sources are listed about 200 Danish kings before Gorm the old. Some are same kings, who appear in several sources, and there have probably been several kings of the same name, for example, a king named Frode is mentioned 18 times, King Dan 3 times, King Erik 5 times and so on. Even more have likely been forgotten and not mentioned at all.
All these early myths and sagas are valuable testimonies of the culture of the past and its values, but they lack the answers to where and when the events took place. It is amazing that they have been passed down orally through so many generations until Saxo, Aggesen and their contemporaries wrote them down. But it must have been inevitable that some names and details have been forgotten, garbled or mixed up together, and something else have been added for the sake of a good story.
Pollen analysis from Abkær Mose at Vojens. It appears that the forest, especially beech, increases forcefully and dry soil herbs, grass and heather decrease immediately after the
Migration Period around the year 500 AD, indicating that the forest returned to areas that used to be pastures for cattle. Similar studies in other parts of the country
show the same pattern. It is tempting to interpret this with that the people
Also Procopius' report on the returning Heruls suggests that Scandinavia was quite sparsely inhabited around 500 AD. For how could the Heruls just "settle down", as if they came to a pristine prairie?
A major topic of the debate on Germanic Iron Age is whether there was indeed a
depopulation in relation to the Roman Iron Age, as pollen analysis and the very few
finds of graves and other findings suggest. A depopulation will indicate that Goths and other migratory peoples really originated from South Scandinavia and the Baltic region and migrated from there, alternatively, that the Justinian plague wiped out big parts of the population in the same way as the plague in the Middle Ages did.
Pollen analyzes of Abkær Mose at Vojens and from other locations in Denmark show that in Germanic Iron Age pastures again became overgrown with forest, which points to a depopulation of the country. The same is true for the number of graves. Across the country finds of tombs and settlements from the Germanic Iron Age are far fewer than from the Roman Iron Age. For example, there are known thousands of graves from the Roman Iron Age on the island of Fyn, but very few from Germanic time.
Findings of gold from older Germanic Iron Age in what is now Denmark - After Danmarks Oldtid by Jørgen Jensen.
An overlooked argument in connection with the question about the Goths' and other
migration people's original homeland with respect to archaeological findings is that Germanic Iron Age is the gold richest period in Denmark's history. In fact, the discoveries from older Germanic Iron Age consist almost entirely of gold. There had been found more than 45 kg of gold from this period, and the amount is still increasing. There were no gold mines in Scandinavia, and it is not likely that the Iron Age Danes received the gold in exchange for export of agricultural products.
There is only one reasonable explanation for the large quantity of gold, and it is that Goths and other migratory peoples conquered gold in their battles in southern Europe, they received it for military service or got part of the large quantities of gold that emperors paid barbarians to refrain from attacking their empire; and then they brought some of the gold back to their original homeland, which therefore must have been Southern Scandinavia.
The archaeologist Johannes Brøndsted wrote about this: "From where come all this gold to the north, and of what reasons was it hidden? The answer to the first question is usually referring to the Teutonic takeover of the sinking Roman Empire's splendours and the literary reports on the late Roman emperor's attempts to keep the barbarians away by purchase."
The Timboholm Treasure from Vester Gøtaland is a golden treasure found in 1904 on the Timboholm's estates in the outskirts of Skovde near Lidkøbing by three farm workers named Carl Wernlund, C. H. Lantz and Per Rythén. It consists of two bars and 26 spiral-rings of unwrought gold with a total weight of 7 kg. It is dated to 400-500 AD. Photo: Historiska Varlder.
When the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius 2. made peace with the Huns in 443 AD, he paid two ton of gold. A few years later the price of peace has risen to three ton of gold and a commitment to an annual payment of 2,100 pounds. Procopius recounts in his criticism of Justinian that he too paid gold to the barbarians north of the Danube about 500 AD: "The Huns, which he relied on in his foreign policy, he paid handsomely, which resulted in more raids, which were made against Roman areas. For when these barbarians once had tasted Roman wealth, they could no longer stay away from the road that led them here."
Procopius tells of the Heruls, who returned home to Scandinavia, most likely bringing many treasures. It is very likely that also some Gothic peoples chose to return home with their gold after the dust had settled from the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. Only their return was not noticed by ancient authors.
The Mannerup Treasure is the largest treasure found in Denmark from Younger Germanic Iron Age. It was found with detector in 2012 by Iohannes Miaris Sundberg, Tobias Bondesson and Tommy Olesen. It consists of 3,000 large and small silver and gold items, weighing a total of 7039 kg. Here is a small selection of the treasure. Photo: sn.dk.
This theory supports the assumption that the Goths original homeland really was South
Scandinavia and the Baltic area. Because if they returned home, then they at an earlier time must have gone out.
Until the 1980's, finds from the period was characterized only by gold treasures like neck rings, bracteates and more, but otherwise almost find-empty, at least grave-empty. The Gold Treasures came to an end about 550 AD, and then gold again become rare.
Above: Characteristic decorative pattern on band along at the top of Theoderik the Great's mausoleum in Ravenna. Photo unknown origin.
Bottom: Very similar pattern on suit buckle from the migration period, which was found at Hove Molle in North Zealand between Roskilde and Frederikssund. Photo unknown origin.
During the Germanic Iron Age findings of Roman coins become ever more rare, most likely because the Western Roman Empire no longer existed and contacts to Constantinople became sporadic.
The historian Lotte Hedeager writes about the occurrence of Roman coins in Denmark and the Baltic region: "It was not all Roman solidi that were melted down, especially on the island of Bornholm gold remained more often in coin form, just as on the other two large Baltic Sea islands Öland and Gotland. We can see that the coin flow to there started around 454 AD. that was precisely at the time, when the Ostrogoths had replaced the Huns in Pannonia (Hungary) and as allies of the Byzantine emperor received large payouts. After a revolt in 461 AD the Emperor raised the remuneration considerably, and precisely at this point the flow of solidi to Scandinavia culminates."
In 1985 a treasure of 288 Roman silver coins of the type siliquae was found at Stenhøjgård near the village of Gudme on south of Fyn. They were almost all minted in the Eastern Roman Empire in the period 355-370 AD. Three Germanic imitations show that the coins did not come directly from the Roman Empire, but has been stored for some time before being buried - From Gyldendal og Politikkens Danmarkshistorie 2 by Lotte Hedegaard.
She continues: "At the end of 480's, the Ostrogoths broke up and went to Italy. At the same time, the Nordic coin finds changes character to mainly consisting of Western Roman coins. When the Ostrogoths later, in the years 555-560 AD, was expelled from Italy, the coin flow to Scandinavia stopped."
"Large parts of the Nordic region's gold had, therefore, most likely come to here as a result of a close and direct relation to the Ostrogoths." - "Many of the coins are minted with the same stamps and must, therefore, have come to the north shortly after the minting. What the personal relationships behind those close links were is impossible to say - "
Left: The Hannenov neck ring measures 25 cm. in diameter, it weighs half a kg. and it is made of pure gold. It consists of two smooth gold-tubes that are densely studded with soldered rings and connected by a hinge. The surface is covered with the finest filigree ornamentation forming circles, s-shaped patterns and a few animal figures. It is dated to the end of 400's AD. It was found quite close to the surface in a former bog near
Hannenov on the island of Falster.
The ring has no doubt had a name and was a king's insignias. The Beowulf poem tells how King Hygelac lost his royal neck ring called Brosinga, when he fell in a raid on the Franks:
"That ring had Hygelac of the Geats,
grandson of Swerting, on his last adventure,
when under the banner he defended riches,
warded slaughter-spoils; him fate took away,
after he from pride sought misery,
feud with the Frisians; he then wore the ornament,
the mysterious stone over the waves' cup,
the mighty prince; he fell under the rimmed-shield.
Passed then into the Franks' grasp the body of the king,
mail-coat and the ring together."
Tranlated to modern English by Benjamin Slate. Photo Pinterest.
Right: Details of the Hannenov ring. Photo Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brondsted.
These indications of the close economic ties between the Eastern Goths and Scandinavia
support the theory that South Scandinavia and the Baltic region really was the original homeland of the Goths.
The Roman warming period started quite suddenly around 250 BC and ended around 400 AD. Germanic Iron Age took place in the period in between the Roman Warm Period and the Medieval Warm Period.
Vandals, Svebes and Alans crossed the frozen Rhine New Years Eve 406 AD - painting by an unknown artist.
New Year's Eve 406, AD Vandals, Alans and Svebes crossed the frozen Rhine, initiating the Migration time and heralded the Western Roman Empire's downfall. The fact that the Rhine was frozen, testifies to a completely different climate than that, which prevailed when olive trees grew in the Rhine Valley in the early Roman Empire's time. I do not remember that the Rhine has been frozen in modern times.
H. H. Lamb wrote in his "Climate, History and the Modern World": "For centuries in Roman times from about 150 BC to 300 AD or some few decades later, camel caravans used the Great Silk Road through Asia for trading in luxury goods from China. But from the fourth century AD, which we know from changes in water level in the Caspian Sea and study of irregularities in rivers, lakes and abandoned cities in Sinkiang and Central Asia, drought developed in such an extent that it stopped the traffic on this route. Other severe stages of this drought occurred between 300 AD and 800 AD, and especially around these dates, as it can be seen from old shores lines and old port structures that indicate a very low sea surface level in the Caspian Sea around these times." Drought in the central parts of Eurasia generally indicates a cold climate; as it is the sun's heat that drives the monsoon winds that creates precipitation in the continents' interior.
Heat and cold periods through 2000 years compiled on the basis of the density of the growth-rings of pine trees in northern Scandinavia from the period 138 BC to 2006 AD - The blue line is the actual measurements. The red graph is the result of a mathematical smoothing with a 100-year rolling average. The dotted line above and below the red temperature graph is representing uncertainty. The red dotted line at the top shows the general trend, namely that the Middle Ages were warmer than today, and that the Roman era was warmer than the Middle Ages. The vertical gray fields represent selected 30-year periods. The temperature scale to the left shows deviation from a mean temperature over the period 1951-1980. JJA means June, July, August. Following data from Jan Esper, Ulf Büntgen, Mauri Timonen and David C. Frank "Variability and extremes of northern Scandinavian summer temperatures over the past two millennia." from 2012.
As can be seen, the temperature in Scandinavia has throughout history been unnoticeably decreasing but, however, overlaid by warm and cold periods. One of the cold periods were in the "Migration Period", which covers much of the Germanic Iron Age. Toward the Middle Ages and thus the Viking period the weather seems to have been warmer.
In Jæren in Norway around the year 500 AD, large areas were abandoned as farmland, which could witness to a colder and harsher climate, and-or exodus. Studies of peat bogs in Jutland show traces of shifting sand from around the same time (Lamb).
The legend of the Fimbul winter - drawing by J. C. Dollman.
Gregory of Tours wrote in "History of the Franks" (Book 3:37) from the years 539 to 594 AD: "In this year the winter was terrible and more rigorous than usual, so that the rivers were kept in the iron grip of the frost and made into a road for the people like it was dry land. Birds, too, were affected by cold and hunger, and were captured by hand without using the snare, when the snow was deep."
The Byzantine historian Procopius recorded of 536 AD in his report on the Vandal War: "During this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness - and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams were not clear. From the moment the phenomenon showed up, humans all time were affected by war, famine and other deadly things." His fellow Byzantian, Lydus, wrote: "The sun became weak - almost a full year - so that the fruits died without harvest. It shed no shadow". I was told that in Syria the winter was hard with much snow."
By all appearances, it must have been rather cold in southern Scandinavia in the Germanic Iron Age. We must believe that there has been a lot of snow - and ice on the sea - in winter.
In Roman Iron Age, the villages in Denmark were located denser than they either before or since ever have been. But from the Germanic Iron Age have been found relatively few settlements that also are fairly geographically concentrated.
Graphical reconstruction of a farm from Germanic Iron Age with fences, gates and outbuilding outside fence, excavated at Lithauens Alle Øst in Høje Tåstrup near København. From Danmarks Oldtid by Jørgen Jensen - Gyldendal.
During the late Roman and Germanic Iron Age came big changes in Danish agriculture.
The many small fields surrounded by low dykes - probably overgrown - were replaced by
larger fields, where they could let the cattle graze in the months after harvest. Around
the villages was a system of cultivated land, and farther away were the outfield, where the cattle were grazing.
It has been demonstrated that they no longer dumped the household waste in trenches in the ground, but instead threw it into a manure pit and spread it on the fields along with animal manure. The farmers cultivated rye in far greater extent than in the past; the increased cultivation of this robust grain is possibly connected with the colder climate of the Germanic Iron Age.
The farmhouses in the Germanic Iron Age were bigger than they had been in previous historical periods. The main house could be up to 30-40 m. long, sometimes longer; however, the width was almost always 5-6 m., as it had been for centuries. Inside the house, there were always two parallel rows of roof-bearing pillars which divided it in longitudinal direction so that we got the three-aisled construction, which had been used since the Neolithic period. The large houses were usually oriented east-west, as had been the case in more than a thousand years.
Reconstructed window in Iron Age house in Hjemsted Oldtidspark between Ribe and Tønder. Such internal shutter on hinges can not have been particularly tight. Perhaps a loose shutter secured with wedges have been a more appropriate and therefore more likely solution - in the same way as sailors battened down hatch-covers on the old sail ships. Photo Hjemsted Oldtidspark.
There were no windows, so the inside house has generally been quite dark. But it is believed that some special double pillars in the wall around the fireplace formed the vertical frames for peepholes, which could be opened in good weather.
The house was typically located on a fenced area where the fence was constructed of thick braided branches or stockade. Inside the fence was often several smaller buildings, besides, there could be open sheds along the fence.
A burned down house at Trælborg in Verst Skov northwest of Kolding was 11 m. long and 6 m. wide and oriented east-west. The longitudinal walls were made of wattle plastered with clay between a double line of uprights. There were wide entrances both to the north and south. In the middle of the house was a fireplace built of clay in a frame of planks. A fibula dated the house to older Germanic Iron Age.
At Oksbøl north of Esbjerg, two house sites from the Germanic Iron Age were excavated, one of which was from a fairly large house, which was 38 m. long and 5 m. wide. The roof has been supported by the outer walls and two internal rows of roof-bearing pillars. The house has been divided into three spaces, of which the westernmost was 14.5 m. long in inside measure and had been used for living space with a square fireplace of clay in the middle supported by oak planks. The house had earthen floor and entrance to the south. The middle room was 16,5 m. long, making it the largest, it has probably been stable. The eastern room was only 5 m. long and had a floor of stamped sand. The smaller building was placed at right angle to the large one, and the two buildings were probably part of the same farm. A fibula found in a pillar-hole dated the buildings to the middle of the Germanic Iron Age.
Floor plan of the house from the Germanic Iron Age from Versts Skov northwest of Kolding. Note the curved walls, which was to become so characteristic of the later Viking houses. From "Danmarks Oldtid 3." by Johannes Brøndsted.
At Dankirke south of Ribe have been excavated post holes, which show a very big
hall, 22 m. long and 7 m. wide. There are no traces of booths for cattle, the hall must have been a noble housing and mead hall and maybe store for groceries. Inside the hall,
there were found more than 1,000 glass beads and 1,300 remains of Frankish glasses of many types. There must have been a great noble farm in Dankirke up to 700's years because spread out over the area several Sceattas have been found, which are small thick silver coins minted in England and Frisland during this time.
In 1984, archaeologists excavated a village from the Germanic Iron Age at Vallensbæk southwest of Købemhavn. It was not very big, they found only three houses, but the most surprising finding was a very long double fence, which had its beginning at the smallest house, obviously some sort of stable, and ran in two parallel lines from the hilltop village area down to the humid river valley and meadows along the rivwe, Store Vejle Å. The long fence was, without doubt, a "fægyde", which should ensure that the cows could get out and back between the stable and the grazing areas without straying into the cultivated fields, which were located closer to the village.
Reconstructed Iron Age house from Hjemsted Oldtidspark between Ribe and Tønder.
It has been shown that the village Vorbasse south of Billund has existed as an
inhabited village from the years around the birth of Christ to modern times and therefore also during Germanic Iron Age. However, the village moved every few hundred years. The houses have much resembled houses from the Roman Iron Age, though slightly larger, the length was 30-40 m. and the width was well 5 m. They were divided into many rooms for different purposes. The walls were mud-plastered interwoven branches, and the roof was probably straw supported by two rows of inner pillars. Each major house was located in the middle of a square enclosure together with one or two smaller buildings, and the farms were placed in long rows.
The excavation in Vorbasse witnesses on an agriculture that was primarily based on livestock and produced more than the farmers themselves could use. The surplus production was sold in a market, which made Vorbasse farmers able to buy imported products, such as pots made of soapstone and grinding stones from northern Scandinavia and millstones and ceramics from the Rhine area. In addition to cattle, they raised horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and geese. They have grown barley, rye and oats, but almost no wheat. In addition, there have been traces of peas, beans and cabbage. Some of Vorbasse's residents have eaten many mussels. All in all, they have been eating healthy and varied.
Excavation of the foundation of Iron Age house. Photo: Free Wallpaper
During an excavation at Præstestien in the north of Esbjerg was found an undefinable
porous matter, flattened to a thickness of about 1 cm. The dark residue was the rest of
a flatbread made of barley flour. The bread was very dense and had few air bubbles, as it often is the case with bread baked from barley flour, which has a very low content of gluten and therefore does not raise much.
A village at Nørre Snede between Vejle and Herning was located along the edge of a meadow area. It included in Germanic Iron Age 7-8 farms that were located around a small open space. The farms were each surrounded by a fence and also included smaller buildings in the fenced area.
Extraction of iron in a shaft furnace. Bog iron ore is found in meadows especially in Western Jylland, for example, along the rivers a spade depth below the turf. It was
used to extract iron in the so-called slag pit furnaces. They could only be
used once. A furnace consisted of two parts: a superstructure, which is called the shaft, and an underground part, which is called the slag pit. The shaft was built up of clay, then filled with a mixture of bog iron ore and charcoal during the process. From a hole in the lower part of the shaft, air was blown through it with a bellows in order to reach the required temperature, which is 1,200-1,300 degrees Celcius. At this temperature, iron will form lumps, while the slag will become liquid and run down into the slag pit and solidify there. There is not formed really liquid iron as the chemical element iron melts only at 1,500 degrees Celcius, but the iron is extracted as a kind of iron sponge of small grains, which is called the "lup". Then they could heat the "lup" in the blacksmith's shop and pretty easily hammer the liquid slag out of it and transform it into weapons and tools.
At the village Drengsted south of Skærbæk have been found signs of extensive
iron production. Archaeologists have found remains of 224 iron melting furnaces called
slag pit furnaces. Essentially, it was a single farm in the village, which accounted for
the iron extraction, which by all accounts took place every year in high summer. It is estimated that a total of 4.5 tonnes has been produced over a period of 150 years, which is 30 kg per year. The farms in Drengsted were not fenced.
Similar villages have been found at Sejlflod near Aalborg and Stavad in Store Vildmose north of Aalborg. The historian Lotte Hedager uses, in particular, the village on the outskirts of Store Vildmose as evidence that Denmark was not depopulated in Germanic Iron Age, as the absence of discoveries in several finding classes otherwise may suggest. She is writing: " - all they continue into Germanic Iron Age without clear boundaries or transitions, so who can longer speak of depopulation of the countryside? The buildings at Stavad is certainly the visible proof that people back then had to settle for even the sorriest land: a wet bog, which admittedly provided good grazing for cattle, but also with guarantee gave crooked backs and arthritic legs."
Silkeborg Museum excavated in 2009 a village from Germanic Iron Age from about 400-500
AD at Linå east of Silkeborg. The village consisted of at least 10 longhouses. The houses were surrounded by fences that connected the individual houses together in larger farm installations. The farms consisted typical of a main house of 30 m`s length with residence and stable under the same roof, surrounded by one or more small houses, which had served as the farm's working buildings. One house separates markedly from the others by its royal dimensions. An unusually large hall with 425 m2 under roof and with a length of no less than 65 m.
Against this, one must argue that the Germanic Iron Age lasted more than 350 years, during which time population density may have varied. It may have been such that the country was rather sparsely populated at the start of the Germanic Iron Age, but became more populous during the period. Just consider that it is now almost 400 years ago that the Mayflower arrived in America with 100 Puritans on board, and today there are 320 million people in the United States; which is not caused by immigration alone but also by a good fertility.
In Germanic Iron Age, feminism, contraception and abortions were not invented. The fertility rate must have been much bigger than today. Women probably started to give birth before the age of 20 years, and they continued in all likelihood until 40 years of age. A combination of high fertility and good living conditions in terms of available fields and pastures may have compensated for a low population density in the course of only a few hundred years.
The reconstructed Tissø Necklace, made by goldsmiths Ebbe and Dorthe Hjort. It can be seen in the exhibition in Kongsgård and Kultsted in Formidlingscenter Fugledegård. The
original is exhibited at the National Museum.
When farmer Lars Krogsager prepared his field in the spring of 1977, an object stuck in the wheel axle of the harrow. It was a twisted golden rod about 1 m long. He was about to throw it away when he noticed a decorated piece. He phoned the National Museum, who puzzled received the almost 2 kg heavy gold neck ring. It weighs 1.83 kg. The two spiky wires show that already in the past some of the ring has been cut. It is estimated that it originally weighed about 2.1 kg. Many say that it comes from the Viking period and sat around the neck of an God's statue. But it is more likely that it was simultaneously with the royal palace, which was built at Tissø around 600 AD in the Germanic Iron Age, which was Denmark's most gold-rich period. The Beowulf poem tells, for example, on the neck-ring Brisingemen, which was royal dignity symbol for King Hygelac of the Geats.
We must believe that not many new villages were founded in the Germanic Iron Age, and that time peasants mainly lived in villages with characteristic names from Roman
Iron Age with the endings -løse, -inge, -um, -lev and -sted - as for example in Vanløse,
Revninge, Nærum, Brønderslev and Ringsted.
Around 600 AD, a farm of true royal dimensions was built at Bulbrogård on the banks of the Tissø lake south of Kalundborg. The fenced area was 10,000 m2, which is three times as much as an ordinary farm. The main building was a 40 m. long hall with curved walls, as we know them from the later Viking age. During the excavation a quantity of daub from the walls was found, which showed that they had been whitewashed. The 60 cm. thick roof bearing pillars were dug 3 m. into the ground - with such powerful columns we can believe that the building had at least one second floor.
Tuning screw for a stringed instrument from the Iron Age, found during excavations of the Iron Age farm at Tissø. Photo levendemusikhistorie.dk.
Near the wall was found a tuning screw for a stringed instrument that we must believe they played in the great royal mead hall.
Also a house with a length of 23 m. was found within the fencing, probably also whitewashed, and some smaller houses and pit houses.
There are indications that the house burned down in the mid-600's and then rebuilt 500 meters further south, on which place it remained for the next 300 years. The new hall was also 36 m. long and 11.5 m. wide. The royal building was surrounded by a settlement which stretched along the lake's western shore for a length of 1,500 m. and a width of 2-300 m.
When farmers hundred years ago lowered the lake's surface to counteract the flooding of low-lying areas, numerous weapons, jewelry and tools were found on the old lake bed off the royal building, apparently sacrificed to the gods. They sacrificed objects could be dated to 600 AD. We come in mind that Tissø means Tir's or Tyr's lake; and Tyr was the subsequent Viking period's God of war.
According to Saxo, Lejre was Rolf Krake's royal seat, and some believe that it was the place where Beowulf visited King Hrodgar in his mead hall, called Heorot, where he killed the troll, Grendel.
Gammel Lejre is located about 1.5 km. north of the present village of Lejre not far from the river Lejre Å's estuary into Roskilde Fjord. Since 1977, archaeologists have been excavating here, and they have found a building, which was just as big as the one from the Tissø settlement.
Odin figure found during Roskilde Museum's excavations in Gammel Lejre in 2009. That it really depicts Odin can be seen on the two ravens sitting on the throne's armrests. The ravens are Hugin and Munin, which names some believe means hu and minde, that is thought and memory. Odin sits on his throne, called Hlidskjalf from which he can look over the whole world. Every morning the ravens fly out to return in the evening and tell Odin on all that had happened. The figure is of silver and only 2 cm. high, but it is the only figure that we know that for sure depicts Odin. Note his neck ring. - Photo Mogens Engelund - Wikipedia.
Both settlements were built in the 500's. The Lejre settlement has not been
fully excavated, but it has been demonstrated that it was a hall of the same royal size as the one at Tissø surrounded by a village which spanned over
almost one square kilometer.
Adjacent to the hall, a large pile of stones was found, about 25 m. in diameter of brittle burnt stones and charcoal mixed with traces of gold, bronze and iron and shards of pottery, all of which show that casting and other crafts were performed here.
Around 700 AD, a new royal castle of exceptional dimensions was built in Lejre It was 48 m. long and 11.5 m. wide in the middle with curved walls. The roof was supported partly by two rows of sturdy posts in its longitudinal direction and partly by the wall studs supported by exterior inclined struts. It has been calculated by triangulation on the basis of the traces of the posts in the ground that the height of the walls was 3.5 to 4 m. The building's total height cannot have been less than 10 m. One can believe that with such a side-height, the building must have had at least one second floor.
Fjolne falls into the mead-vesel. Drawing by Halvdan Egedius.
We remember that Ynglinga Saga tells of the almost contemporary Svea king: "Fjolne, son to Yngve Frøy, then ruled the Sveas and the Uppsala-ød; he was
mighty, ruling with good harvest and peace. By that time Frode was in Lejre. Between him and Fjolne was friendship, and they invited each other. When Fjolne traveled to Frode on Sjælland, a great feast was prepared, and they had welcomed many from around the countries. Frode had large house buildings. There was made a big vessel many cubits high and attached along with large logs. It was standing on the ground floor, but higher up, there was a ceiling with an open floor, so from there they poured the fluid down and mixed the vessel full of mead. It was a horribly strong drink. That evening they followed Fjolne to lodge in the nearest attic and his entourage with him. At night he went out to the external gallery to search a certain place. He was heavily sleepy and dead drunk. When he returned to the lodge, he went along the external gallery and in through another ceiling door; there he slipped his feet and fell into the mead vessel and drowned there."
That house, which became Fjolne's destiny had a second floor, and it was standing in Lejre at the right time. It may well have been the impressive hall, from which archaeologists have found remains in Gammel Lejre.
The treasure from Dalshøj was found on the field called Sorte Muld. In a place on the field called Dalshøj under the remains of a burned house from the Migration Period was found one of the finest gold treasures from the 500's. Along with a large relief-fibula was 17 Roman gold solidi, 2 gold spiral rings and a severed section of a third. The fibula is a very fine work with spiral ornaments and profiled animal heads. Photo: Migration Period between Odra and Vistula.
A field near Svaneke on the island of Bornholm is called Sorte Muld (Black mold) because of the dark color of the soil, which comes from that it contains ancient cultural layers, which in some places are 1 m. thick. During excavations in the 1940's were found foundations from houses from Germanic Iron Age. The thick culture layers show that the place has been permanently inhabited for hundreds of years. In the 1980's, investigations were resumed, scientists used metal detectors, and it was demonstrated that it was about a settlement of 40 to 50,000 m2, which has been inhabited from Roman Iron Age to the Viking Age, most important in the Germanic Iron Age.
In 1985, archaeologists found on Sorte Muld a few "guldgubber", which are small pieces of gold thin plate, in which is formed typically one or two human figures. They are 10 to 18 mm wide and often formed in very thin and fragile material, mostly gold foil. Renewed exploration in 1987 brought 2,350 guldgubber to the daylight, and since the number had increased to 2,500.
A silverplate rolled together as a paper cone was found on the field not many years ago. It contained eight gold beads, two wheel-cross shaped pendants, six Roman coins, which was also were made into jewellery, and five gold bracteates.
Cone of a gilded and deformed silver disc full of gold jewelry, solidi, gold foil beads, bracteates and pendants found in the field Sorte Muld
at Svaneke. Photo kulturarv.dk.
Furthermore, at another location on Sorte Muld, which is called Dalshøj, one of
the finest gold treasures from Germanic Iron Age was found in the remains of a burned down house. It consisted of a large relief-fibula, 17 Roman gold solidi, 2 gold spiral rings and a severed piece of a third ring.
Sorte Muld is located on a hill 60 m. above sea level, only 2 km. from the coast. It overlooks the Baltic Sea, and one can faintly see the small island Christiansø in the horizon.
In Alfred the Great's translation of Orosius' Roman history is added a travelogue by the merchant Wulfstan, who sailed from Hedeby to the town of Truso in the Vistula delta about 850 -900 AD. He wrote: "So we had Bornholm to port, and they have their own king."
Neck ring of gold, which is found at Gudme by Svendborg Museum. It lay coiled up in a little clay jar that was buried by a fence that surrounded a farm.
The ring weighs 140 gr. and is 50 cm long. It is dated to 400-500 AD - Photo Jyllandsposten.
Many believe that Sorte Muld must have been the seat of a king of Bornholm during the whole of the Iron Age.
Another of the Iron Age's large and rich settlements lay at Gudme and Lundeborg in South Fyn. Already in the Roman Iron Age a huge hall, which was 47 m. long and 10 m. wide, stood in the hills near Gudme lake, barely 5 km. from the coast of Store Bælt. The roof was supported by two rows of no less than eight strong roof-bearing posts, each with a diameter of 80 cm. With columns of such dimensions, we must believe that the building had at least one second floor. From the large hall, they could walk into a smaller building in connection with this. The two buildings covered in total an internal floor area of approximately 700 M2. The great hall was demolished in early Germanic Iron Age. The small hall continued to function until the mid-500's.
The impressive halls were surrounded by at least 50 ordinary farms over the nearby area. Like the halls, the settlement was founded in the 200's. On the locality Møllegårdmarken, was a settlement, which existing during four centuries and then ceased.
Amateur archaeologist Morten Kris Nielsen found in 2013 an 8 cm. long gold buckle at Kirkemose near Spentrup at Randers from Germanic Iron Age. When he later surveyed the find place, he found another ten objects of gold. - Photo Hans Gundsøe, Museum Østjylland.
At another site near Gudme, called Gudme IV, was a farm, which around 400 AD
consisted of a main house, built together with the surrounding fence. In addition, a barn, a well and a small outbuilding were found on the farm's fenced area of 2700 M2. This farm could be followed from 200's AD to the beginning of 800's AD when it ceased.
In connection with the big settlement was a trading place at the coast at the Tange Å estuary into Store Bælt near Lundeborg. Here are found much evidence of trade, craft and ship repair in the form of weights, small clipped pieces of gold for payment, many glass beads, shards and drinking glasses and ship's rivets.
In the 500's AD, the last of the great halls disappeared, and it seems as if the royal functions ceased in the Gudme area; perhaps they were moved to another place. But the Gudme settlement continued as a more common settlement and many detector-finds show that it existed from 200's to the Viking period.
The Broholm treasure. It was found already in 1833 in connection with plowing on the manor Broholm's fields and consists of more than 4 kg. gold. Only one of the neckrings weighs 1,356 kg - It was for many years the largest existing
gold treasure from prehistoric Denmark apart from the gold horns, but a few years ago, it was surpassed by the Mannerup treasure, which is of 7 kg. - However, not pure gold. - Photo Odense Bys Museer.
The residents of the Gudme settlement were rich in gold. In total, the soil near the Gudme settlement has so far given about 10 kg. gold, representing almost a quarter of the Danish gold from Germanic Iron Age. At the manor Broholm not far from Gudme halfway towards the coast, a gold treasure of more than 4 kg. was found in 1833. Next to the gold horns, it is the largest pure gold treasure, found in Denmark.
There have never been gold mines in South Fyn, and it is very unlikely that the Gudme settlement's residents had got so much gold as payment for export of hides and other agricultural products. The most reasonable explanation is that they had the gold with them when they arrived in 200's, or they traveled out and participated in the Migration Age's battles, and some returned home with the conquered gold.
Several place names near Gudme are pointing in the direction of the Gudme settlement as a before Christian cult center. The place name Gudme means Gods home. Gudbjerg means the Gods mountain, and Galdbjerg "sacrificial mountain".
There are no written-down traditions about who they were, so all sorts of guesses are in theory possible. One can guess that they were the returning Heruls, but in that case, they came two to three hundred years too early, as the settlement was founded in the 200's. They may also have been a Gothic tribe, which had acquired gold in the Migration Age battles.
Man Figure in gold from Germanic Iron Age found at Nyborg north of Gudme. It
was found in several parts, together with other things in gold. Note his solid
neck ring. It is 7 cm. high - Photo Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie 2 by Lotte Hedeager.
The founding of the village of Gudme in the 200's is fairly contemporary with Dani's arrival to Stevns and the area around Tryggevælde on Sjælland. We can guess that the first residents of the Gudme village's were the Aesirs, whom Snorri tells about. They may have come by sea from the south in the same way as some assume that Dani arrived by ship to Stevns on Sjælland. We can speculate that after a hundred years they moved the king's site to the city of Odense, which got its name from Odin.
It can be extracted from Jordanes and Procopius that Dani and Switheudi had the same origin. In the Ynglinge Saga is told that the Svear's royal family descended from Odin the Old, and his descendant in the fourth generation, King Sveigde traveled to Turkland and Great Svitjod (Asia) to look for Gudehjem (the God's home) from which Odin should have come. Also Saxo tells about the Aesirs and Odin; and Snorre tells of the Aesirs, who led by Odin settled on Funen. As Dani and the Svears had the same origin and both Svears and the Aesirs was led by an Odin, we can believe that Dani, Switheudi (Svears) and the Aesirs, who came to the island of Funen, were related groups.
Some would argue that the very old place names suffixes from before the birth of Christ, that is -løse -inge -um -lev and -sted, are missing in southeastern part of Fyn and that the big central church villages instead have names with endings typical for the later Viking period. They will say that the ancient names were replaced by new ones in connection with an extensive reorganization of the settlement at the beginning of the Viking period - which means that they believe in a form of conquest, after which the conqueror took over the land and distributed it among his men. Which does not fit with the theory that the Aesir went ashore at Lundeborg and afterwards moved to Odense - for why should they reallocate their original lands at Gudme if they still had power there.
The original primeval forests in Denmark stood pretty long time, especially on the hilly South Fyn but also elsewhere in the country. The last virgin forests in Denmark were cut down in the Middle Ages, many years after the Germanic Iron Age. When the Aesir, or whoever it was, went ashore at Lundeborg, the southeastern Fyn was most likely fairly sparsely populated, and there have probably never been very many place names with the old endings from the Roman Iron Age. The Aesirs went ashore and founded their settlements there, which they gave names with their own distinctive suffixes, namely -by, -torp and -toft. When they later in the Vikings period set their marks on the whole country, all new villages got names with these endings.
Decoration on the top of a sword scabbard. This was usually made of thinplate or copper. These massive gold rings were an extravagant decoration. The treasure was found coincidence by a farm worker on a farm
at Tange Å near Gudme. It consisted of two pieces of mouth plate of gold, one gold arm ring and some pieces broken gold. - Photo Fyens.dk.
Important village names in the Gudme area are Gudme, Guldbjerg and Galdbjerg, which apparently are linked to the area's heydays.
Similar large halls of royal size have been found in Uppåkra in Scania and at Toftegård near Strøby on Stevns. At Slöinge in Halland was a central market place, which also must have been a center of power.
Really a lot of graves from the Roman Iron Age have been found across the country, but from the Germanic Iron Age, we encounter a strange emptiness of finds. For example, thousands of graves from the Roman Iron Age are known on Fyn, but only a few from Germanic.
Both cremation and inhumation burials were still in use, but we can not tell the numerical relation between the two burial types, as the number of findings is so small.
The Donbæk burial site at Frederikshavn. One of the low mounds has been excavated. Seen from northwest - Photo. Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brønsted.
From Vendsyssel, only cremations are known. In the burial site at Donbæk near Frederikshavn, the existence of two different types have been detected. Either a relatively large mound of perhaps 1.5 m. without a circle of stones around, or a quite low stone circle. In the bottom of the larger mounds was found the grave in the form of a layer with burnt bones, in which was placed a rough clay urn, a bit up in the filling of the mound was often a bigger stone, perhaps an overturned bauta stone. In the low mounds, the grave was a coal layer scattered across the bottom of the mound or put more concentreted in the center.
A few inhumation graves are known from Himmerland. At Gudumholm near Lille Vildmose south of Aalborg was found a grave, in which a woman was buried with a necklace, which contained a few hundred beads of glass and amber, on the chest she had fibulaes of silver and bronze, at her feet were placed a wooden bucket and a clay vessels, and she had also a bone comb and an iron knife with her in the grave. Another woman at Agerbjerg near Lille Vildmose was buried with fibulae, pearl necklace and two spindle whorls. Both were built as burials on flat ground in hilly terrain.
On Sjælland, a dozen inhumation graves were made rather high in a kitchen midding from Neolithic at Bilidt near Roskilde Fjord. A woman's grave at Kvamløse south of Holbæk contained prestigious burial gifts like pearl necklaces of glass and amber, gold pendants and silver fibulaes.
On North Fyn have been found a few inhumation graves at Norup.
The island of Bornholm differs from the rest of Denmark in the Germanic Iron Age. In the rest of Denmark, very few graves and no weapons have been found. On Bornholm more than 330 graves have been found, many of them with weapons, including double-edged and single-edged swords, spears, axes and shields. Furthermore, there is often harness in the graves, sometimes the deceased even had been laid to rest with his horse.
Balder's burial in a burning ship. From taringa.net - unknown artist.
Ynglinga Saga says: "Odin made it law in his countries, which previously had been law among the Aesirs. Such he ordered that they should burn all the dead and carry their belongings into the fire with them, he said that so much fortune should each one come to Valhal with, which he had got with him on the pyre, and what he himself had dug into the ground, should also be beneficial for him. The ash they should carry out into the sea or dig into the ground." - If it has been customary to spread the ash over the ocean waves or dig it into the ground without an urn, it can be a reason why there have not been found so many graves from the Germanic Iron Age.
There were also other burial methods that do not leave traces: The Old English epic Bjovulf says that king Scyld (Shield) as a small child came to the king-less Denmark, sailing alone on a ship; when he died he was again placed aboard a ship, which for full sail was sent to the sea. In the Prose Edda is told that Balder's body was laid in his gigantic ship Ringhorne. It was launch in the sea, the sail was hoisted, and the ship sailed burning out on the ocean.
The Gods still lived in bogs and small lakes. The old custom of sacrificing beaten enemies' weapons to the familiar gods in the bogs continued well into the Germanic Iron Age, but the sacrifices were far from such quantities of weapons, which had been the case in Roman Iron Age. There are at least eight weapons finds from Germanic Iron Age:
Three swords from the small Kragehul Mose on Western Fyn - dated to the 400's. Photo: Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brøndsted.
In the small bog Kragehul, surrounded by hills at Flemløse near Assens, were already in 1800's found artefacts from the older part of Germanic Iron Age, some with runic inscriptions, but they are now lost. There was made an excavation in 1864-65 led by Conrad Engelhardt, where he found some weapons, all of which - like all previous weapon finds in the sacrificial bogs - were intentionally destroyed.
Swords from the small Kragehul Mose on Western Fyn - dated to the 400's. The sword blades are of iron, and the rest is made of bronze. Photo Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brøndsted.
In Kragehul Mose were found a dozen swords, besides, fragments of several. All
swords were the long two-edged type with damascened blades, called spatha, which had supplanted the short Roman gladius sword. Scabbards were made of wood and equipped with mouth plates and strap fittings, they were decorated with animal heads of bird or horse. There were numerous spear and lances out of many different types, narrow and wide, or even with a meandering edge, with or without barbs. Many spears and lances shafts were adorned with twining motifs, which ended up in animal heads. A single broken spear shaft has a runic inscription: "I, Asugisl's eril am called (muha) -- power -- hallow(?)". In addition, some fragments of bows and many arrows with heads of bone or iron were found. There were fragments of ash shields and a single ax with a broken shaft. There were pieces of bone combs, bronze-pliers or perhaps tweezers, whetstones and a knife with shaft of bone with the runic inscription: "Bera/Bera." Before Engelhardt's excavation, a horn and a wooden disc also with runic inscriptions had been found, but these objects have been lost.
Sword from the small Kragehul Mose on Western Fyn - dated to the 400's.
The sword blade is of iron, and the rest is made of bronze. Still, residual
bronze decoration can be seen on a now-vanished wooden scabbard. The ring on the left is a ferrule that has been attached on the lower tip of the wooden scabbard, which is believed to have been covered with leather. Photo Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brøndsted.
In Nydam Mose II, southeast of the site of the great finds from Roman Iron Age, almost a hundred different items from Germanic Iron Age were found in 1878. There are almost exclusively scabbard fittings, namely mouth plates, straphangers and ferrules, which are decorated with geometric patterns, plant patterns, animal figures and human heads.
In Porskær Mose at Underup northwest of Horsens, have since 1867 been found ancient artifacts and in 1880 the bog was excavated. They found a heavily corroded double-edged sword, a number of spearheads, scabbard fragments, 70 ferrules for scabbards, a gold bracelet and more.
Left: Handle of sword found in Kragehul Mose on Western Fyn. Photo Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brøndsted.
Right: Upper part of the handle of a magnificent sword from Kyndby near Fredrikssund. It is a so-called ring-sword. This means that to its handle as an ornament is added an eyelet and a ring, sometimes in gold, in the beginning in two parts but gradually, as time passed by, worked into one solid piece. Many assume that the ring symbolizes the owner's fidelity to the Prince, called the ring-giver, most likely the king. Rolf Krake gave the young man Vøgg, not one, but two gold arm rings and thereby tied him with fidelity to death. Still, in modern age a golden ring on the left-hand ring finger symbolizes loyalty and fidelity.
On the banks of Dallerup Sø south of Horsens, a number of double-edged swords were found, of which some were damascened, together with several spearheads, arrowheads and more.
In the bog Knarremose on the island of Bornholm, a pair of swords with handles decorated with bird heads and a few other things were found in 1800's.
In Manna Enge at Tise west of Brønderslev, a double-edged sword was found together with some horse bones and some hammered down poles.
Left above: A single-edged sword, called scramasax, found in Søborg Sø west of Helsingør.
Left below: A lance head from Bækkegård on Bornholm.
Right: A so-called bearded ax from Gudme. A warrior's main weapons in Germanic Iron Age were sword, shield and lance. Axes first became common in the Viking period; it is special to find a bearded ax from Germanic Iron Age in Gudme - Photo Danmarks Oldtid by Johannes Brøndsted.
Moreover, in Illerup Adal a few weapons were found that originated from Germanic Iron Age around 450-500 AD. A fairly small part of the finding in Thorsbjerg Mose can also be dated to the Germanic time.
The names of the Weekdays and the associated gods. The Germanic tribes took over the seven day week from the Romans but replaced the Roman God names with names of their own gods, as they thought fit. Except for Saturday, which Danish name comes from washing day.
We have very few direct indications on the religion in Germanic Iron Age. But the Germanic tribes took over the seven-day week from the Romans, but replaced the Roman god names with their own, as they thought fit. In for example German and Dutch the names of the weekdays also originate from the pagan gods, and they became Christians around 500-600 AD. They must have given the weekdays their pagan names some time before they became Christian that is around 500 AD or earlier. Before they adopted Christianity, they must have worshipped gods like Odin, Freya and Tyr, as they gave the weekdays names after these. It is quite likely that their Scandinavian neighbors to the north
cultivated similar pagan gods at the same time.
Following the motifs bracteates are divided into four types, called A,
B, C and D-bracteates:
- A-type has a head or showing the face of a human, modeled after antique imperial coins. They are more or less Germanized imitations of imperial portraits on Roman coins. This bracteate has been found at Maglemose near Slagelse. Almost all portraits on bracteates show men, who are clean-shaved in Roman manner. It must have been the fashion in the Germanic Iron Age - Photo Arild Hauge.
- B-type shows one, or at most three people sometimes accompanied by an animal. This bracteate has been found at Bolbro near Odense. It shows a woman eating something while holding her crotch and possibly urinating. She is surrounded by runes, a cross with equal branches and other signs. There have been found relatively few type B bracteates, maybe 6-8 pieces. Photo Arild Hauge.
- C-type has a man's head, who rides on a four-legged animal, probably a horse, surrounded by runes, birds and different symbols. The rider has no body or legs, he is clean-shaved and has long braided hair, as the Germanic kings used to have, and as we know the early Frankish kings, the long-haired Merovingian dynasty, also had. On one of the bracteates with this design is added a runic inscription: "Howar" meaning "High," which is a name for Odin, which we recognize from the later Old Norse poem Havamal - "Speech of the high" Therefore, the German scientist Karl Hauch has suggested that the C-bracteates symbolize Odin. But one can easily imagine other interpretations - maybe it is Hermod, who rushes against Hel to redeem the lost souls, who have suffered death by disease and not by weapons. This bracteate is found on Gotland - Photo Wikipedia.
- D-type's middle figure consists of a stylized animal. They are pure Nordic ornamentation, completely detached from antique models. This bracteate has been found at Stavnager near Randers - Photo Jyllandsposten.
Rider on a helmet plate from Gammel Uppsala from 600's. He is believed to depicts Odin with his two ravens, Hugin and Munin. Wikipedia.
Bracteates are small round thin gold plates, usually 3-4 cm. in diameter, which are stamped or pressed from one side with different motives and are fitted with an eyelet so they can be worn in a cord or chain around the neck. In many foreign graves, bracteates have been found at the neck of the deceased, which shows that they really were pendants. Many bracteates have runic inscriptions, all with the 24 characters older futhark, but many inscriptions are not readily comprehensible.
Bracteates are some of the most common of the many gold finds from 400's and 500's. There have been found more than 970 of them, of which two-thirds are found in Denmark.
Some bracteates also shows motifs that are recognizable in Gylfaginning in the later Prose Edda and Völuspá in the Poetic Edda, which tell of Balder's death:
Findings of Gold bracteates in Northern Europe - Jørgen Truels Jensen - Wikipedia.
I saw Balders,
the bloody God's,
Over the fields
slender and beautiful
"From that tree came
- so it seemed to me -
sent by Hød.
For Balder was born
early a broder.
Odin's son avenged,
only one night old,"
From Völuspa on Balder's death.
On a bracteate found at Trollhättan and one similar found in Hamburg, we can recognize the story of how the god Tyr lost his hand, when the Fenris wolf bit it off.
Four different type B bracteates with motifs illustrating the Aesir faith in Germanic Iron Age. From left to right:
- Bracteate found at Faxe on Stevns, which clearly shows Balder's death, as the person in the middle is hit by an arrow with twigs or leaves - Photo Kristeligt Dagblad.
- Bracteate found in 1700's in an unknown location also shows Balder's death, as the person to the left is hit by an arrow with twigs or leaves - Photo Arild Hauge.
- Bracteate found at Trollhattan in Wester Goteland in Sweden, showing how Tyr lost his hand when the gods tied the Fenris Wolf at Ulveled. Tyr holds his left hand in the wolf's mouth, and he has no sword. He has quite long hair - Photo Historiska Varlder.
- Drawing of the motif on a bracteate found in Hamburg, which also shows how Tyr lost his hand. Here he holds his right hand in the wolf's mouth, and a sword in his left hand - Photo Arild Hauge.
The gods wanted to bind Fenris. The dwarfs in the land of the Black Elves had
prepared a rope for them, which was "soft and smooth as silk." The rope was called Gleipnir and was made of six things: "The cat's trampling and the woman's beard, mountain's roots and bear's sinews, fish breath and bird's spit."
Tyr and Fenris - section of drawing by John Bauer, 1911.
In Gylfaginning is reported that the wolf said: "If you bind me, so I can not come free by myself, you are so treacherous that it may last long before I get the help from you. I do not want to let me bind by this band, but rather this than you can accuse me of a lack of courage. One of you shall put his hand in my mouth as
assurance that this is done without fraudulence." - "The Aesirs looked at each other and thought that now there were two problems, and no one would offer his hand until Tyr held out his right hand and laid it in the wolf's mouth. As the wolf tensed against, the rope became tighter, and the harder he fought, the stronger the rope. They all laughed, except Tyr; He lost his hand."
The names of the weekdays and these bracteates show that already in Germanic Iron Age the worship of Vanirs and Aesirs such as Tyr, Odin, Thor, Freya and Frey was fully established.
Until now, there had not been any sign of Christianity in Denmark in the Germanic Iron Age, which could otherwise be expected if the period large gold wealth was due to returning Arian Christian migratory peoples. We can have the theory that the features of the Aesir Faith, which reminds of Christianity - which is Odin hanging on the tree sacrificing himself to himself, and Balder's death and his exceedingly good personality - was due to influence from Arian Christianity. Widukind writes in his Saxon Chronicle from around 97 AD (The third book, verse 65): "The Danes were from old time Christians, but served nevertheless the idols following pagan custom."
The Gold Horns from Gallehus - Foto Wikipedia.
The Gold Horns were found with a 95-year intervals at Gallehus north of Møgeltønder and they are the biggest Danish gold find ever.
The long horn was found by Kirsten Svendsdatter in 1639. It was about 71 cm. long and weighed 3.1 kg. Orifice diameter was 10.4 cm. In 1734 smallholder Erik Lassen found the incomplete short horn just steps from the finding place of the first one, weighing 3.7 kg. Both horns were of solid gold.
The horns were both constructed from a smooth inner horn of 12-carat gold covered with outer rings of 24-carat gold. They were shaped like large ox horn and were both provided with carrier chains. The surfaces were decorated with a wealth of animal, human and mythical figures. Some of the motifs were punch-marked on a smooth surface, others were made separately and soldered to the surface. The figures were placed in cylindrical bands one above the other.
Ole Worm's drawing of the long gold horn from 1641 - Wikipedia.
There have been many attempts of interpreting the myriad of riders, centaurs, men with animal heads, archers, the woman with drinking horn, men with shields, snakes, fabulous animals, fish and birds, but no one can say with certainty which myths and legends the figures symbolize.
Some have pointed to that the fish and the snake can be recognized from the Bronze Age motifs on razors and cliff-carvings. The horses are some tapir-like animals that resembles the horse in front the bronze-age Sun Chariot.
J. R. Pauli's drawing of the short Gold Horn from 1754.
In his work of Danish Prehistory explains Jørgen Jensen that the origin of some of the figures of the two Gold Horn are to be found in the Roman Empire. For example, the Roman terra sigilata ceramics were often decorated with hunting motifs, where deer and archers often appeared - as on the gold horns. The very special motif with the doe and the suckling calf can also be found in a Roman relief near Frankfurt dated 204 AD. The centaur is certainly of Greek-Roman origin.
The Gold horns' decoration may largely have been the result of the Norsemens' meeting with the Roman art industry - which suggests that some migratory peoples returned back to their ancestral home in Scandinavia when the dust had cleared after the downfall of Western Roman Empire. They brought their gold and a lot of knowledge and inspiration, which among other things, resulted in the decoration on the gold horns.
The snakes, the fish, the crossed men, the woman with drinking horn - some motifs must have had their origin in the Nordic region, while others may have been inspired by Greek-Roman culture, but like everything else thoroughly processed and adapted to the Nordic imagination.
Several places on the long horn, a dragon-like animal appears with only front legs and curled tail. A couple of similar intertwined animals in the so-called Nydam style are on a scabbard from a weapon sacrifice in Nydam Mose. On the short horn, we can find animals with head in both ends, which animals also can be found on another scabbard from Nydam Mose. The woman with drinking horn can be found on some "guldgubber", that is tiny images of people and animals stamped or engraved on thin sheets of gold.
Other Danish gold finds from the Migration Period are produced with a similar technique in form of soldered figures and punched ornamentation, and this - together with the older runic alphabet - dates the gold horns to early Germanic Iron Age perhaps the 400's.
The short gold horn on the National Museum with a close-up of the inscription: "ek hlewagastiR holtijaR horna tawido", which often is translated to: "I Lægæst Holte's son the horn made". Photo: christerhamp.se
The Gold Horns had the misfortune to be found too early. According to the ancient law on
national relics, Kirsten Svendsdatter handed the long horn to the king, Christian 4., who gave her a skirt as a reward. The king gave the horn to his son, Prince Christian, with a suggestion to let it mold into a beaker to the honor of the ancient past. But Prince Christian was not as hopeless, as some historians will make him. Gentleman of the court Joachin Gersdorff managed to convince him that the horn in ancient times precisely had been a drinking horn, and therefore it was not necessary to mold it again.
The historian Ole Worm testified that it really was used as a drinking horn. In his capacity as the royal physician, he visited in 1640 Nykøbing Castle to oversee the Prince. "In the name of the Prince the horn was presented to me full of wine", Worms wrote in a letter to a friend - the horn could hold 1.25 liters of fluid.
Ole Worms must have had a wonderful capacity. After he had emptied the horn to the bottom, he was still so much historian that he took the initiative to make a drawing and a description of the horn, which was published in Latin in 1641. The horn was later stolen and melted down, and Worm's report and copper engravings is the only existing description, written by one, who with certainty have had the long horn in his hand.
The front page of Pauli's report on the short Gold Horn. From ancient-astronomy.dk.
In 1734, smallholder Erik Lassen found the short horn when he dug clay. He handed it to Count Schack Schackenborg, who a few weeks later handed it to King Christian 6. in Flensborg. Erik Lassen got 200 rigsdalers in reward. The king instructed the archivist in the treasury J.R. Pauli to make a description and a drawing of the horn. The report was published in German in 1734, and the year after in Danish. Also dr. G. Krysing from Flensborg made in 1734 a drawing of the short horn.
Both gold horns ended up being stored in the royal art chamber in Christiansborg in Copenhagen. In 1802 disaster struck. The previously convicted goldsmith Niels Heidenreich had got copied the key to the art chamber, and the night between 4. and 5. of May he succeeded to get access and stole both gold horns. He remelted them and used the gold to make buckles and imitations of Indian coins, which he sold. His crime was soon discovered, and it came to cost him 37 years in prison.
"For eternally the shrine disappeared", Oehlenschlager ended his famous poem about the Gold Horns. Now Ole Worms', JR Pauli's and G. Krysing's descriptions were the only sources of knowledge of how the horns looked like.
Drawing of figures on the long gold horn. We see snakes and fish, a goat or sheep, which stands on a fish, jumping and seated men, men who are taken captives by a string around the neck, a deer, an archer, the woman with drinking horn, a man with a knife in each hand, the crossed men, the centaur, a rider and men with animal heads, arms in hand. - An old drawing of unknown origin.
In 1862, King Frederik d. 7 ordered copies of the original gold horn made from the old drawings. The copies are made of gilded silver, and they were since kept as treasures in the National Museum.
The old descriptions say only that the horns were curved, they say nothing about if the horns were double-curved, like ox-horns. Some believe that they must have been double-curved because they had to look like ox horns. A second set of copies of the gold horns was then made in 1970 by the royal court jeweler E. Dragsted initiated by royal antiquarian P.V. Glob with double-curved shape.
However, during a renovation of the National Museum in 2007, they were lent to the Museum, Kongernes Jelling, in Jelling. From there the gold horns were stolen one more time early in the morning of the 17. of September. However, they were soon after found unharmed.
Animal Ornamentation in style I from Salin's "Die Altgermanische Tier Ornamentation". The deers to the left are from Bohuslen and the ones to the right from Denmark, he writes.
The term Germanic animal ornamentation represents an artistic style in the early Middle Ages in parts of Western and Central Europe and Scandinavia. The Characteristics of this style are the depicting of stylized dragons, boars, snakes, wolves, eagles, ravens and people in a coherent and connected whole. Animals' and humans' bodies are reshaped and dissolved into the overall wholeness that often changes them beyond recognition, so that they can be identified only on special features, such as eyes, hands or the like.
Animal Ornamentation from Hungary, showing sleeping dragons in a big pile like puppies. From "Die Altgermanische Thierornamentik" from 1907 by Bernhard Salin.
The Animal style developed in Scandinavia based on more original forms of artistic expression and inspired by the decorative arts of the Roman provinces. The style rapidly created independent forms and soon spread through Central Europe. Some believe that the decorations on the cups from 200's found in graves at Himlingøje and some of the motifs on the gold horns from Gallehus represent the early stages of the Scandinavian image-making, which evolved into the
Graphical analysis of animal ornamentation performed by the Swede Bernhard Salin in 1904. The Germanic animal ornamentation developed very abstractly, complex and surreal. It can be very hard to see how many animals and which body-parts that belong to which animals. Here Bernhard Salin has analyzed a rather inscrutable ornament from the Viking period.
For all we know, the Germanic art in the first millennium AD was neither individuals artistic expressions or the result of a free creative process. Artists and craftsmen followed very strict rules in the design of the decorations of objects. Depending on the material they combined the basic design elements within the framework of the actual styles in the animal ornamentation.
Left: The Uppåkra beaker found at Uppåkra south of Lund in Scania. It is 165 mm high and
mainly made of copper. The exterior is decorated with six gold bands with figures and
ornaments embossed in sheet metal. The ornaments are animal ornamentation style I Phase A.
Right above: Detail of one of the six embossed gold band on the cup. Photo from The Metal Beaker with Embossed Foil Bands - Bengt Almgren, Lund.
Right below: Same section interpreted by Birgitta Hårdh, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Lund University on drawing by B. Nilsson.
The animal ornamentation exhibits a high degree of uniformity throughout Northern and Central Europe, and there may not be identified particular regional differences. This suggests that the Germanic cultures consciously sought to distinguish themselves from the surrounding cultures. The ornamentation's styles evolved continuously through history and were only occasionally influenced by other cultures.
Left: Scabbard decoration in casted bronze in typical Nydam style found in Nydam Mose. Different symmetrical animal-motifs stretch between the two side strips together with geometric patterns, including two types of worms and some short and thick animals with two legs, perhaps birds. Perhaps from early 400's. Photo: Pera Peris - Haus der Historie - Der Germanicher Tierstil.
Right: Thinplate decoration of scabbard in gold plated silver found in a sacrificial bog at Finnestorp near Falkøping in Sweden. The big surface is decorated with a geometric pattern. The free edges at the bottom are shaped like heads of fabulous beasts. Dated to about 500 AD. Photo Gunnar Creutz Wikimedia Commons.
The custom to sacrifice beaten enemies' weapons to the Gods in the bog continued into the Germanic Iron Age, but the amount of sacrificed weapons were much less. Already in the 1800's, archaeologists found in Nydam Moses nearly a hundred torn off but magnificent silver fittings for scabbards and belts adorned with patterns and strange animals. Later, around 1990 there was further found an intact silver-decorated scabbard, others carved scabbards and sword buttons of rock crystal and silver. Because of the good conditions for preservation in the bog, the band braided animal ornamentation on spear shafts could still be seen. It is a reminder that there has been decoration everywhere on many wooden objects - not only on metal - Who knows, perhaps also on humans.
Left: Scabbard in wood decorated in Sösdala style with two symmetrical intertwined snakes with open mouths in profile meandering in soft curves. Photo: Nydam Mose
Right: Part of horse-harness made of gilded bronze found in Sösdala south of Hessleholm in Scania dated to 300-400's. The motif is two symmetrical animals in profile. The big panels are decorated with different lines and stamps. Photo: Migration Period between Odra and Vistula - Ch Fabech. Exhibited in Lund University Historical Museum.
The late Iron Age and Viking period's animal ornamentation have been studied in more than a hundred years, and some kind of consensus on dividing it into different styles and stages of development has been settled.
The early styles of Nydam, Sösdala and Kragehul were about the same time and resulted in the first real animal ornamentation called style I.
Nydam style is an early form, examples of which have been found in Nydam Mose. It is characterized by that the major surfaces are decorated with geometrical relief patterns inspired by woodcarving. It is known that wooden objects found along the border of The Roman Empire, where the Germanic mercenaries were stationed, were decorated with similar patterns. In the Nydam style surfaces with geometrical relief patterns and intertwining threads added fabulous animals - often, but not always - along with the edges. They can be fantastic double animals with short sinuous bodies with a head in each end, they may have short, thick bird's beak or wide open long jaws. It all makes the impression of a prickling live, yet with order and symmetry.
Timeline of Salins styles and Haseloffs phases. Bernhard Salin divided animal the ornamentation's development into three styles - I, II and III, which after the early types (Nydam etc.) succeeded one another in chronological order. Haseloff has proposed Salin's style I yo be divided into four phases A, B, C and D, that is phase A immediately followed the early types, while the phases B, C and D are more phases of artistic development than they are chronological phases.
The Nydam style was mainly used for molded articles. For decorations in hammered sheet metal they used the so-called Sösdala style, which takes its name from a small arms finds in Scania.
Sösdala style is characterized by its smooth lines and restrained ornamentation. Parts of the thin plate objects - but also objects in wood and bronze - may be formed as symmetric animals with wide open mouths decorated with different stamp ornamentation, cross-hatching or point rows. Animal heads are almost always seen in profile; this animal style can be recognized many places in Europe along the borders of the Roman Empire from England to Italy and Yugoslavia.
Left: Decoration in the Kragehul style found in a tomb at Ultuna near Uppsala in Sweden. The major surface is covered by entangled snakes with band-shaped bodies. The animals are shown in profile with open jaws.
Right: Decoration on spear shaft found in the small bog Kragehul on the southwestern part of the island of Funen. This decoration has given name to the Kragehul style, which is characterized by that banded entangled animal bodies cover the big surfaces. Picture: Fornevennen 145 s. 251-259
Kragehul style got its name after the decorations on a lance shaft found in the small Kragehul bog on Fyn. This style is characterized by surface covering with intertwined snakes with wide open gaps and band-shaped bodies. Animals and humans are spread across larger areas and decomposed so that detached arms and legs alternated with animal heads shows up in between whole animal figures.
In his great work, "Die altgermanische Thierornamentik" from 1907 the Swede Bernhard Salin divided the Germanic animal ornamentation in three styles, namely I, II and III, among other things based on the shape of the animals' heads and feet.
Animal heads characteristic of the animal ornamentation style I following Bernhard Salin in "Die altgermanische Thierornamentik" from 1907.
The three early types merged to Animal Ornamentation style I, which occurred last half of the 400's probably in Scandinavia, but quickly spread to other peoples, who following their old myths once had emigrated from the island of Skandia or an island in the ocean.
An embossed golden band from top of drinking glass from Snartemo V west of Flekkefjord in Norway. It is a good examle on Salin's Style I and Haseloff's Phase A.
In the original Nydam style, the major surfaces were filled out by geometrical patterns; in the style I, the major surfaces instead were filled with a multitude of animal figures - something like the Kragehul style. Another distinctive feature of style I is that the animals' bodies and limbs are distinctly drawn up with contour lines so that they stand out clearly.
Left: In Vesterlyed south of Stavanger in Norway, there was found a late Roman glass with an embossed gold band decorated in Animal Ornamentation style I along with the rim. Scrutinizing it closely, one can see a man in a crouched u-position repeated three times along this part of the band.
Right: Bakka made a sketch of the man in the crouching position in 1963.
The crouching man from the golden band above, as he would have looked like if he
had stood upright - Drawing by Bakka in 1963 - from "The Metal Beaker with Embossed Foil - -" see link below.
The animal figures were pure fantasy creatures and with them appeared human figures. Stylized four-legged animals appeared standing, crawling, walking, seeing forward or backward. There could be animal heads with beaks, as birds of prey, with mouth or muzzle as horses or with wide open gab as wolfs. Among these could be the face masks of men or women.
One could say that in the beginning it was a principle of decomposition, that governed the new style so that limbs or heads could emerge between the entangled animal bodies in unexpected places. Later they broke with this practice and animal figures now formed clear well-defined entities, and the animals now took up the foreground of the images, which are dominated by the bodies that are clearly shown with the head, body and feet.
In the last third of the 500's, the animal ornamentation style I was gradually replaced by Style II . Many believe that the style originated as a mix of style I and the Lombard braided band ornamentation. Style II quickly spread from England and Scandinavia to the rest of Europe.
Decorations on the handle of a sword found at Snartemo in Norway. Detached and stylish paws and jaws can be distinguished - in distinct animal ornamentation Salin's style I and Haseloff phase A - Oslo Universitets Oldsagssamling.
The new style meant that the former plastic reliefs were replaced by surface covering patterns composed of both animal motifs and band-plaited- or plant-motifs. Ornamentation in style II is, in general, more complicated than ornaments in the style I. One could say that animal motifs were dimmed, but it was still a pronounced animal ornamentation. The animals were not disintegrated, but they were extended and connected in an often complicated and yet symmetrical fashion. The individual animal was complex and intertwined. They became very abstract and can not immediately, at first glance, be recognized as animals.
Salins style III appeared primarily in Scandinavia in the late 700's. It can also be called Viking animal ornamentation. Connections between the animals, where they occur, are less regular and more complex, and the animals are usually seen in profile, but twisted, exaggerated and surreal, with detached body parts, which fill every available space, which creates an intense and energetic atmosphere.
The German scientist Gunther Haseloff has proposed further to subdivide Salin's style I in four phases called A, B, C, and D; it being understood that only the phase A is representative of an actual chronological phase, that is, a period, while the phases B, C and D more have the meaning phases in an artistic development, in the sense that they have existed simultaneously, and you can even find items from several different phases on the same object.
Vedstrup brooch after Stalin's drawing from 1904. All the creepy-crawly that we can see in the large areas must be animal-ornaments with shaded bodies.
Haseloff's phase A represents a transition between the Nydam style and the actual style I. He describes the phase A: "At the beginning of the style I is phase A, characterized by its rounded relief depicting of animals, and shows in this direct continuity with the Nydam style. - Referring to phase A, it is important to note that not only the bodies, but also the thighs of both animal-humans are examples of this rounded relief (He refers to a fibula found at Hardenberg on Sjælland). There are also the punch dots, which so often are found in Nydam style. But the contour lines surrounding the figures and the legs, and even feet, make it absolutely clear that they belong to Stile I."
Some researchers have found that the year 475 AD represents the end of Nydam style, since all sea creatures, which until then had dominated the Scandinavian animal ornaments, precisely at this time suddenly disappear. Some believe that marine animals dominance arose from inspiration from the Roman art industry, in which dolphins and similar marine animals often appeared, and their disappearance represents the beginning of a more abstract and surreal Germanic interpretation of animal motives.
Phase B is characterized by that the animals' bodies are found everywhere on the surface of the object. They have clear contours and are often filled out with hatching. Hasselhof writes: "The most famous representative of the style phase B is a brooch from Vedstrup Sjælland. The animal ornamentation on this has taken over the surfaces completely and filled them; and this is one, but not the most fundamental feature in phase B: the decisive factor is again the treatment of the animal body. While the animal bodies in phase A were modeled in rounded relief, they now had become flat, and what is lost in the rounded reliefs are replaced by close hatching."
Left: The horse from Veggerslev is a good example of Haseloff's phase C. The contour lines are strongly marked, while the large surfaces are blank and empty.
Right: Detail of fibula from the Allemann grave place Nordendorf in southern Germany, which is characteristic of phase D. The meandering ribbons in the box over the face-mask is the animal bodies, the animal heads can be identified because of the eyes, but it is difficult to see the human heads.
The trend in phase C is completely different from phase B; here is a strong emphasis on to stress the contour-lines, while rarely any attempt is made to fill in the large surfaces.
Haseloff explains the animal's appearance in phase D: "It has an elongated ribbon-like body, one end of which terminates in an animal head and the other in a human head - the wavy body consists of three or four parallel lines. This kind of ribbon-like body is the substantial feature of phase D. An example can be taken that is a brooch from the Allemann burial site in Nordendorf in South Germany. At the footplate of this brooch there are two animals which are made in Phase D."
Grave and skeletal material from Germanic Iron Age is very scarce, we know very little about, how they looked physically. But the author can not believe otherwise than they were very similar to modern ethnic Danes. They were descendants of the ancient hunters, who were some short and fairly broad types; the Stone Age farmers, who were descendants of the hunters, but gradually somewhat mixed up with short-skulled types, the Bronze Age people, who by all accounts were slim and blond types; the Goths, who according to ancient writers were stout athletic types with quite round heads; Dani and the Aesirs, who we know from graves as tall, lanky and long-skulled types with narrow faces.
Three bracteates, showing people with strong chins. From left to right:
- Bracteate found at Skrydstrup showing how Tyr lost his hand when the Aesirs tied Fenris - He has a very large chin.
- Bracteate found at Faxe showing Balder's death. He dreamed that he was going to die, and told it to his mother Frigg, who became afraid that her son would die. Then she went around to all living things - plants, animals, Aesirs, Jotuns and Humans, and to all dead things like fire, water and rocks and made them promise not to harm Balder. But she forgot one, the mistletoe! Now that Balder was immortal, the Aesirs had their fun by using him as a target, when they practiced archery. Loki became angry about this and made an arrow of mistletoe and gave it to Balder's blind brother, Hod, who fired the arrow and killed Balder.
- Bracteate with a very common motif in the center, namely, a rider, only a head with a negligible upper body. There are really many with this design, which some believe imagine Odin. This rider is special by having a very strong chin.
At Skrydstrup has been found a bracteate, which clearly depicts the god Tyr with his right hand in the mouth of the Fenris Wolf. The God's face is remarkable, it almost looks like he has a snout. However, by closer examination, we see that he has an oversized strong chin, which he shoots forward. The same is true on a bracteate from Faxe depicting Balder's death. There have been found several other bracteates, which also show people with oversized protruding chins. These, depicted people with huge chins, are all Aesirs; one can get the idea that a "strong character" chin is a hallmark of Odin and his descendants, the Aesirs.
From left to right:
- Canute the Great on a coin minted in Lund in his lifetime. He has an impressive nose and chin; he meets well the requirement to be a descendant of Odin. Photo Wikipedia.
- Christian 4. as old painted by Karel van Mander. The nose is nothing wrong, but the chin does not quite live up to the standard of a descendant of Odin. He has tried to compensate with a small goatee.
- Viggo Mortensen would be the obvious candidate for the role of King Canute.
Left: Karl II. of Spain with the characteristic "Habsburger Unterlippe".
Right: Queen Marie Antoinette on the way to the scaffold in 1793 drawn by Jacques Louis David. She was a Habsburger princess and one sees clearly "die Habsburger Unterlippe"
Tyr was an Aesir, and it was the Aesirs that bound the Fenris Wolf. Balder was an Aesir, and apart from Loki, it was the Aesirs, who were involved in his death. Odin was the first among the Aesirs. It suggests that it was precisely such the Aesirs and Odin the Old looked like: with big noses and strong chins.
Most European royal houses in the Middle Ages claimed that they descended from Odin, and in many hundred years they married almost exclusively with each other. On several kings and emperors down through history we can, on portraits of some rulers, still see Odin the Old's characteristic physiognomy.
Only on one bracteate, there is any hint of a beard. Everything indicates that in the Germanic Iron Age, men had generally been clean-shaved in the Roman manner.
Two clean-shaven men - or it may be a man and his wife? There appears to be an earring. Bracteate found at Elmelund near Odense.
"Guldgubber" are small gold-foil plaques with embossed male or female figures. They are between 0.5 cm to 1.5 cm in height and vary in width. They are very thin - about one millimeter thick - and made of a gold that usually has been mixed with copper, as can be seen on the red color and the red spots, which sometimes appear on them. The metal gold itself cannot be dated, but by analyzing organic material around their find places, guldgubbes have been dated to 400-600 AD.
The small thin gold plates is a pure Scandinavian findings type. They are found in 17 locations in Sweden, 7 in Norway and in 16 locations in Denmark - of which seven are on the island of Bornholm. The greatest discovery of guldgubber beyond comparison has been done in the settlement Sorte Muld near Svaneke on the island of Bornholm. An excavation was made here in the years 1985-87, and within a very small area appeared around 2,300 guldgubber. Since then the number has increased to nearly 2,500, which is nearly 85% of all known guldgubber.
From left to right:
- Guldgubbe from Bornholm, which shows a man with his nose in the sky. His nose and chin are somewhat over-dimensioned. He holds a stake, or possibly a spear in his right hand. He wears a coat which is buttoned to the left and decorated with piece woven border. The left hand is very big, and he wears a bracelet - or it may be a glove? His hair is shoulder-long and combed back from his forehead, perhaps parted in the middle. There are indications of shoes on the feet. Photo Wikipedia.
- A Bornholm guldgubbe showing a woman with a strong chin and soft clothing. She is holding an object in her right hand. She wears a hair net or the like. Her hair is arranged in an artful knot in the neck and hangs further down the back with a veil or other cloth hanging behind. It looks as if she has large earrings and neck ring. She wears an embroidered jacket that may be studded with beads along the edges. The jacket is cut obliquely to the rear. Under the jacket, she has a skirt, which is decorated with piece woven borders or bead studding along the bottom edge. She wears shoes which are also decorated. Photo Wikipedia.
- A woman and a man, who hug each other. They both has their big nose and chin in the sky. Their facial features are very special, but it was probably difficult to make such small details in foundry sand, or how they made the mold for the bronze casting dies for bossing. The man to the left has his hair in a ponytail that hangs down the back, along with possibly a light jacket. He has a sort of jacket that is cut at an angle to the back and decorated with fringes or the like, perhaps with side vents to put his arms out. It looks as if the woman is carrying a stick in the left hand and she keeps a thicker and longer rod in her right hand, perhaps it is a kind of scepter. The woman has her hair done up in an elaborate knot in the neck, and it hangs further down the back like a horsetail. Her mantle is also cut inclined to the back and decorated with beads on the fringes, and maybe she has also side slits. Under the jacket, she is wearing a skirt or dress, which was extended hanging behind. Photo guldgubber.de
They were made by gently hammering or pressing the gold foil down around the motif in a matrix with the desired subject in protruded relief. They had most likely protected the surface with a piece of leather. About 10 dies in bronze have been found. How the smiths engraved the motifs in bronze dies, we do not know. Guldgubber from Sorte Muld have about 400 different motives, which means there have been used at least 400 different matrices - many call them patrices because they are protruded.
Left: Guldgubbe from Bornholm, showing a bearded man with back-combed hair. He wears a coat with woven piece border, which is buttoned to the left. He wears distinct shoes with heels. Photo Wikipedia.
Right: Most guldgubber have been found in Denmark, especially on Bornholm, but this one is from Lofoten in Norway. It depicts a man and a woman, who embrace each other. He has the nose against the sky and long hair, which is arranged in a ponytail. He is wearing a jacket that looks as if it is quilted. The jacket has some sort of edge-lining at the lower edge, we can believe that it is a fur edging. The woman is also dressed in a perhaps quilted coat with fur edge, which is inclined against her fore. Under the coat, she has a dress that also has an edge of fur below. Her hair is arranged in a loose knot at the back of the head and hangs down the back. Like the man she has her nose against the sky, maybe it was thought that it was an aristocratic attitude. Many believe that this motif depicts the Vanir God Frey and the young Jotun girl Gerd, for whom he gave away his good sword to get her as a wife. Photo x-lofoten.com.
Their function is still a mystery. One can guess that they were used in religious or cultural ceremonies - maybe they have been a kind of offerings.
The runic alphabet Older Futhark with 24 characters. From Mads Peder Nordbo's blog.
In Roman Iron Age emerged a writing system in the Germanic world, called runes. It is similar to Latin and Greek letters in the sense that each rune represents a sound and
combinations of runes represent words.
Runic inscriptions from 200 AD to about 700 AD are written in a 24-character runic alphabet called "older Futhark" because "Futhark" is the first seven letters of the runic alphabet. Runic inscriptions in old Futhark are found on objects located from Lapland in Northern Sweden to the Carpathian Mountains, but with the highest concentration in Denmark. They are mostly very short inscriptions on weapons and tools, especially found among the big arms finds in Nydam Mose, Illerup Ådal and Vimose.
The oldest known runic inscription is found on a comb found in Vimose west of Odense. It is dated to 150 AD. The comb is made of antler and the inscription reads: "Harja", which probably was the name of the owner. Photo Bloodfox Wikipedia.
All known inscriptions in older Futhark, are found on weapons and other items, they are assumed to be the names of either the weapon's owner or the name of the weapon. A very large part of the inscriptions are incomprehensible, which makes one think that the runes themselves or certain sequences may have had a magical significance.
The oldest runic inscription is found on a comb from Vimose, which reads: "Harja", probably the name of the owner. The comb is dated to 160 AD. Other inscriptions read: "Wagnijo", "Nithijo made", "HarkilaR - Anula" and the like. On one of the gold horns from Gallehus can be read: "ek HlewagastiR holtijaR Horna tawido" - which often translates to: "I Lægæst Holte's son horn made".
Amled on the way to England. While his companions slept, he changed the runic message to the king England into that he his companions should be hanged and Amled should have his daughter as a wife. Drawing by Louis Moe.
Some have suggested that runes have also been used for real communication on longer
wooden sticks or hides, although such have not been found. Thus Saxo says that King Fenge sent a secret message with Amled's companions to the king of England. The message on the rune stick to the English king was that he should kill Amled. On the way, while his companions slept, Amled succeeded to change the message to a call for England's king to give Fenge's nephew, that was Amled, his daughter to wife and order his two companions to be hanged.
Around the year 700 AD, the 24 characters Older Futhark was reduced to 16 characters, which runic alphabet is called "Younger Futhark". The vast majority of our runic inscriptions are written in Younger Futhark, only about 10% of all runic inscriptions are in Older Futhark.
In the new runic alphabet, many characters became ambiguous, and the inscriptions are therefore more difficult to read. The reducing of the number of characters is a mystery. At the Angel-Saxons in England, the development took the opposite direction. They increased the number of characters to 28 and later to 33.
A piece of the keel from the ship from Grestedbro. It can be seen that it is quite flat, and therefore not very stiff. Drawing from: The NAVIS I project.
The only trace of a ship from the Germanic Iron Age in Denmark was found in 1945 at Grestedbro north of Ribe. During the regulation of the river Kongeåen, three pieces of oak timber were found and delivered to Ribe Museum. Only in 1964, they were identified as parts from a ship. Despite extensive search, the Museum failed to locate the find place. The find consisted of a piece of a frame, a piece of the keel and part of the bow. A wooden nail has been dated to 610 AD.
Above: A frame from the Grestedbro ship. It appears that the shell planks were clinker-laid, completely in level with the frame and fixed with wooden nails.
Below: A part of the bow - Drawing from: The NAVIS I project.
It can be determined that the ship represented a further development of the Nydam ship. In the Nydam ship, the shell planks were joined together with iron nails, and they were each tied to the frames. On the Grestedbro ship, the vessel's shape was defined by the frames, and there were cut notches for the clinker-laid shell planks such that they were very close to the frames. Every second plank was attached to the frames with wooden nails. We can not know for sure whether the ship had carried sail. Mast and sails will mean that a large torque needs to be absorbed in the keel, which therefore must be both strong and stiff. The found piece of the keel plank was originally about 16 cm wide and 10 cm high, which represents a low and wide keel, that has not been suitable for sails. The underside of the keel was very worn, suggesting that the ship often had been pulled over land.
In 1939 archaeologists found a ship burial at Sutton Hoo east of the English town of Ipswich. It is believed that it had been buried 610-635 AD. Like the Ladby ship, nothing is preserved of the ship's wooden parts, but the iron nails were still there and the ship's imprint in the soil was completely sharp and clear. The ship was 27 m. long and 4.25 m. wide, which can be compared with the Nydam ship's 22.8 m. length and 3.26 m. width. The later Viking ships were all shorter; the Ladby ship was 22 m. long, the Oseberg ship 21.5 m. and the Gokstad ship 20.1 m. There are no traces of a real keel in Sutton Hoo, and therefore one must believe that the ship was powered by oars only. The ship was built with overlapping shell planks, called clinker-built. It was equipped with tholepins, but nothing indicates that it had used sail.
Midship section of the Nydam ship, the Gredstedbro ship and a Viking ship:
1. Nydam ship.
2. Gredstedbro ship.
3. A Viking ship - perhaps the Ladby ship, which has approximately this width. Note the high and therefore rigid keel.
Drawing from: The NAVIS I project.
It has been hard work to row such a large ship forward. It must be so that the longer a ship, the wider and stronger constructed it must be; because a long ship must have greater longitudinal strength than a short ship. But a given cross-section of the ship, shall we say, one meter long, offers only room for two rowers in respectively starboard and port regardless of the ship's total length. This one-meter cross-section, however, will be heavier in a long ship than in short ship, because it will be built wider and stronger.
This means that the longer the ship, the more kilos each crew-member must row forward. I remember a remark by Saxo that Ormen Lange was given up because it was so heavy to row (Ormen Lange was a famous very big Viking ship). The Sutton Hoo ship was also very long and wide, and this may have been the reason why precisely this ship was chosen for the funeral.
No one knows exactly when the Scandinavian peoples began to use ships with sails. It is a standing debate among historians if the Angel-Saxons arrived in Britain by sailing vessels or they rowed all the way.
But if you - like the author - believe that the overwhelming amounts of gold in the Germanic Iron Age came to Scandinavia because some migration peoples, who participated in the fighting in Southern Europe, returned home with their prey, then we have to believe that they have been at the Mediterranean and there seen ships with sail. Thereafter, it has been necessary to adopt the Nordic types of ships to sails.
Sails were made of wool - or perhaps linen made from flax - or bast - which was woven in long stripes and then joined together - most likely vertically - And reinforced with ropes of bast. It has been an expensive and lengthy process to produce a sail. In the later Viking period, there are examples that a sail was used as a royal gift.
The Kvalsund boat drawn by ship-engineer Fr. Johannesen. - At Herøy south-west of Ålesund in Norway in 1920 two boats were found, which subsequently were carbon 14 dated to around 670 AD
The biggest boat was 18 m. long and 3.20 m. wide with a depth of only 0.79 m. It had space for 10 rowers on each side. Fore and stern were built very high. The keel was not particularly strong. The high built up in fore and aft must have been inconvenient for a rowboat, representing a large area for the wind.
Some believe that the boat may have led a small sail on a mast - perhaps 6-8 m. high - fastened through a hole in one of the seats.
It is probably one of the less optimal ship types, which have contributed to the development of the Viking ship that appeared 100 years later.
Dannevirke is a system of defensive ramparts, which are situated immediately north of the river Eider. The main rampart is connecting the narrow fjord, Slien, with a wetland around Hollingstedt, which has been impassable in prehistoric times.
Dannevirke is not only one defence dyke, but a whole system of fortifications that was built in the Iron Age and Viking age over a period of more than 500 years. Moreover, the ramparts were improved and expanded in the 1860's. The woodwork in the main rampart has been dated to 737 AD. Photo: Johannes Brøndsted: Die große Zeit der Wikinger. Wachholtz Verlag, Neumünster 1964.
The building of the defence dykes has required enormous resources in terms of manpower, logs and boulders. It demonstrates an overall organization that had the power to dispose of thousands of people. The rampart testifies to an independent Danish kingdom, which had the will to exist and defend itself against enemies from the south.
Dannevirke's Main defence dyke east of the village of Dannevirke - Photo Joachim Mullerchen - Wikipedia.
Parts of the main rampart constitutes the earliest Dannevirke and is perhaps from the late 600's. It consisted of long, simple defence dykes. The earliest precise dating gives the year 737 AD when the rampart was provided with an oak palisade. Not long after it was reinforced with boulders. The main dyke is connected with the semi-circular-dyke around Hedeby.
The Anglo-Saxon monk Bede wrote in 731 AD in his "Ecclesiastical History" on the origin of the Angles: "From the country Anglian, which is between the Jutlanders and Saxon kingdoms, called Angulus, and has remained deserted until this day, came the East Angles, Middle Angles, Mercians, and all Northumbrian peoples, that is, those who live north of the river Humber, and other Anglian peoples." But the building of the earliest Danevirke around 737 AD, six years later, indicates that the country Angel, located behind Dannevirke, probably was not quite as deserted as he wrote, and the inhabitants were determined to defend it - along with other Danes."
The Kanhave Channel on the island of Samsø is one of the Germanic Iron Age largest engineerings. It is a man-made canal through the island's narrowest point, connecting Stavns Fjord on the island's eastern side with the Kattegat at Mårup Vig on the west side. It is 500 m. long, 11 m. wide and about 1.25 m. deep, which means that it could be navigated by ships of up to approximately 1 m. draft. It can be calculated that more than 7,000 m3 of sand, gravel and soil have been excavated and heaped up along the sides of the channel since the excavated material most likely formed a towpath along the channel on either side.
Graphical reconstruction of the Kanhave Channel as it can have looked like in the late Germanic Iron Age. In front is the island Hjortholm, located in the natural harbor, Stavns Fjord. The island has a rather high hill on which there can have been a lookout tower. Behind is seen the Kanhave Channel that created the connection to the west side of Samsø. Photo: Danske Fortidsminder.
The sides of the channel were lined with a bulwark of two to four horizontal planks between 2.5 and 4 m. long, mostly oak and they were secured with long wooden pegs and hard, tapered poles. The tree has been dendro-cronical dated to the year 726 AD - which is about the same time as the earliest dating of the Dannevirke.
It is most obvious to see the channel as a military facility in connection with a naval force in Stavns Fjord, stationed in the excellent natural harbor. Samsø is located in mid of Kattegat and from a lookout on the hill on the island of Hjortholm in Stavns Fjord the surrounding seas could be monitored. A fleet could quickly attack enemies or pirates also between Samsø and Jylland through the Kanhave Channel.
The municipality of Samsø has announced that they will restore the Kanhave Channel, hoping to attract more tourists. They hope the money can come from the A. P. Moller Foundation.
The Anglian monk Alcuin of York (735-804 AD) tells that his compatriot and relative, the
missionary Willibrord, visited the king of the Danes Ongendus after having given up the
pagan Frisian King Radbod: "So when the man of God saw that his efforts were of no avail he turned his missionary course towards the fierce tribes of the Danes. At that time, so we are told, the Danish ruler was Ongendus, a man more savage than any wild beast and harder than stone, who nevertheless, through divine intervention, received the herald of truth with every mark of honour. But when the latter found that the people were steeped in evil practices, abandoned to idolatry and indifferent to any hope of a better life, he chose thirty boys from among them and hastily returned with them to the chosen people of the Franks." Willibrord travel took place around 678 to 690 AD.
Examples of the typical very small silver coins called Sceattas, which were minted in Dorestad and Ribe. From left to right:
A Dragon with tongue hanging out or spewing fire - Photo Verasir.dk.
An Animal with an upright tail - maybe a lion. Found in York. Foto Wikipedia.
An Animal with mane and hooves, which seems to snap at its own tail. Photo Wikipedia.
A Dragon with tongue hanging out - or spitting fire. Found in London - Photo Wikipedia.
Unknown animal, which also seems to snap at its own tail - Found in Ribe - Photo Wikipedia.
Face - Found in Ribe - Photo Wikipedia.
A sceatta on a fingertip - Photo Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.
It is reasonable to believe that Willibrord landed in Ribe and met King Ongendus there or somewhere in Southern Jutland or Slesvig, it would have been a natural continuation of his travel to the Frisians. In late Germanic Iron Age, Ribe was a thriving port and trading market. Craftsmen worked with bronze, iron, bone, leather, glass and amber, and merchants offered imported glass, Frankisk pottery and millstones of Norwegian rock. It has been found 67 small silver coins, called sceattas, minted in Ribe and another of the great trading cities, namely, Dorestad which lay south-east of Utrecht in the Netherlands in the Rhine delta. In Sweden, Birka replaced the former trading place Helgø precisely during the 700's.
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Endnu et unikt guldfund på Fyn Jyllandsposten
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