Museum Skanderborg | SBM1028
Alken Enge - The mass grave at Lake Mossø
The river valley of Illerup Ådal is a well-known archaeological location which has produced several important finds, among others, the world renowned weapon sacrifice near Fuglsang forrest. In the large wetland area where the Illerup River runs out into Lake Mossø large quantities of human bones and other spectacular archaeological remains have over the years been unearthed.
The discovery of human skeletal remains is always a source of great wonder. What really happened here, and where do the bones come from? A bit of the veil was lifted during archaeologist Harald Andersen’s examinations from 1957 to 1962. However, it was not until the two exploratory surveys in 2008 and 2009, that it became clear how this amazing material could create great opportunities for an understanding of the Iron Age people and the events leading up to sacrifice rituals. In 2011, a collaboration between Skanderborg Museum and University of Aarhus’ Department of Prehistoric Archaeology succeeded in gaining a 1.5 million DDK grant from the Carlsberg Foundation to begin a research project titled: The army and post-war rituals in the Iron Age - warriors sacrificed in the bog at Alken Enge in Illerup Ådal.
The discovery of human skeletal remains at the Alken Enge location has come as no surprise. With several well-known sacrificial locations of different character in the river valley of Illerup Ådal, also known as the "Holy Valley", there is no doubt that the area has been a focal point for a wider hinterland as a place to conduct sacrificial rituals, which appear to have taken place regularly during the Iron Age. Forlev Nymølle is a well-known ritual location where more every-day sacrifice patterns in the form of pottery, stone collections and various other manufactured wooden objects have been found. One of these wooden objects has been interpreted as a female goddess figurine. It is thought that several of the other excavated objects could have been sacrificed to this goddess.
Alken Wetlands is primarily interesting in connection with the discovery of sacrificed warriors, but there are also other sacrifices of various kinds with various datings. Within the deposited peat layers in roughly the same horizon as the human remains, a discovery was made of three lanceheads in iron and a shield of wood. The weapon finds are generally so few in number that they are not considered to have been sacrificed. In several horizons there are large amounts of manufactured and raw wood. The manufactured wood consists of both wood planks and timber, both smaller and larger in dimension. A myriad of more or less vertical sticks that have been hammered down are also found in the peat layers. Furthermore, pottery has been discovered, which can be dated from the Early Pre-Roman Iron Age to Early Medieval. Moreover, several excavation sites were found to contain sacrificed animal bones. In conclusion, the location of Alken Wetlands is thought to be a temporally very complex sacrificial location.
AU | LA73-AU
Vejle Museerne | VKH7387
Museet på Sønderskov
Vejle Museerne | VKH6924
The Jelling Project
In 2008 the National Museum received a generous grant from Bikubenfonden of 23.3 million Danish kroner for the carrying out of “the Jelling Project – a royal monument in a Danish and European perspective” in the years 2008-11. The transition from paganism to Christianity
The starting point of the project is the Jelling monuments and their unique character. Here in one place is a complex, with individual parts which mark, as well the transition from paganism to Christianity, the establishment of Danish royal power in the Viking Age. The monuments are therefore an obvious starting point for an investigation into the transformation that Danish society went through during the course of the Viking Age and the early medieval period, under strong influence from outside, not least from its neighbours to the south.
The contact with the south brought the country not just the Christian church’s world view, but also new social and political structures. Denmark was not isolated during the Viking Age. The project is not only focused upon Jelling and Denmark, but will involve the angles and perspectives of the rest of Scandinavia and Europe. The aim is to explore the basis for the development, which can be traced in Denmark and other parts of Europe, where Christianity established a foothold around the same period. The Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires played an important role in this process. An attempt to understand the Jelling monuments and their age must also closely examine these territories.
In 1994 the monuments at Jelling – the two rune stones erected by Kings Gorm and Harald, the enormous mounds and Jelling Church - were added to UNESCO’s list of the historic monuments of the world which are particularly worthy of preservation. The selection reflects the monuments’ central significance, not only from a Danish perspective, but internationally as one of the most important monuments of the Viking Age. Scholarly interest in the mounuments can be traced back to the end of the 1500s. However, as archaeological investigations during recent years have shown, surprising new additions can still be made to the knowledge we have about the place and the events which took place here.