Researchers conducting excavations in bogs near Skanderborg in eastern Jutland have uncovered evidence of what they believed to be ritual pagan violence inflicted on the corpses of some of the warriors who fell in a major battle during the Iron Age, sometime around the birth of Christ.
“We found a wooden stick bearing the pelvic bones of four different men,” said project head Mads Kähler Holst from Aarhus University on the university’s blog. “In addition, we have unearthed bundles of bones, bones bearing marks of cutting and scraping, and crushed skulls.”
Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in eastern Jutland after losing a major battle. Work has continued in the area since then, and archaeologists and other experts from Aarhus University, the Skanderborg Museum and the Moesgaard Museum recently unearthed these latest findings
Losing their religion
Holst said that the team believes that the gathering and desecrating of the remains was probably a religious act of some kind.
“It seems that this was a holy site for a pagan religion where the victorious conclusion of major battles was marked by the ritual presentation and destruction of the bones of the vanquished warriors,” said Holst.
The battles near Alken Enge occurred during the Iron Age when the Roman Empire was expanding to the north and putting pressure on the Germanic tribes. This resulted in wars between the Romans and the tribes, and between the Germanic peoples themselves.
Records kept by the Romans describe the rituals practised by Germanic peoples on the bodies of their enemies, but this is the first time that an ancient holy site has been unearthed.
The archaeological excavation at the Alken Enge site is set to continue until 8 August 2014. Guided tours of the dig for the general public will be held on Thursday, 31 July at 15.00 and 17.00. The tours start in Skanderborg. A number of finds from the excavation are currently on display at Skanderborg Museum.