Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lindholm Høje, Vendsyssel, North Jutland

I saw a woman standing on top of the hill at Lindholm Høje, a timeless figure; she could be a Viking woman looking for her husband's grave.

All these people that lived here once, unknown names, unknown faces. Although archaeology has special technological methods today and discovers more and more from our past, we will probably never be able to know much more than we already know about the people who lived here at Lindholm Høje.

North of Limfjorden, upon Lindholm Høje, a little west of the town Nørre Sundby, was in the 1950s examinated a burial site from Germanic Iron Age and Viking Period. The contemporary buildings were originally situated a little north of the burials, but the place was exposed to sand drift and gradually, as the burial site was covered under layers of drifting sand, the town grew over the burials. Around 1100s A.C. the inhabitants gave up the fight against the sand and moved down to the coast, where the present town Nørre Sundby is.

South of Limfjorden at Bejsebakken by the town Aalborg are traces of settlements from the same period as Lindholm Høje. Probably both Bejsebakken and Lindholm Høje were important trade-places in the late part of Iron Age, but they might also have been wealthy villages, where the inhabitants lived from farming and fishing only. The strategic placements seem to indicate that they were places of more than a common significance.

The land north of Limfjorden, Vendsyssel, was connected to Jutland via the narrowest place at Limfjorden; (Aalborg-Nørresundby) the north-south land-traffic crossed the east-west sea route, and this was of great significance for the trading. In the beginning of the Viking Period the trading route went south, crossing the foot of Jutland at the Eider-river with the town Hedeby (Haithabu) as the dominating trading center. It is not known if Bejsebakken and Lindholm Høje were integrated in this trading net with international contacts or if they were just internal markets for goods to and from Vendsyssel.

Several things were found at Lindholm Høje and Bejsebakken. Upon the museum at Lindholm Høje are exhibitions. Upon Bejsebakken was found a little bronze-buckle with animal ornaments, the first hesitant beginnings of one of the styles which later was dominating in the Mälarn-area. Although it is on a slight basis, this finding indicates that the two Limfjords-villages had more than local and craftsmanlike contacts with the other part of Scandinavia.

The sand drift was a catastrophe for the inhabitants, but it has preserved the graves in a unique way. Up to four meter thick layer of drifting sand has protected the burial-site and its original surface so the graves look like they did in ancient times. In almost each case the dead person was burnt and burnt together with various things, like bronze-jewelry, glass pearls, little tools like iron knives, spindle whorls, gaming pieces and often a dog. Around the funeral pyre was raised a stone circle and a very thin layer of soil was spread over the dying fire. A short time after the drifting sand arrived and covered the rest, which the western wind had not yet removed.

At Helgö, Birka, Hedeby and other of the oldest villages were established large common burial sites. In Denmark is Lindholm Høje the only known example up till now and one of the prettiest Danish ancient memories. It is the largest burial site from Germanic iron age with not less than 600 preserved graves which covers the time from the 500s up till year 1000. The graves are marked with stone structures and were established in year 400-1000 AC.

The preservation-conditions have been good caused the shifting sand which has covered and protected the place since the 1100s. Findings from the graves are exhibited at the Museum at Lindholm Høje. From the top of the hill is a remarkable view across Limfjorden which already in ancient times was of great importance. In the excavations of the 1950s were also parts of a village and a new-ploughed field from the Viking Period excavated.

Jewelry , Urness -style, found at Lindholm Høje

Lindholm Høje Museum has two various archaeologial exhibitions. One tells the story about how they lived and died in Iron Age and Viking Period at Lindholm Høje. The other is about "Oldtiden i Limfjordslandet" (Ancient times around Limfjorden). Both exhibitions are passed on in an untraditional way, where reconstructions, panoramas, pictures and sound are combined with archeaeological findings. There is a rich opportunity to meet man from ancient times through experience and objective absorption. In the museum is a café.

Source: Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bd. 2, Danernes Land, 200 B.C.- ab. 700 A.C., Lotte Hedager, 1992.

photo Lindholm Høje August 2008: grethe bachmann


Kittie Howard said...

I enjoyed your post so much I Googled more of Denmark and the Lindholm area. There is much here. But the graveyard is amazing. Until your blog, I had no idea a graveyard this historic and this big existed. I thought your picture of the girl standing on the hill said it all, though, about the modern Vikings and their heritage. A fabulous post. Thank you!

Thyra said...

Hej Kittie! I'm glad that you liked this post because this burial place gave me a thrill to the bone. And the woman standing there, silent for a long time I felt,touched me so. I could almost sense her feelings. This sounds sentimental, but so it was. I'm sure you'll understand.