Monday, September 04, 2017

The Viking from Fregerslev

The Viking Period
The Viking period is dated to ab. 750-1060 AC. The word Viking means "sea warrior" or "warfare at sea". Many strong men went on Viking expeditions which were often lootings and assaults, but most Vikings lived a more quiet life with farming, fishing and hunting. The Realm formation and the formation of cities and a new religion had a great impact on the development in Denmark. The Society was sharply divided and the differences of rich and poor, free and unfree were significant. The Fregerslev find is - from the golden brackets - dated to the middle of the 900s. The royal power was well founded in that period , although dependent on the aristocracy which supported the king. The aristocracy had an important role in the king's maintenance of the power, and they enjoyed the privilegies from this. 


 You can see the first photos from Skanderborg Museum of objects from the Fregerslev grave at their website:

Bayeux tapestry

The Find at Fregerslev.
In 2012 a unic grave site emerged in an archaeologic excavation at Fregerslev near Skanderborg.(Jutland) It was a complex of chamber graves, several from a younger part of the Viking period, the time of the Jelling Kings. A small investigation in one of the graves showed a magnificent decorated horse bridle, lavishly decorated with gilt bronze brackets and a silver plated trense.Supposedly the Viking from Fregerslev had a funeral with all the equipment necessary for his travel to Valhalla. The find from Fregerslev is probably one of the richest graves from the Viking period ever found in Denmark, and the scientific potential is  invaluable.The excavation of the fascinating grave ended 11 May 2017 but the adventure is not yet over. Many years ahead is a massive work with excavation and interpretation of many earth blocks, which were taken in from the grave. Some X-rays reveal something hidden in the blocks, like metal pieces from the harnes of the Viking's horse.

Chamber Grave.
Some of the Viking Age's wealthiest people were buried in chamber-graves. A chamber-grave consists of a wooden chamber, which is either dug down into the earth or placed in a mound. From Denmark and the old Danish area we know of around 60 chamber-graves. Most of the burials have been found in the area south of the Danish-German border. But they can also be found in Jutland, as well as on Funen, Langeland and Lolland. Such chamber-graves are yet to be found on Zealand. The grave type comes into use at the end of the 800s – perhaps to counter the advancing Christianity?

A chamber grave (Kammergrav) was a grave form reserved for the elite. It was a wooden chamber with enough place for the deceased, grave gifts and personal equipment. Chamber graves with a horseman's equipment are rare, they are only known from 45 finds from the Viking period in the old Danish region: the present Denmark, Skaane, Halland , Blekinge and Schleswig-Holstein. Few of these graves are well documented, especially because of old unfinished excavations or just old clearings of  grave hills. The latest excavated grave with horseman's equipment appeared in 1983 in Grimstrup at Esbjerg.

Viking Ship Museum, Oslo,Bridle, Viking horse,wiki
In few welldocumented graves are few fine parallels. In Schleswig upon the grave sites Thumby, Bienebeck and Lanballigau are horseman's graves with objects which- as for shape and decoration - are contemporary to the decoration brackets in the Fregerslev grave. A few objects are almost identical and must be considered made in the same workshop. Maybe the king has ordered several identical set of bridles which he could give as an alliance gift to his faithful subjects.

The grave site in Fregerslev consists of a large grave chamber complex and two lesser graves. The two small graves are excavated, one grave measured at surface 267x172 cm, length north-south. The grave was only 38 cm deep and had no preserved objects. The other grave measured 265x170 cm at surface and was oriented west southwest. This grave was 120 cm deep - and in the fill were two layers of giant stones. In the bottom of the grave were traces of an oak coffin which had been lightly burned before the laying.

Bayeux tapestry
The Viking from Fregerslev
 At the same time were traces of a skeleton of a person 165-170 cm tall. The person lay on his back with head west. The skeleton was much dissolved, but it was however possible to see a strange crack upon the shine leg. The leg had possibly been broken, but it is uncertain if this happened before or after death. In this grave were not found any preserved objects, except a single iron nail, which probably was a part of the construction of the coffin. Around the grave was built a hedge or a small building. It is unusual to find constructions around the graves from the Viking period. With a broken shine leg and two layers of giant granite boulders above and a possible fence the person must have been something special - someone who should not rise from his grave. 

The Top of the Hierarchy.  
Based upon the richly decorated bridle for theViking's horse there is no doubt that this is a man from the top of the hierarchy in the Viking period. The uppermost power was the king, and his role depended on personal alliances military strength and foreign contacts. The Viking from Fregerslev might have had the title of Jarl (earl). He might have been an army chief administering a large piece of land, and one of his duties was to be a host for the king on his travels in the country. If - after the excavation - it would be possible to identify him as a known historic person or legendary figure depends on whether there are unic finds, like objects with runic inscriptions or other special finds, which might tell us,who this Viking was.

Jelling stones, Jelling, photo:gb 

The research project is a cooperation between Skanderborg Kommune, Slots- og Kulturstyrelsen, Nationalmuseet, Aarhus Universitet and Museum Skanderborg with appropriations from Augustinus Fonden and Den A.P.Møllerske Støttefond as well as funds from Slots' og Kulturstyrelsen and Skanderborg Kommune. The first part is to secure the find by excavation and following conservation of the grave equipment and performance of scientific examinations. Later come part two and three with respectively research and publication and exhibition and communication.

Source: Skanderborg Museum and National Museum.


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