Great honor: Special area is among the most spectacular finds of the year

by Nathalia Hentze Nielsen
Photo: Nordjyske Museer.
Photo: Nordjyske Museer.

Every year in December, the National Agency for Culture and Palaces, in collaboration with the country’s museums, selects the ten most exciting archaeological discoveries made in Denmark throughout the year.

This year, an area with cooking pits (a kind of earth ovens) believed to have had a religious purpose has made its way onto the list of top finds.

The discovery was made near Hammer in Vodskov, providing new insights into the religious and ritual life of the Bronze Age in northern Jutland, as reported by Nordjyske Museums in a press release.

Back in the spring of 2023, archaeologists from Nordjyske Museums came across something quite special during an excavation of an area near Hammer in Vodskov. The site was being examined because Aalborg Municipality plans to build a kindergarten there.

Initially, it was thought to be traces of Iron Age furrows, but during the excavation of these furrows, it quickly became clear that the field had been laid on top of a sand drift layer, and beneath the sand, an even older soil surface emerged.

The finely preserved soil surface had been a gathering place for some of the local Bronze Age farms about 3,000 years ago.

Photo: Nordjyske Museer.

Traces of Bronze Age rituals

Around a depression in the terrain, people from the Bronze Age had dug numerous earth ovens, where piles of stones were heated in blazing fires. The glowing stones, for example, might have been used to cook large pieces of meat.

Another theory suggests that the hot stones could have been used for brewing beer. In any case, these activities likely had a ritual or religious aspect.

Places where hundreds of buried earth ovens are found are referred to by archaeologists as cooking pit fields, and these are found in many parts of the country.

Sometimes, the cooking pits have been systematically arranged in rows, but at the site near Hammer in Vodskov, there was no strict plan followed in establishing the cooking pits. Therefore, it is not certain that the many cooking pits were contemporaneous.

Photo: Nordjyske Museer.

In the footsteps of Bronze Age people

The discovery was made beneath a layer of sand drift, making the find at Hammer quite special and the reason why the National Agency for Culture and Palaces included it in its top 10 list of the year’s biggest discoveries.

This is because the undisturbed soil surface, where those who used the cooking pits walked among the glowing embers, has been preserved.

This is unusual and not seen in many other places. Because the sand drift has sealed the cooking pit field, at Hammer, we can get a sense of walking in the footsteps of Bronze Age people.

In addition, a collection of flint tools for processing hides has been found in the depression, deposited together. The disposal of the flint tools in the water likely reflects a ritual cleanup of waste after an event where the cooking pits were used.

In this way, the flint scrapers and cooking pits collectively tell the story of an event or religious practice where one or more families may have gathered to slaughter and skin some of their animals.

The find testifies to the frugal cultural environment in northern Jutland 3,000 years ago, of which the cooking pit field was a part.

However, the excavation also provides a unique basis for comparison with the many other cooking pit fields around Denmark, where the soil surface has not been spared from cultivation wear for millennia.

The connection between the cooking pit field and the deposit in the depression provides an undisturbed insight into the ritual practice, which we can rediscover and compare with other places where preservation conditions are not as good, and the connections are therefore harder to prove. The latter is also a significant explanation for why this discovery is so interesting and groundbreaking./

National Agency for Culture and Palaces’ Top 10 of the Biggest Archaeological Discoveries in Denmark in 2023

(in no particular order)

  1. Gold Troll from Guldhullet on Bornholm (Bornholm Museum)
  2. Horses, pigs, cows, and sheep in Hygind Bæk (Museum Odense)
  3. Nørregade 6 in Horsens tells more than 700 years of urban history (Horsens Museum)
  4. Not all roads lead to Rome – a paved road piece from the Iron Age in South Zealand (Museum Southeast Denmark)
  5. 440 graves at Virklund Ødekirke testify to burial customs and frugal living conditions (Museum Silkeborg)
  6. An impressive Iron Age burial ground at Bellinge Fælled (Museum Odense)
  7. Laus village rediscovered near Vejen (Museet Sønderskov – Archaeology Southwest Jutland)
  8. A large East Jutland iron extraction site (Museum Skanderborg)
  9. What the sand hid – traces of Bronze Age rituals (Nordjyske Museums)
  10. Green energy also provides archaeological gain (Museum East Jutland)

Del artikel

Andre læser også