Archaeologists and other experts from Skanderborg Museum, Moesgård Museum and Aarhus University hope to uncover the anwers to these questions this summer, when a major excavation takes place near Alken, a small town outside Skanderborg on the Jutland peninsula. A unique find was made here in 2009: the remains of an entire army which had been sacrificed in the bog. Archaeologists hope that the excavation will solve the many mysteries about the circumstances behind the sacrifice of several hundred warriors.
An archaeological treasure trove
The first spadefuls of earth in the major excavation in the meadows around Alken were dug on Monday. Earlier digs had already documented finds of skeletal remains from around two hundred individual warriors. And archaeologists are convinced that many more will be unearthed over the course of July and August. In the words of Aarhus University archaeologist Mads Kähler Holst,
'Last time we dug here, we didn't actually reach the perimeter of the finds, so we don't know the extent of them. So there' s no doubt that the dig will result in many more skeletons. If we are lucky, what we've already seen may just be the beginning,' explains Dr Holst, associate professor of archaeology at Aarhus University.
Under the water table
The dig is taking place in damp grazing meadows near Jutland's large lake, the Mossø. To reach the remains, it's necessary to dig almost two meters below the water table of the Mossø.
´We are fighting against water seeping in, and we have big pumps running constantly. This makes our work difficult – but it also explains why the bones are so well-preserved. The water has delayed decomposition, which is why the remains are in such good condition when we dig them up,' says Ejvind Hertz, Curator of Archaeology at Skanderborg Museum.
The major goal of the 2012 excavation is to learn more about the mass sacrifice of the warriors. Archaeologists hope analysing the remains will clarify some of the many mysteries associated with this unique find. Geological analyses will also be performed in an attempt to illuminate why the sacrifice took place precisely here, in the Alken meadows.
- The dig began on 2 July 2012 and will end on 24 August.
- Public guided tours will be offered on Thursdays at 13.00 and 17.00 from 5 July to 9 August 2012.
- The project 'The army and post-war rituals in the Iron Age: warriors sacrificed in the bog in the Alken meadows in the Illerup river valley' is supported by a DKK 1.5m grant from the Carlsberg Foundation
The excavation will be open to the press on Wednesday 4 July from 13.00 to 16.00 at Alkenvej 171, 8660 Skanderborg.
More information: http://www.skanderborgmuseum.dk/Alken_Enge-English_version-1070.aspx
Mads Kähler Holst
Associate Professor, Aarhus University
Archaeology, the Department Of Culture and Society
Telephone: + 45 2299 4915.
Curator of Archaeology
Telephone: +45 2532 5401