Nøgleord:Lindholm Høje, cemetary, settlement, gravplads, boplads
Six years' investigations of the large site of the Viking Period at Lindholm Høje near Nørresundby in North Jutland ended in 1958. The investigations were carried out by the Aalborg Historical Museum in collaboration with the National Museum. The National Museum's superintendent during the whole period was Thorkild Ramskou M. A. The excavations were financed by the Ministry of Labour and by the Town Council of Nørresundby.
Lindholm Høje is a large moraine bank, and towards the end of the Viking Period it was covered by a drift of windblown sand to a depth of up to 4 metres. This sand covered a large cemetery.
As early as 1889 and 1896 individual stone-settings were uncovered on the site, but it was not until 1949 that it was realised that Lindholm Høje contained a very large cemetery. For during the war the German occupation troops had dug a number of trenches in the area, and in the sides and bottoms of these stones and cremation graves could in many places be observed.
As already mentioned the bank of Lindholm Høje is covered by a thick drift-sand layer. At the beginning of the investigations it became clear that there lay, high in the sand layer and above the cemetery, remains of houses from the 11th century AD, and these later proved to be an occupation formed by the extension of a town which had lain immediately north of the cemetery and contemporary with it. After the complete coverage of the cemetery by sand this town expanded or moved to the cemetery area. For convenience of description the cemetery and the settlement will be treated separately in the following account.
Here about 700 graves have been investigated, the greater part of them being cremation graves, either with or without stone-settings. The shapes of the stone-settings vary: triangular, rectangular, round, oval and ship-shaped. The last-named are the latest in date, and belong to the actual Viking Period, while the triangular are the oldest. In addition a small number of inhumation graves were found, containing cruciform fibulae from the 6th century (Fig. 3).
Only one cremation patch was found in each of the stone-settings. The remains of the pyre are spread out over an area, about 1 metre i diameter, normally in the centre of the stone-setting. In these cremation patches was found whatever had survived the pyre: bronze ornaments, glass beads, iron knives, whetstones, spindle whorls, gamesmen, wooden boxes, and bones of dogs, sheep, horses or cattle. In a large number of cremation patches a pottery vessel had been deposited, and in some cases these vessels had not been subjected to the pyre.
The length of the ship-formed stone-settings does not exceed 8 metres, with a single exception measuring 23 metres. Some of the triangular stone-settings reveal a remarkable feature, in that white flint cobbles, the size of a clenched fist, have been set between the three corner stones which are of other kinds of stone (Fig. 4). The flints have been brought in from elsewhere, and have been extracted from some chalk cliff, as they all still possess a chalk cortex.
Even though well-preserved objects were only found in a small number of the cremation graves, this must not be taken as an indication that the graves were poorly furnished. Many of the more or less melted fragments have proved capable of dating. These will be described in greater detail in the final publication, and we shall content ourselves here with naming: fragments of several beaked fibulae from the 7th century, a well-preserved bird-fibula of the 8th century (Fig. 5), and fragments of bowl-shaped brooches of about the 9th century.
In an oval stone-setting there was found, together with fragments of a bronze bracelet from about 800 AD, a bone handle for a knife with a runic inscription (Fig. 9).
30 inhumation graves high up in the sand layer from the 10th century show Christian influence on burial customs, but in every case burial furnishings were provided. In one of them, in addition to two glass beads, a little Thor's hammer of amber was found - clearly a heathen amulet. In another grave 5 Cufic (Arabic) silver coins were found, 4 of them being cut in two, (Fig. 12). One of them was struck in 920 AD in Tashkent.
On completion of the investigation of the cemetery attention was turned to an area lying further to the north, where trial excavations had previously been made. Among other objects investigated during these trial excavations were the 5 wells described in KUML 1956 2).
It is here that the town had lain which is contemporary with the cemetery. lts complete extent is not yet known, but up to the present it has been determined that it extended over several acres.
In the area investigated a road or street was uncovered which at one point could be seen to have been paved with wood. On both sides of this road. and in fact over the whole area, a large number of hearths and cooking pits were found, as well as many postholes. Many of these were impossible to interpret, but others clearly revealed the structure of large rectangular or oval houses, such as those shown in Fig. 13, where a group of postholes can be distinguished as two houses of about 17 metres in length, the older being rectangular and the later oval. In addition about 20 sites of huts sunk in the ground were found. These varied between 3 and 5 metres in length, and between 2 and 3 metres in width, and were about 50 cms. deep. All of them had rounded corners, and all had their greatest length lying from east to west. At each end, just within the lip, there was always a deep and massive posthole. The two posts, one at each end, must have borne a beam supporting a tent-shaped roof. In almost all of these structures there were found, in addition to potsherds dating them to the Later Germanic Iron Age, one or more spindle-whorls and loom-weights. In some of them up to 30 disc-shaped loom-weights of unbaked clay were found, showing that the huts were weaving sheds (Fig. 14). Weaving sheds of this type are not unknown. They were found in large numbers under the Viking encampment of Aggersborg by the Limfjord, and they are described by C. G. Sehultz in Nationalmuseets Arbejdsmark 1949, p. 102.
These weaving sheds on Lindholm Høje possess one important feature in common not only with the Aggersborg huts but also with similar weaving sheds of Early Middle Age date at Warendorf in Westphalia 4). On all three sites they are situated around and are contemporary with large post-built houses.
As mentioned above, the cemetery was completely covered with sand about 950-1000 AD, and thereafter the town extended over the cemetery area. Here 15 house-sites were investigated, among them a large four-winged farmhouse, several outhouses and a bath-house. Three of the houses were oval, and the remainder rectangular. Between the houses had lain rubbish pits, in which was found, inter alia, a well-preserved silver ornament in Urnes style from about 1050 AD (Fig. 15). Inside and outside the house sites the objects discovered included a total of 14 Danish, German and English silver coins. The earliest of these was struck by Canute the Great (1018-35) in Huntingdon, and the latest by William the Conqueror in 1087.
The cemetery terminates to the south at a natural descending slope. South of this, in the sand layer 25 cms. above the original ground surface, a little rectangular house site was found, the objects discovered in which included a silver coin struck by the Emperor Conrad Il between 1036 and 1039.
After removal of the sand underlying this site the original surface of the soil came to sight with the appearance of a gigantic washing-board (Figs. 16-17). We contemplated here for the first time a field of the Viking Period, in which the individual furrows appeared just as clearly as on that day when they had suddenly been covered by a layer of drift sand so thick that further cultivation was impossible. The resemblance to a washing-board was caused by the raking together of four or more furrows to form a series of high-banked beds lying close together, up to 25 cms. in height and from 75 to 125 cms. in width. Across the field could still be seen the wheel tracks of the Viking Period farmer's last carting.
The upper date of the field is given by the coin (1036-39) found in the superimposed house-remains.
It is the first time that this method of cultivation has been recognised in Scandinavia. However, in other areas it has been in use up to our own day 6). Since it was discovered at Lindholm Høje it has also been recognised under a burial tumulus of Late lron Age date at Lejre in Sealand 7).Oscar Marseen
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