• Oscar Marseen


Ferslev, house, hus, kultbygning, cult building, passage grave period, jættestuetid, bul


The Ferslev House- a Cult-Building from the Passage-Grave Period

In 1959 a cult-building from the Passage-Grave period was excavated at Ferslev 12 kms. south of Ålborg. A similar building had previously been discovered at Tustrup on Djursland peninsula 1). As at Tustrup, the Ferslev building lay in an area with megalith graves nearby, in this case passage graves (Fig. 1).

Excavation revealed the burnt remains of a rectangular house measuring 6 x 5 metres, its axis pointing approximately east-west, with the west end open. It had possessed a saddle-roof borne by centre posts, and contained an oblong hearth extending in the direction parallel to the long walls of the house and lying between the south wall and the centre posts.

The site was covered by a layer of fist-sized cobbles, together with charred remains of planks, clay burnt somewhat red, and sheets of birchbark. This layer derives from the fallen walls and roof. The situation was particularly clear along the south wall. The planks lay across the length of the house, and it is therefore concluded that the south wall, which had collapsed inwards, was a timber wall of vertical planks covered with clay and stones. The birchbark sheets are from the roof construction, which was presumably further covered with turf and stones. In the northern part of the site the outline of an oval pit of modern date was found (Figs. 2-4).

Under this layer of collapsed wall and roof material the actual interior of the house and the outline of the walls was uncovered (Fig. 5). The hard clay-like subsoil had formed the actual floor surface, on which the hearth and the pottery vessels found in the house had been placed. The hearth was edged with stones set on edge and about 25 cms. high; it was 1 metre wide and 4 metres long, and was filled with a layer, 5-10 cms. thick, of charcoal containing fired flint and charred stones. Both ends of the hearth were delimited by a considerably taller stone. It was this stone-setting around the hearth that had protected the pottery in the house from complete destruction when the south wall fell, as the stones supported the collapsed wall until in the course of disintegration it was gradually deposited above the vessels. It should be noted that constructions closely resembling the hearth here described, and containing fired flint and charcoal, are not infrequently found in passage graves.

The side wall to the south had been set in a trench, 30 cms. deep and acute-angled, but with the interior edge of the groove vertical (Figs. 6 & 7). Here the changes in soil character left by the decay of rectangular planks could be seen; the planks had stood against the vertical side of the trench, and been wedged by a stone packing which filled the trench. Post-holes at the bottom of the wall-trench showed that the planks had been in addition dug somewhat in. The wall-trench had a length of 6½ metres. It was not straight for its full length, but bent outwards two metres from the east end of the building, to form a niche within the house. Presumably the actual timber-work formed a wall of similar type to that of the Tustrup house, a palisade wall formed of vertical planks set in a wall-trench with stone packing.

The end wall to the east was of a different construction. The burnt remains of 5 rectangular vertical posts here stood, set in post-holes with stone packing, at an interval of about 1.2 metres. The second from the north possessed a well-preserved groove (Figs. 8 & 9), and the southernmost showed also a groove. Both these grooves pointed inwards towards the two intervening posts, but these were too badly preserved for grooves to be perceptible. It can from these observations be concluded that the end wall was built in the so-called "bul" construction, where horizontal planks are slotted into grooves in upright posts. It is the earliest example of a "bul-wark" in Scandinavia.

The northern side wall had been disturbed by the oval pit of modern date already mentioned. But in the bottom of this pit traces were found of a wall-trench, the bottom of which was at the same level as the bottom of the southern wall-trench, as well as a post-hole with burnt remains of the post. This is the northernmost post of the east end, and its placing gives the east wall a remarkably irregular course. The north wall is assumed to have been of the same type as the south wall.

The western end of the house was open, and in front of the opening was a little round hearth.

The holes for the central posts which bore the roof were found along the central axis of the house.

Between the south wall and the hearth stood 27 pottery vessels, astonishingly well-preserved and unbroken. 18 of them stood in a single close group, blocking the whole area of passage, and 9 stood in another group. On the hearth stood 7 vessels, 3 of which contained a good handful of fired flint, and by the second post from the north in the east wall stood a single isolated vessel. There must, however, have originally been more pottery than this, for in the filling of the oval pit more than a hundred sherds were found, belonging to vessels of the same type as those here described (Fig. 10).

Surrounding the house on the north, east and west sides had stood a fence consisting of stones standing on edge and up to half a metre in height; some of these stones still stood, and others lay where they had fallen, while of the remainder only the holes they had left showed where they had stood.

The modem pit in the northern part of the building, which has been mentioned several times, formed an oval measuring 3 by 5 metres, with a depth of 60 cms. The purpose of the pit had been stone-plundering, and splinters of dynamited stone were found in the filling. The stones which had stood here must have been so large that it was necessary to dynamite them before removal. These stones must have belonged to a prehistoric construction of later date than the house, and the base of this construction was in fact found untouched in the bottom of the oval pit. It consisted of a carpet of burnt and crushed flint. It seems possible that here has lain one of the megalithic graves from the Dagger Period so characteristic for East Himmerland, as in these carpets of flint are usual. The construction can hardly have been contemporary with the house, as, if it were, the post-holes and wall trench of the north wall would scarcely have been below surface level.

With the Tustrup house in mente this house also can be understood as a cult building from the same period. The large quantity of pottery prevented passage between the south wall and the hearth. There was no settlement deposit, no flint, either implements or swarf, only pottery and potsherds. Nor was there flint outside the house, apart from two blades and a transverse arrowhead. The hearth, with its burnt flint and its large size, is also remarkable. All these circumstances make it unlikely that the building was an ordinary dwelling house.

The house in Ferslev had been used for some time. For potsherds were found in the southern wall trench. Some of them belonged to the vessels which stood nearest to the wall within the house, but there were also others belonging to vessels which were not found inside the house. They must have been lying besides the wall, and fallen into the trench at the same time as the sherds of the vessels within the house, possibly at the time of the destruction of the house by fire. These sherds presumably are the relics of clearings-out of vessels previously standing in the house, in the course of which sherds of broken vessels have been trodden into the floor or left lying by the walls, so that not all sherds were swept out. Many sherds, too, lay outside the open west end, while none were found outside the closed east end. This too suggets clearings-out. A number of these latter sherds belong to "fruit-bowls", and thereby appear slightly older than the 35 vessels which were recovered from the house floor.

These vessels comprise funnel-beakers, carinated bowls and a straight-sided beaker with an outcurving foot. The ornamentation was done with grooving stick, toothed stick and false coiled-cord (Figs. 11-16). This pottery fixes the time of the last use of the house to the middle of the Passage-Grave Period, probably to a period only slightly later than the Tustrup house.

The Ferslev discovery is thus an important closed find, containing much pottery the contemporaneity of which is beyond doubt.

A reconstruction of one half of the house in full size has been erected at Ålborg Historical Museum, and here the pottery is exhibited (Fig. 18).

An original model in terracotta of the rectangular house with saddle roof is known from the New Stone Age in Czechoslovakia (Fig. 19).


Oscar Marseen.





Marseen, O. (1960). Ferslev-Huset. Kuml, 10(10), 36–55. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/kuml/article/view/103106