En gravhøj i Sevel sogn


  • Mogens Ørsnes-Christensen


Gravhøj, Sevel


A Burial Mound in Sevel Parish

By a law dated 1937 all damage to or removal of ancient monuments dating from prehistoric times in Denmark is prohibited. Exceptions may, however, be made to the provisions of this law in the case of monuments which had been considerably damaged before 1937, providing that they be the object of a scientific investigation before removal. Such an exception was made in the case of a tumulus in Sevel parish (fig. 1) which was investigated in 1947 by Olfert Voss and by the present author on behalf of the National Museum. The method of investigation employed was not completely satisfactory, the tumulus being only partly excavated, but was necessitated by the exigencies of finance. The tumulus was excavated in four sectors, vertical section walls being left standing between each sector (fig. 2). After these walls had been drawn and photographed (fig. 3) they were removed and the field of excavation dug down to undisturbed soil over its entire area (fig. 4). The tumulus proved to have been erected in various stages: Above the clay subsoil (layer 1 in fig. 3) a sandy topsoil layer (Iayer 2) could be seen. Upon this a mound (Iayer 3) had been raised. A shallow excavation in the top of this mound was visible in both section walls (cf. fig. 6) and in the bottom of this excavation a cist (grave C) had clearly been set. A layer of earth (Iayer 4) forms a blanket over this mound, its upper sur face being covered with a Iayer formed of turf and humus (Iayer 5). (No. 6 on fig 3 indicates a modem excavation which was found to go right down to the clay subsoil and to have cut off the extreme end of the cist in grave C.) The soil of which the tumulus was built consisted of sand mixed with humus, the soil of the inner tumulus being noticeably lighter than that of the outer (cf. fig. 6). The tumuli were presumably built up of heather-clad or grass-clad turf. Two burials, graves A and B, were discovered in the summit and in the southern slope of the tumulus respectively. They were "cremation patches" (brandpletter), where the remains of the cremation pyre had been interred in shallow oval pits dug into the surface of the mound (figs. 4 A and B). Grave A only contained charcoal and fragments of calcined bone, whereas grave B contained in addition the sherds of a pottery vessel. On one of these sherds was a handle, broad and ribbonshaped with raised moulding along the edges. This type of handle is usual in the Late Bronze Age. In the course of unsystematic digging in the south side of the tumulus a pottery vessel (fig. 5) had previously been found. This came undoubtedly from an urn-grave which should be dated, to judge by the shape of the vessel, to the Late Bronze Age. Finally, as already stated, grave C was found in the top of the inner mound. Here a tree-trunk coffin had been laid in an east-west direction on the bottom of a shallow excavation. The nature of the coffin, despite its very decomposed state, could be exactly determined by means of careful brushwork. A dark greasy layer in the bottom of the grave was all that remained of the body which had lain with its head towards the west. In front of the head of the occupant of the grave lay an axe with shafthole (fig. 7), while in the centre of the coffin by the body's hips (figs. 8-9) lay a little bronze dagger, the sheath of which, consisting of two thin wooden sections held together by narrow leather thongs, survived, while the presence of the hilt was signalised by two bronze rivets which undoubtedly formed the termination of the pommel. By the dagger lay a flint (a "fire-stone"), some brimstone, a flint arrowhead, the point of a bone pin, a lancet-shaped bronze blade possessing an angled shaft-tang and finally traces of woven stuff in a two-shaft weave like the textiles discovered from the Early Bronze Age. The dagger (fig. 10 f) is of a type which occurs in several graves from the Danish Early Bronze Age (Montelius II bc) as a result of influences, and perhaps import, from the south German tumulus culture. The axe (fig. 10 a) is of sandstone in which a groove running round the head has formed as a result of natural chemical action; it has little in common with the battleaxes of the New Stone Age but may be compared with certain shafthole axes found unassociated in Denmark and Sweden and ascribed with some probability to the Early Bronze Age as a result of their recessed ornamentation and also with the so-called "rhomboid" shafthole axes from the Late Bronze Age. The lancet­shaped bronze blade with shaft-tang (fig. 10 b) is presumably a knife blade as the position of the blade at rightangles to the longitudinal axis of the coffin precludes the possibility of the shaft, now rotted away, having been of any considerable length; it is a new type within the range of Danish Bronze-Age implements, though there can be no doubt that it is related to the two-edged toilet knives of the Late Bronze Age graves. Moreover the type is known in Scania and in north Germany, and in these two areas is dated to Montelius III and Mont. II a respectively. Mention should be made of a similar discovery in a grave in Holland which can be dated to a period corresponding to the Early Bronze Age in Scandinavia, and of a discovery in England which cannot be precisely dated, but these two cases do not solve the question of the origin of this type which has previously been discussed by Kersten and van Giffen. Related forms are also found in lberian graves from the Eneolithic period. The bone pin (fig. 10 d) has not previously been found in graves from the Early Bronze Age in Denmark but is known both from Late Neolithic times and from the Late Bronze Age. The firestone (fig. 10 c) and brimstone, on the other hand, are standard items of funerary furniture in Early Bronze Age men's graves and the flint arrowhead (fig. 10 e) is also usual in such surroundings. There can thus be no doubt of the dating of grave C to the Early Bronze Age and, on a basis of the dagger-blade, to Montelius II bc.

The inner mound (fig. 3, layer 3), in the top of which grave C had been dug, was therefore constructed before this date. However, this mound contained no grave, though the possibility, of a very low degree of likelihood, exists that a grave placed very acentrally could have lain outside our unfortunately limited area of excavation. A similar instance - in this case not open to doubt - where a grave bad been dug in the top of an empty mound which was already built has been found at "Rødhøj" on Zealand.

Finally upon the surface of the undisturbed subsoil under the tumulus traces of ploughing were found. Arter the soil above had been carefully scraped away grooves full of humus could be seen forming a network of Iines, in the main in two directions at right angles to each other (figs. 11 and 12). A series of sections through individual plough-furrows showed them to be of triangular cross-section (fig. 13). Such plough-furrows, also found on a few previous occasions, prove that a primitive plough, presumably of the arð type, was known in Denmark in the Early Bronze Age or before. A further occurence of this nature was investigated in 1952 at Torup in Zealand (48)(figs. 14-15) and here too a grave from the Early Bronze Age provided a terminus ante quem.

A description is finally given of the method by which the coffin in grave C was set in a plaster cast and transported in its entirity to the National Museum. The traces of the coffin were cut out together with the block of earth in which they lay (fig. A), a frame was cast around the coffin (fig. B) after which the lid (fig. C) and the base (fig. D) were cast. The last-named process occurred in several stages, liquid plaster of paris being poured into narrow channels dug transversely under the coffin. The earth under this plaster-box was then sawn away and a plank "floor" laid in its place (fig. E). On this floor a crate, lined with sacks and straw, was constructed (fig. F).

Mogens Ørsnes-Christensen





Ørsnes-Christensen, M. (1952). En gravhøj i Sevel sogn. Kuml, 2(2), 9–31. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/kuml/article/view/24894