Grauballemandens fundsted


  • Svend Jørgensen


Grauballe man, gravballemanden, fundsted, finding place, Nebelgaard mose, Dating, datering


The Finding-Place of Grauballe Man

In connection with the discovery of the bog-found body known as Grauballe Man a bog-geological and pollen-analytical investigation has been made. The site of the discovery is a little peat­bog, Nebelgaard Mose in the parish of Svostrup, Hids Herred, Viborg County. It lies in the moraine area about 15 kms. est of the main stationary line of the ice in Jutland during the last Ice Age (the Baltic stadium), and the basin of the bog is probably a "kettle hole", a depression caused by the subsequent melting of a mass of ice buried in the moraine accumulated at this point 4)5)6). At the time of the discovery, in the spring of 1952, about three­quarters of the bog had been removed in the course of digging for fuel-peat. According to a statement by the owner there was originally in the centre of the bog a depth of about 8 metres of peat, whereas the greatest peat depth at the time of the investigation was only about 3.5 metres. Fig. 1 shows a sketch of the bog and the position of the profile-sections investigated. On a basis of investigations of sediment and of pollen-analysis the filling of the original lake and the vegetational history of the bog is illustrated in schematic form in Fig. 2. The pollen zones are given in accordance with Knud Jessen's divisions 7), and the notation of the sediments is in accordance with Troels-Smith's system 8).

The level of discovery of Grauballe Man is Layer 5, consisting of light yellow, slightly humified sphagnum peat (upper sphagnum peat), while the deeper lying Layer 7 consists of dark reddish-brown, heavily humified sphagnum peat (lower sphagnum peat), and the intervening Layer 6 is a heterogeneous mixture of these two.

Pollen-analytically Layer 7 can be dated to the Neolithic Period, while the occurrence of pollen of rye (Secale) dates Layer 5 to the period after the commencement of the Christian Era. It is therefore impossible for Layer 5 to have arisen as a result of the deterioration of climate occurring at the transition from the Subboreal to the Subatlantic Phases, and any connection with the "Grenzhorizont" 9), RY III 10), is thereby excluded. It would be more reasonable to suppose that it was RY II which was represented here, but this possibility must also be rejected. If Layer 5's formation had been the result of a change of climate it would have been reasonable to expect that the layer would have extended over the whole peat-bog. lts horizontal extension is, however, only about 2 metres, while similar stretches of this upper sphagnum peat level, of corresponding thickness and extent, could be observed at numerous points in the visible section walls, which were about 50 metres long. These strips of upper sphagnum peat Jay at depths varying from surface level to a metre below it, and the most probable explanation must be that the upper sphagnum peat has been formed naturally within earlier peat cuttings (cf. Fig. 3).

The composition of Layer 6 thereby also becomes more easily explicable, this mixed level consisting partly of upper sphagnum peat which has grown up in the peat cuttings when these were new, and partly of lower sphagnum peat washed out into the cuttings by water drainage from the surrounding walls of lower sphagnum peat. To judge by the pollen analyses peat cutting apparently began in the Early Roman lron Age and gradually became so widespread as to keep pace with the natural growth. Layer 2, from the upper part of which the latest pollen sample capable of statistical analysis comes, must be dated, on account of the occurrence of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), to about 1500 AD.

Ancient writings (Pliny) 18) record the production of peat fuel in northwest Germany at the beginning of the Christian Era, while peat cuttings of Celtic lron Age date have been demonstrated by Becker 17) in South Jutland. This human intervention in the bogs in prehistoric times has destroyed the natural stratigraphy, so that considerable lacunae in the process of deposition have resulted - in this case of over 2000 years. This circumstance is of extreme importance for the dating of bog-found objects of later date than the commencement of peat-cutting 19)20). The renewed growth of the peat messes in the new cuttings can give rise to successions of layers resemling RY, which can cause incorrect datings and connections. A number of earlier datings, for example those ascribed to the "Grenzhorizont", must in the light of these considerations be regarded as less trustworthy.

The pollen-analytical dating of Grauballe Man is based on analyses of a series of samples taken in the immediate vicinity of the body, and a number of separate analyses of peat samples taken from the actual subject.

Fig. 4, top, shows the diagrammatical portion, and, bottom, the separate analyses from the body. A comparison with Section A shows that here at the point of discovery we have the same succession of layers as described under A; at the bottom the lower sphagnum peat (= Layer 7 in Section A), above it the mixed layer (= Layer 6), and above that again the upper sphagnum peat corresponding to Layer 5. Part I of the diagram is the standard tree­pollen diagram. Part II covers cultivated plants and certain other plants dependent on or encouraged by cultivation, Part III shows the percentage occurrance of pollen of trees and bushes, weed-plants and heather (Calluna vulgaris). The pollen spectra HP 4124 and HP 4128 ascribe the upper portion of the lower sphagnum peat to the commencement of the Neolithic, i.e. about 2600 BC. Great plantain (Plantago major) occurs, whereas hoary plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is not yet found. The spectra HP 4115, HP 4133 and HP 4121 show that the peat layer corresponding to them was formed in the Early Roman Iron Age (occurance of rye pollen (Secale) 23), in connection with a relatively low percentage of pollen of beech (Fagus)).

The six separate samples from the body can be fitted into this portion of the diagram with reasonable certainty, and Grauballe Man is thereby dated to the Roman Iron Age.

The analysis HP 4001 is of particular importance, as it is certain that it was taken from below the body. It consists of upper sphagnum peat, and it contains the pollen of rye. This indicates that the "deposition" of the body took place some time after the renewal of growth of the peat moss in the peat cutting. Samples HP 4003 and HP 4004 come from the mixed layer.

Diagrams II and III show clearly that the area was extensively cultivated in the Roman Iron Age. The greater part of the woodland had been cleared. Fields of barley and rye together with large commons and extensive pasture lands bear witness to the agriculture and cattle breeding of the Iron Age farmers; but even at this period the heath had reclaimed considerable areas, as the heather had been encouraged by the clearing of the forest and by the Subatlantic climate. The actual peat-bog was covered with birch scrub (Betula) with a little willow (Salix), rowan (Sorbus) and alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), and it had been subjected to widespread peat cutting. In a peat cutting, not very recent but still filled with water, Grauballe Man was "deposited" some little time after the commencement of the Roman Iron Age.

Svend Jørgensen





Jørgensen, S. (1956). Grauballemandens fundsted. Kuml, 6(6), 114–130. Hentet fra