Stenalderhuse på Knardrup Galgebakke


  • Knud A. Larsen


Stone age house, stenalder hus, Knardrup, Nemming, hearth, ildsted, landsby, village, Early Neolithic, tidlig neolitisk, bronzealder offer grube, bronze age offering pit, Late roman grave, sen romersk grav


Stone-Age Houses on Knardrup Gallows Hill

Knardrup Gallows Hill lies immediately to the north of the village of the same name, and is today cut through by the road which leads to Ganløse. The hill is a big bank of yellow sand, deposited as part of an end-moraine at the time when the icecap withdrew slowly towards the east from Denmark. In prehistoric times the bank was surrounded by water on three. sides, and access was only possible from the north. Long before men began their activities on Gallows Hill itself, primitive hunters established in the Mullerup period a settlement not far from the foot of the hill, on an island in Borup Lake (fig. 1). Gallows Hill has been a place well suited for settlement. Surrounded as it was by water on almost all sides there has been easy access to drinking water and to the supplementing of diet by fishing, while from the point of view of defence it has been an ideal site for a settlement.

An archeological cartographic survey of the neighbouring Mølleå valley from the western end of Farum Lake as far as Buresø, and the investigation carried out in that connection by the National Museum into discoveries from the area, gave the first indication that discoveries of archeological interest had been made on Knardrup Gallows Hill. Further investigation revealed that a former schoolteacher at Ganløse school, named Nemming, had several times excavated on the hill. These excavations had led to the uncovering of house sites and of a large number of rubbish pits. Apart from a few ornamented potsherds of Early Neolithic date all results of these excavations were unfortunately lost. There could, however, be little doubt that an investigation of Gallows Hill was to be desired in view of these previous results. This investigation was carried out in the period May 1949 - late Autumn 1950 and covered three objectives: 1) the excavation of an oval black patch in the field near the southern edge of the gravel pit, which proved to be a hearth with rubbish pits nearby; 2) the uncovering of an occupation level out from the northern edge of the gravel pit, which revealed three house sites; and 3) the planning and excavation of a number of black bowl-shaped pits full of soot.

House A: In the northern wall of the gravel pit could be seen, under a layer of wind­blown sand 30 cms. thick, an occupation layer 20 cms. thick containing flint swarf and a few potsherds of Stone-Age type. Uncovering of this occupation layer revealed a house site, lying in a NNE-SSW direction. The house was rectangular with rounded corners, measured 6.5 by 4 meters, and possessed a stone wall-footing. lts entrance must have been in the neighbourhood of the hearth, which was sited in the centre of the eastern side-wall. Two post-holes were found, but they gave no definite indications for a reconstruction of the original appearance of the house (figs. 2 and 3).

House B: An extension of the excavation in a northerly direction revealed the next house site. It lay deeper beneath the surface, and was therefore considerably better preserved than house A. It was similarly rectangular with rounded corners, measuring 7.5 by 5 meters. The hearth was sited in the centre of the eastern side-wall and, to judge by the post-holes, outside the house. The west wall was revealed as a stone footing of 2 meters' thickness, the three other walls being considerably narrower (fig. 4). The post-holes showed that the actual house interior had formed a rounded rectangle measuring 5 by 2 meters. There is much evidence that the posts have supported a thin wall of interlaced branches and withies. The stone footing suggests that this thin wattle wall was supported on the outer side by a wall of earth.

House C: Further excavation produced, immediately to the north of house B, still another house site measuring 6 by 3.5 meters, which appeared to have the character of a semicircular or horseshoeshaped hut. The hearth was sited in the centre of the hut. The post-holes appeared also to support the probability of the existence of a semicircular wattle wall. The doorway was towards the west (fig. 5-6).

Hearth: The investigation of the dark oval patch in the field near the southern edge of the gravel pit resulted in the uncovering of a hearth. An area excavation first revealed a stone setting, very irregular and uneven, in dark-coloured occupation earth which formed an almost circular patch surrounded by yellow clay. After the stone setting was removed the hearth was revealed, a clearly delimited oval patch consisting of black occupation earth full of particles of charcoal and stones which had been subjected to extreme heat. It proved impossible to find any explanation of the occurrence of the hearth in the centre of a stretch of rich clay. No indication could be found of any connection with a house site.

The result of this excavation, the three house sites lying close together, gives plausibility to the information provided by the schoolteacher, Mr. Nemming, that house sites had previously been found on Gallows Hill. The results of his investigations must therefore be incorporated in the picture of the hill in the New Stone Age. It may be assumed that the flat summit of the hill was at this period occupied by a Stone-Age village, though there is unfortunately no chance of finding the limit of its extent or the number of houses which it comprised. It may be taken as certain, in view of the situation of the excavated house sites in relation to the edge of the gravel pit, that several house sites have been lost in the course of digging for gravel.

The siting of the Knardrup village has characteristics related to that of the Barkær village. Location on a sand hillock surrounded by water is exactly the same in both cases. But that is the limit of the similarities. The characteristic feature of the Barkær village is the two long rows of connected houses on each side of the cobbled village street. The Knardrup village has consisted of a collection of detached rectangular earth houses. It should, however, be noted that the three sites excavated lie in a row running from north to south, and it would therefore be reasonable to believe that the other houses of the village were sited along the same line. The most probable picture of the Knardrup village would thus be a number of houses lying in a row running from north to south (fig. 7). The entrance to the houses lay either to the east or to the west.

Dating: The excavation produced a large number of flint implements and several hundred potsherds, of which a large number are ornamented. The stone artifacts comprise fragments of polished axes, flake scrapers, disc scrapers, blades and flint chippings, which together give a representative selection of the implements used in the day-to-day life of the settlement (fig. 8). The ornamented potsherds provide a good dating material. The table in fig. 9 gives their distribution and location within the three house sites. The pottery ornamentation shows features closely related to that of the south Danish megalith group in Early Neolithic Period C. A single small fragment of a side sherd bearing a double-lined zigzag border produced with a rolled cord might perhaps cast doubt on this dating, for the zigzag pattern is very common in the following Middle Neolithic Period. It should, however, be noted that the zigzag pattern is not unknown in the Early Neolithic, so that this fragment cannot be regarded as decisive for the dating of this discovery. On the contrary, for the final determination of the date emphasis must be laid on the fact that the ornamentation judged as a whole lacks the features characteristic of the pottery of the Middle Neolithic Period, characteristics which appear so clearly in the Troldebjerg discovery, the use of the ornamentation entirely to cover the surfaces. The decoration of the Knardrup sherds rather shows precisely the moderation in use of ornamentation which allows also place to undecorated surfaces and which makes a dating to Early Neolithic Period C the most probable (fig. 10).

From the hearth, too, there is quite a considerable quantity of potsherds, including a fair amount, both from the lower level of the excavation, by the hearth itself, and from the upper level of heaped stones, which bear ornamentation. The ornamented sherds from the upper level show features closely related to those of the sherds from the house sites, and must therefore be regarded as of the same date (fig. 12). The heap of stones above the hearth is accordingly contemporary with the houses. The sherds from the lower level are characterized by decoration along the lip with double-twisted cord, the decoration which is so typical of Early Neolithic Period B. The hearth must therefore be regarded as belonging to this period (figs. 13 and 14). The result thereby reached, that the sherds from the two layers belong to two different periods, Early Neolithic Periods B and C, is consistent with the stratification.

The black patches: The excavation of the house sites brought to our attention the fact that archeological relics were to be found on Gallows Hill of a quite different character and from a far later period than those we had hitherto been dealing with. Scattered over the hill were to be found bowl-shaped pits, circular in shape at the surface with a diameter of about 50 cms. and about the same depth. The pits which were excavated proved to be quite similar in appearance, and they all had the same contents, consisting of soot mixed with a very few fragments of charcoal. The bottom of the pits was lined with rough cobbles, bearing plain marks of fire, while fire-marked stones also occurred here and there within the layer of soot. Everything therefore pointed to the conclusion that fires had been lit inside the pits. In four of the nine pits investigated there were found potsherds, and it was noted, very characteristically, that there were only sherds of a single vessel in each pit. Like the stones the sherds showed signs of having been subjected to the fire. In the case of five of the pits investigated two horses' teeth were found, placed at the lip of the pit. Comparing these pits with the characteristics noted during excavation of cremation-patch graves at Kragskovhede in Vendsyssel and at several sites in Bornholm, it can be said with reasonable certainty that the black bowl-shaped patches on Gallows Hill are not cremation­patches. It would be most reasonable to interpret them as offering pits, a theory which is supported by the presence of the horses' teeth. The ornamentation of the potsherds dates the pits to the Late Bronze Age (fig. 15) 5).

The presence of the horses' teeth makes these offering pits particularly interesting. There is considerable evidence for the association of the horse with the sun cult of the Bronze Age, as, for example, the solar chariot from Trundholm dating to the Early Bronze Age, and pictures of horses on razors from the Late Bronze Age; this site is perhaps therefore a further indication. If this theory is correct, then it must be concluded that horse sacrifices took place on Gallows Hill in quite considerable numbers in the Late Bronze Age in connection with solar festivals.

Cemetery: Remains of an uncremated burial from the Late Roman lron Age show that around 300 AD Gallows Hill was in use as a cemetery.

Whether Gallows Hill was also used, as its name would imply, as the place of execution for the district in the Middle Ages, we do not know. There is no evidence for it, either in writing or in the archeological findings.

Knud A. Larsen





Larsen, K. A. (1957). Stenalderhuse på Knardrup Galgebakke. Kuml, 7(7), 24–43. Hentet fra