by Henrik Andersen
Moesgaard Museum (MOMU) in Aarhus is the largest archeological museum in Jutland, and here you can see some incredible findings from different time periods, ranging from fine bronze age jewelry to a journey through the Viking city of Aros, an older name for Aarhus.
Not to mention the Grauballe Man, who is one of the best preserved bog bodies in the world. From 1950 to 1956 and from 1975 to 1985 MOMU made excavations in the area around the river valley of Illerup Ådal, south of Aarhus. Here they discovered over 15.000 items, mainly Iron Age weapons and personal equipment dated to around 200 AD and again in 225, 375 and 450 AD.
This means that it was a costum to the local inhabitants to make these kinds of sacrifices. The findings include gold, ivory, coins, axes, spears and shields. The general understanding of these sacrificial weapons is that they were spoils of war and was thrown into the lake as an offering to the gods, but before the weapons was thrown in they were bent, broken or in other ways vandalised.
"Clothes were torn apart, chain mail and harnesses were demolished, gold and silver thrown in the river..." Wrote Orosius on how the Cimbrians behaved after a won battle. The deliberate destruction is clear with many things from Illerup Ådal. The prettier the equipment the bigger the destruction.Illerup Ådal is just one out of many places in Denmark and Southern Sweden where sacrificial items have been found. These places reflect the history of Denmark and Northern Europe in the first 5 centuries AD. This is also where the Roman Empire blossoms and demises.
Weapons in bundles. Swords bend and buckles broken.
It is said that Denmark, who was never occupied by the Romans, has the biggest and best preserved collection of Roman swords outside of Italy. Many mass-produced roman swords, spearheads etc. was part of the findings in Illerup Ådal, and the reason for this is simple. People wanted the best items for their armies and the Roman arms was unparalleled in Europe at the time. Another explanation is that the inhabitants of Jutland served as Auxiliary in the Roman army and brought weapons and warfare with them back home. Both reasons to why Roman weapons ended up in Denmark is very plausible and war made the winner throw it all in a lake.
One thing is for sure and that is that the people of Jutland did fight against a bigger enemy. An enemy who was very organised and may even have come by ship from other parts of Scandinavia. Illerup is not an isolated phenomena and it makes you wonder even more about the lost connection between Denmark, Scandinavia and the Roman Empire. In COH II CIMBRIA we try to think about these things a lot and it is one of the reasons to why we do reenactment. If you want to know more about the Illerup Ådal findings go visit the museum. It is definitely worth it!
Roman swords. Officers sword.