ScienceDaily (June 9, 2008) — A team of forensic scientists at the University of Copenhagen has studied human remains found in two ancient Danish burial grounds dating back to the iron age, and discovered a man who appears to be of Arabian origin. The findings suggest that human beings were as genetically diverse 2000 years ago as they are today and indicate greater mobility among iron age populations than was previously thought. The findings also suggest that people in the Danish iron age did not live and die in small, isolated villages but, on the contrary, were in constant contact with the wider world.
Archeologists and anthropologists know today that the concept of a single scandinavian genetic type, a scandinavian race that wandered to Denmark, settled there, and otherwise lived in complete isolation from the rest of the world, is a fallacy.
Photograph by P. Ethelberg/Sydsjllands Museum, 2000
At the beginning of the Danish iron age, the roman legions were based as far north as the river Elbe (on the border of northern Germany) and it is thought that the man of arabian descent found in the burial grounds in Southern Zealand would have either been a slave or a soldier in the roman army. It is probable that he possessed skills or special knowledge, which the people in Bøgebjerggård or Skovgaard settlements could make use of, or he could have been the descendant of a female of arabian origin, who for reasons unknown, had crossed the river Elbe and settled down with the inhabitants of Zealand.
“This discovery is comparable to the findings of a colleague of mine, who found a person of siberian origin on the Kongemarke site,” continues scientist, Linea Melchior. He was buried on consecrated ground, just as the circumstances of the arab man’s burial was identical to that of the locals. The discovery of the arab man indicates that people from distant parts of the world could be and were absorbed in Danish communities.
“Another interesting feature of the approximately 50 graves assessed so far on the two sites and also from other burial sites and time periods in Danish history is that none of the individuals seem to be maternally related to one another”, explains Linea Melchior. “We couldn’t see any large families buried in the same location. This suggests that in the Danish iron age, people didn’t live and die in the villages of their birth, as we had previously imagined”.
The Stone ship or ship setting was an early Germanic burial custom, characteristically Scandinavian but also found in Germany and the Baltic states. The grave or cremation burial is surrounded by tightly or loosely fit slabs or stones in the outline of a ship. They are often found in grave fields, but are sometimes far from any other archaeological remains.
The stone ship at Anund’s barrow
Ship settings are of varying sizes, some of monumental proportions. The largest known is the mostly destroyed Jelling stone ship in Denmark, which was at least 170 metres long. In Sweden, the size varies from 67 metres (Ale’s Stones) to only a few metres. The orientation also varies. Inside, they can be cobbled or filled with stones, or have raised stones in the positions of masts. The illusion of being ships has often been reinforced by larger stones at the ends. Some have an oblique stern.
Scattered examples are found in Northern Germany and along the coast of the Baltic States. Excavations have shown that they are usually from the latter part of the Nordic Bronze Age, c. 1000 BC - 500 BC (e.g. Gotland) or from the Germanic Iron Age, theVendel Age and the Viking Age (e.g. Blekinge and Scania).
Scholars have suggested both that the stone ship developed out of the desire to equip the dead with everything he had in life, and alternatively that it was specifically associated with the journey to Hel. One puzzling feature is that they sometimes occur at the base of a barrow, enclosing a flat area presumably intended for public ceremonies.
The transition to the Iron Age is a transformative and expansive period. Arable land became increasingly important in relation to animal husbandry and was linked more closely with farm and family. The joint burial tomb was replaced by the slopes for their family next to each farm or village.
One result of this reorganization was that the dwellings were small and were supplemented by a number of separate farm buildings for different functions. But the storm anna farms survived long houses, now that the hall buildings for banquets and cult acts.
Magnates also continued construction of monumental burial mounds on their farms. These were usually strategic in relation to land and waterways. One example is the group of mounds at Adelsö Church (Ekerö).
Such a clear expression of power in the region is evidence of increased competition between the chiefs and storm anna families on farmland and the control of the flow of goods to and from Mälardalen.
Many of the farms and villages that were established during this period are still standing today and often has names ending in-first-or village.
The population increased
The climate became towards the end of the Iron Age slightly warmer. This combined with the uplift and iron tools came into common use, the basis for a sharp increase in population starting in the 700’s. The normal farm at that time was a family farm where the farmer was either self-owned or Landbo, that worked the fields for a cargo owner to whom. Analyses of the total surveyed burial site at Lovö (Ekerö) has given a picture of how nuclear families lived and worked in the same place for generations.
Unfree labor, serfs, were also in the agricultural community, but how much weight the thralls had is a question as yet to be answered.
More or less well organized looting was a perfectly normal way to feed at this time.Adventurous young men beating like to join the chiefs and petty kings and pulled away on rövartåg to other areas, to Western Europe or regions across the Baltic Sea. If all went well they could be härtåg end up with great wealth and honor and thus a brilliant position on returning home but if luck was not b expecting no mercy, but a quick death or long-term slavery.
Roman Iron Age is called in Scandinavia the time the Roman Empire was at its highest and mightiest. The limit to which was so close to the Rhine in the current Germany. Trade with the Romans became increasingly important during the period and with the spread a lot of new ideas from the south. The Romans were primarily interested in Scandinavia’s rich supply of cattle for leather and game for furs and offered in exchange for luxury goods as silver, bronze vessels, glass cups and arms to the chiefs in the north. In a study of a burial ground in Karlslund (Upplands Väsby municipality) in the 1990s discovered a Roman wine bought in a woman’s grave. It was marked by the manufacturer, a workshop in the south. Identical buckets have been found in Pompeii’s ruins.
In the 200 century, the Roman empire lose control of possessions in the Western and Central Europe. The Romans attacked during this period of a number of Austrian people and to be left in peace they paid the out huge ransoms. That also petty and district chiefs from Mälardalen with warrior companions joined them profitable war and blackmail companies are very likely.
This resulted in great wealth of pure gold were spread among the Germans who allowed skilled blacksmiths produce luxury goods for their own needs and traditions. Examples of such items are rings, gold collars, medallions, gold costume buckles, weapons components and glass items. The graves from this period archaeologists sometimes find such exclusive status of the subject. Many of these items were also offered in bogs and swamps.
In investigations in recent years for road construction and other major land development, several settlements from this period have been found. They have often been in places that later used as arable land and, therefore, been invisible. In Eastern Ledinge (Norrtälje) found traces of a 27 meters long and 5 feet wide house that housed both the residential, barns and warehouses.