Excavating the Fregerslev Viking spring 2017. Source: Visit Skanderborg

19th-Century Peasant Dashed Archaeologists’ Hopes in Fregerslev

Hopes of finding a full burial ground surrounding the grave of the Fregerslev Viking have been dashed.

Stones disturbing the surroundings of the grave of the Fregerslev Viking © Skanderborg Museum
Stones disturbing the surroundings of the grave of the Fregerslev Viking © Skanderborg Museum

In 2012 archaeologists found a sumptuous Viking headgear of a horse in Fregerslev. Studies of the surroundings hinted at a complex burial ground harbouring an undisturbed and unusually large Viking warrior grave surrounded by other graves

It now appears these hopes were somewhat unfounded. What happened was that the rocks and boulders used to construct the grave seriously annoyed a peasant in the 19th century. Consistently wrecking his plough, he resolutely decided to dig a deep hole, eight to three meters, into which he dropped the large stones. This dig deluded the archaeologists to believe that the burial ground not only included the grave of the elite Viking warrior but perhaps several additional graves, which they initially expected to find beneath the stones.

Nevertheless, the archaeologists are still excited about the discoveries as the grave itself was luckily undisturbed by the peasant and his clearing activities. Thus, the contents of the grave still represent a spectacular opportunity to add to the growing knowledge about these elite Vikings from the middle to the late 10th century.

 

Arrows found in the grave of the Fregerslev Viking © Skanderborg Museum
X-ray of block of earth hiding the reamins of the arrows found in the grave of the Fregerslev Viking. The archaeologist have counted 22 or 23 arrows, making this the second largest bundle ever found in Denmark © Skanderborg Museum

So far, the archaeologists have uncovered a lance, arrow tips, and perhaps the remains of a bucket and a shrine with metal fittings. Also, many additional ornaments from the harness add to those discovered in 2012. Currently, the findings are excavated in blocks and brought to in-house facilities at the local museum in Skanderborg to be properly x-rayed and studied before being picked apart and laid bare.

It is expected that the end-result will be a unique harness and headgear embossed with gilded bronze- and silver-plated ornaments. The harness would have made the Viking look conspicuously “blingy”, while on horseback. The archaeologists are comparing such harnesses to the deluxe hubcaps of a Ferrari or Rolls Royce.

Several of the ornaments remind the archaeologists of other finds, and it is hoped that it will be possible to identify the craftsman or artist, who made the metalwork and map his artistic influence. One hypothesis is that such sumptuous harnesses were commissioned by the king and used as gifts to his earls.

SOURCE:

Arkæologer snydt af bonde fra 1800-tallet: Vikingegrav markant mindre end forventet.
By Af Rikke Caroline Carlsen. DR. 09.05.2017

Fregerslev Vikingen
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Excavating the Fregerslev Viking spring 2017. Source: Visit Skanderborg

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