More on Iron Age warrior bones dug up in Denmark

The meadows of Alken are thick with ancient skeletons. At least two hundred have already been unearthed - and there are many waiting to be discovered. An entire army was sacrificed around the time of the birth of Christ and laid to rest in the Alken bog. Now archaeologists and other experts are working to shed light on this dramatic event. 


What exactly happened in the Danish village of Alken around the time of the birth of Christ? Who were the over two hundred victims, and what events led to such an enormous sacrifice? 

Archaeologists and other experts from Skanderborg Museum, Moesgård Museum and Aarhus University hope to uncover the anwers to these questions this summer, when a major excavation takes place near Alken, a small town outside Skanderborg on the Jutland peninsula. A unique find was made here in 2009: the remains of an entire army which had been sacrificed in the bog. Archaeologists hope that the excavation will solve the many mysteries about the circumstances behind the sacrifice of several hundred warriors. 

An archaeological treasure trove 

The first spadefuls of earth in the major excavation in the meadows around Alken were dug on Monday.  Earlier digs had already documented finds of skeletal remains from around two hundred individual warriors. And archaeologists are convinced that many more will be unearthed over the course of July and August. In the words of Aarhus University archaeologist Mads Kähler Holst, 

'Last time we dug here, we didn't actually reach the perimeter of the finds, so we don’t know the extent of them. So there’ s no doubt that the dig will result in many more skeletons. If we are lucky, what we’ve already seen may just be the beginning,’ explains Dr Holst, associate professor of archaeology at Aarhus University. 

Under the water table 

The dig is taking place in damp grazing meadows near Jutland's large lake, the Mossø. To reach the remains, it's necessary to dig almost two meters below the water table of the Mossø. 

´We are fighting against water seeping in, and we have big pumps running constantly. This makes our work difficult – but it also explains why the bones are so well-preserved. The water has delayed decomposition, which is why the remains are in such good condition when we dig them up,’ says Ejvind Hertz, Curator of Archaeology at Skanderborg Museum. 

The major goal of the 2012 excavation is to learn more about the mass sacrifice of the warriors. Archaeologists hope analysing the remains will clarify some of the many mysteries associated with this unique find. Geological analyses will also be performed in an attempt to illuminate why the sacrifice took place precisely here, in the Alken meadows.  

Author: Marianne Gammelgaard | Source: Aarhus University [July 03, 2012]

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