|Nydam Mose or Nydam Bog is just North of Flensburg, the northermost German city of today. It was among the first bogs where digging was done relatively systematically and for scientific reasons, starting around 1859. One person stands out in this context: The Danish subject Conrad Engelhardt.|
|The prelude to
Engelhardt's digging in Nydam is complex and utterly confusing and I will give
only a very brief account.
Farmers and peat diggers had found plenty of old objects long before 1859, especially in what we now call Thorsbjerk, but also in Nydam and many other places in the general area. Some people, like one Jaspersen, collected these things, and Engelhardt run across the "Jaspersen" collection when he got a job as a high School teacher in Flensburg. The custom of the times was to exhibit such things in schools. The Jaspersen collection still exists in parts (now in the Copenhagen museum); here is one case showing swords among other things:
|Conradt obtained his teaching position because the Danish had just won the "1st Schleswig war" (1848 - 1850) and had taken over parts of what is now the German state of Schleswig-Holstein where I live. They kicked out teachers and others who had sympathized with the German side. This opened up positions, and Engelhardt found himself to be the youngest teacher in the Flensburg Gymnasium.|
|He was also charged with
the responsibility to organize the (Jaspersen) artifact collection already
there, and that's what he did. He needed money and submitted a proposal to the
ministry in charge, asking for a yearly budget. After a long wait it was
finally granted, sort of. He got only half of what he asked for, and only for
one year. Some things never change, it appears.
He induced other collectors to donate their treasures (in exchange for a nice title, perhaps), and started a bit of digging on his own. He was successful and eventually, since objects made from precious metals were found, caused a veritable "gold rush" among the local farmers, peat diggers and land owners. Serious money and fame seemed to be around the corner, ensuring nobility interest. Some chaos ensued accordingly, but the number of objects found (mostly without proper records) increased dramatically.
| In 1858 Engelhardt
started serious digging in nearby
Thorsbjerg. He found many
interesting artifacts, including a "silver" face mask, but no iron since
the acidic environment there has left nothing.
A year later in 1859 he finally commenced digging in Nydam where he not only found well preserved iron artifacts but a whole big oaken boat (that was eventually destroyed in one of the many wars since then). Finding preserved old wood was a sensation and fame descended on Engelhardt. Nydam has yielded much more treasures since then, including another big boat; see below.
|Archaeological bliss, however, was sorely disturbed by the next war. Denmark was fighting Prussia / Austria in the "2nd Schleswig war" 1863 - 64. This time the Prussians won (to some extent because they had the better cannons made from Krupp steel). Denmark lost the duchies Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg; much of what is now the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.|
|The peace treaty stipulated that the "Nydam treasure" had to be handed over to the Germans. When the Prussians came to Copenhagen to pick up the things, the museum people, to their utmost consternation couldn't find it. "Very strange, was right here as of yesterday; no idea where it is now". Try as they might (including sending spies), the Prussians could not find the objects. Finally, a still unknown Dane betrayed his country and offered the Prussians to lead them to the secret place - for an outrageously large sum of money! The Prussians paid, the guy lead them to Korsør, and the Nydam treasure was moved to what is now the Landesmuseum Schleswig-Holstein in Schleswig. There it still resides even so the Danes have tried to get it back ever since.|
|Conrad Engelhardt excavated the Nydam
bog in a first campaign from 1859 to 1863. The second excavation campaign had
to wait until 1989 when the National Museum of Denmark took the bit into its
teeth. While it was debated for a long time how all these things ended up in
the bog, it is quite clear by now that the stuff was sacrificed. This has
happened on six to eight major and separate occasions. Major sacrifices were
unearthed stuff from several phases; sorting it out is not so easy. All three
boats were found by Engelhardt. The smaller (19 m) pine boat, however, was
hacked up and used as firewood by troops during the 2nd Schleswig war and the
third boat was too damaged to be reconstructed, it appears.
However, in 2011 a fourth boat was found. It is supposedly about 100 years older than the Schleswig boat and somewhat larger.
|The oak boat is now the pride of the Schleswig museum in Gottorf Castle. It is 23 m long, ca. 4 m wide, of clinker type, and built for 15 pairs of oars. It is considered to be the oldest Nordic ship find and the oldest known clinker built boat. It once weighed over three tons and was rowed by thirty men. Here it is:|
|As far as swords are concerned, Engelhardt already found "more than a hundred swords in Nydam moss" 1) and commissioned two beautiful lithographs (plates) for his publications to be made that are still widely used (if not always properly cited). Engelhardt's plates show in particular two very beautiful swords with unusual (and difficult to make) palmette and chevron patterns:|
|Engelhardt published much about his findings (in Danish) and 1886 a major book in English. He referred to the swords unearthed in Nydam (unfortunately) as being "damascened". However, with "damascening" he meant "incrustation" and not pattern welding.|
|By now more that 190 swords have been
found (here are some)
and the number is likely to increase since digging has not been finished. 13
swords bear a (Roman) "factory stamp", a few have (Roman type)
incrustations. About 75 % are pattern welded and most of them are of Roman
origin for (almost) sure. The "Roman origin", by the way, might refer
to formerly Celtic areas, e.g. in South Germany, that had long since become a
part of the Roman empire.
The "Illerup Adal" books only list about 40 swords in the distribution maps for reasons not entirely clear to me.
|What follows is mostly based on an article of Erik Jørgensen and Peter Vang Petersen in the "Sieg und Triumph" book. It summarizes very briefly the state-of-the-art as far as Nydam finds and their interpretation are concerned|
|It is no longer disputed that more or less ritual sacrifices took place. It must have been for religious reasons but no details are known. While the swords (and much other stuff) was (mostly) Roman and thus produced somewhere in the "South - West", the people who sacrificed it took it from "neighbors" in the South (present day North Germany) or the North (Norway, Sveden). Either they brought it back from a successful raid, or they took it from unsuccessful raiders.|
always caused puzzlement that no human skeletons have been found with the
sacrificed weapons but only remains of some terribly hurt an cut up horses and
dogs" writes Ulla Lund
Hansen in 2003. That seems to support the "sacrificed objects were
brought back home from successful raids" hypotheses. Well - in 2009 a mass
grave with at least 200 probably sacrificed "Norwegians" was
discovered close to the Illerup
I guess the last word about the bog sacrifices is not yet in. We have to wait.
Books and Other Major Sources
Critical Museum Guide: Dresden
Critical Museum Guide: Museums in Copenhagen
Critical Museum Guide: Landesmuseum Schleswig-Holstein in Schleswig, Germany
11.3 Pattern Welding 11.3.1 Background to Pattern Welding
Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung"
Danish Bog Sacrifices
Large Pictures 1
11.3.3 Evolution of Pattern Welding
Large Pictures chapter 11.4
Large Pictures 2 - Chapter 11.3
10.3 Iron and Steel in Early Europe; 10.3.1 Technology Transfer and Trading
Migration Period Swords and Fancy Hilts & Pommels
Northern Sword Types of the First Millennium
Some Less Important
Old Sagas, Heroes and Swords
Metallography of 8th / 9th Century Swords and Saxes
Analyzing the Forging of a "Viking" Sword
11.3.4 Metallography of Pattern Welded Swords
Radiographie Study of Pattern Welded Swords
Theoderic's "Thank You" letter
Additional Pictures - Chapter 7.1
Large Pictures 3
© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)