|Illerup Ådal was a wet and boggy valley in 1950, and a longish lake 2000 year ago. When the area was drained in 1950, first discoveries were made - and it has never quite stopped ever since. The conditions were excellent - a lot of artifacts including swords in near perfect conditions were found. Many are shown in the Moesgard museum not too far from Illerup.|
|A first systematic dig
took place in 1956; 1200 artifacts were discovered in an area of about 750
m2. Between 1975 - 1985 an area of about 40.000 m2 was
investigated in 11 major campaigns , yielding about 15.000 objects.
In 2009 Illerup Ådal made major headlines in the archaeological community: Remains of at least 200 dead warriors were found, just about 2 km from one of the places of major weapon sacrifices.
Here goes the "sacrificed weapons were brought back form successful business trips" hypothesis!
|Not much seems to have
been published about the mass grave. It appears that the (mostly young) men
came from Norway and were killed on the battle field, left to rot for a while,
with the remains eventually "sacrificed", i.e. thrown into the bog. A
lot more bones are waiting for discovery (up to 1000 men is the guess). This
mass murder, in line with the quaint old customs of the time ("vae
victis"; woe to the vanquished ones), took place around 50 AD, long before
the first known weapon sacrifice.
We need to wait for what else will come up, and how this new discovery will change the present viewpoint about Danish bog sacrifices.
|The findings from Illerup up to 1985 have been published in a book series called "Illerup Ådal". Volumes 11 and 12 deal with the swords (and have been used heavily by me). Other volumes deal with spear and lance points, personal belongings (comb, tools, ...), show-off items (golden / silver horse gear, shield buckles, sword sheaths and handles, ...), shields, bows and arrows, axes, jewelry, coins, ....|
|Four major and apparently
unrelated places (A,B, C and D) have been found where deposits were made; the
time scale ranges from 200 AD - 500 AD. The first three places have some
|What has been found? Here is a statistic|
|Spear and lance points outnumberd everything by far; just like in Nydam or other places. Here is what they look like:|
|From the personal
belongings found together with the metal artifacts it could be deduced that the
objects originated in South Norway / Sveden. Maybe the proto Vikings there felt
the urge for a bit of adventure every now and then and went on boat trips to
their southern neighbors, sometimes without return ticket.
Interestingly, the spear, lances shields etc, were made in Scandinavia while most of the swords, as well as many sword sheaths and belts, were imported from the Roman empire. Most swords were pattern welded, some displayed the complex chevrons and palmette patterns. I have dealt with that in detail in another module.
|A lot if not most of the IIlerup Adal findings are shown in the Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus, Denmark. The link leads to the critical museum guide where you can read in detail why I liked that museum a lot but was not always happy about details. The picture below gives a taste treat.|
Books and Other Major Sources
First Iron Swords - Provenance Problems
Critical Museum Guide: Dresden
Critical Museum Guide: Landesmuseum Schleswig-Holstein in Schleswig, Germany
Critical Museum Guide: Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus; Denmark
Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung"
Danish Bog Sacrifices
Large Pictures 1
11.3.2 More to Pattern Welding
Large Pictures chapter 11.4
Large Pictures 2 - Chapter 11.3
Illerup Swords with Special Patterns
Northern Sword Types of the First Millennium
Old Sagas, Heroes and Swords
11.3.4 Metallography of Pattern Welded Swords
Large Pictures II
Large Pictures III
Theoderic's "Thank You" letter
Additional Pictures chapter 11.4
Large Pictures 3
© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)