Aarhus Universitetsforlag

Illerup Ådal

- archaeology as a magic mirror

A part of the subject area

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152 pages ill.
ISBN 87 87334 37 2


With contributions by


More about the book

About the book

This book about the excavations in Illerup Ådal in Eastern Jutland tells the story of the Scandinavian regions at the time when the Romans were guarding their boundaries towards the north. This is the story about the background and preconditions for the Viking campaigns of later times. Even though the Romans did not reach further north than Northern Germany in their attempts at colonisation, the Scandinavian region was in any case strongly influenced by Roman culture, but the absence of settlements means that there are no Roman baths, fortresses, villas or bridges to be found. We have to content with Roman weapons, glass, pots and vessels.

The archaeological finds from Illerup Ådal tell the Scandinavian story, providing evidence about events that were not reported in writing as they happened. The story is revealed by large-scale sacrifices of weapons and army equipment from the first half millennium AD. A victorious defender of his native territory turned over the spoils to the god of war in gratitude for the victory on the battlefield.

The Illerup book describes 18 years of excavation in the peat-bog in Eastern Jutland and the equally extensive research which followed.

Among the 15,000 excavated objects there are finds of the most advanced weapon of the time, namely the two-edged Roman sword. Exceptionally fine shields, painted red and with gold and silver mounts, show the status of the prehistoric Scandinavian kings, and the Illerup find's 10 runic inscriptions tell of a Nordic society where some could read and write as a result of intensive and direct contact with the higher levels of contemporary Roman culture.

Table of contents



The world of the Romans

The historical sidelight

Nithijo's world

The history of the bog-finds

Illerup Ådal and the first finds

Geology, nature and preservation conditions

Edelsborg Enge 1950

The scale of the find

The archaeological jigsaw-puzzle

Artefacts in heaps

Weapons and dating

Absolute dating

What did the warriors look like?

Belts and personal equipment

Fire-lighting equipment



Raw materials and comb types

Bags or purses

Personal belongings in the excavation

The find-contexts

Who did the fighting?

Dating and identification of separate deposits

The patterns in the bog-finds

The early group, from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD

The Illerup horizon from around 200 AD

The combs

The Ejsbøl horizon around 300 AD

The swords and the Roman connections

A magnificent sword

The baldrics

Excavation of a baldric

Finds of baldrics in graves on Sealand

A Roman baldric mount

The shields

Horses and equestrian equipment

Headstalls and saddlery

Types of bit



Early cavalry

Runes, tools and technology

Denarii and other valuables

The military hierarchy

The sacrifice

The sacred lake?

The world around 200 AD


Books about Illerup

List of illustrations

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