Rare Viking “death house” discovered in Denmark

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Rare Viking “death house” discovered in Denmark

An fascinating insight into the Nordic warrior race is provided by a Viking tomb unearthed in Denmark, hinting at the scale of their maritime journeys.

The ‘death house’ was first discovered in 2012 and contains the tombs of two men and a woman, which archaeologists believe date back to 950 CE.

Archaeologists first uncovered the ‘Death House’ tomb in Denmark in 2012. They say that from markings on the graves, two of the bodies were of a high-born couple who may have travelled far and wide. Pictured is a reconstruction of the woman found in the main chamber, who is believed to have been of high status

According to archaeologists, two of the bodies were of a high-born couple who may have traveled as far as Afghanistan, based on markings on the graves.

During construction work, engineers unearthed the graves on a new highway in Haarup, on what was once the Viking burial ground.

But experts identified the tomb where they lay as a ‘dødehuse’, a type of specialised tomb which translates to ‘Death House’.

Coins found with the couple indicate they may have led a very international lifestyle, with the coins believed to come from modern day Afghanistan

The tomb measures 4 metres by 13 metres (13 feet by 43 feet) and contained three bodies.

Analysis indicates that it was built more than 1,000 years ago, with a man and woman buried in the main chamber and the body of another man in a separate chamber, believed to have been added later.

Experts believe that ceramics found in the tomb originated in Asia, highlighting the extent to which Vikings travelled

According to ScienceNordic, objects unearthed around the bodies of the man and woman show they received burial rites reserved for people of high status.

The woman’s body was buried in a wagon with keys, symbols of great power and status, while the man was buried with a battle axe.

Kirsten Nelleman Nielsen, an archaeologist at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, said: ‘It’s a very large axe and would have been a formidable weapon.

People across Europe feared this type of axe, which at the time was known as the Dane Axe – something like the ‘machine gun’ of the Viking Age.’

Archaeologists at the site said the battle axe (pictured) was the ‘machine gun’ of its day and was a symbol of power and status among Vikings

But most intriguing are coins and a clay vessel found in the Dead House.

Experts say that the clay pot and silver coins are reminiscent of those from South and Central Asia, hinting at how well travelled these Vikings were.

‘It wouldn’t surprise me that the idea came from [outside Scandinavia].

‘We’ve also found Baltic ceramics in the form of a clay vessel and silver coins from what is today Afghanistan, so the residents must have been quite international,’ said Nielsen.

Researchers believe the artefacts may be from central Asia, which could have been obtained through trade with settlers in the region, or through raids in the lands around the Caspian Sea.

But experts identified the tomb where they lay as a ‘dødehuse’, a type of specialised tomb which translates to ‘death house’

While the remnants of Viking conquest are clear in Britain and northern Europe, evidence suggests they travelled far further afield – reaching North America, a region the Vikings called Vinland.

The reason for their expansion – including trading, raiding and creating new settlements – remains a matter of some debate, but experts believe it may have been driven by a need for food, opening new trade routes into the Islamic lands and even a need for women to counter their selectivity for male children.

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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.

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