During the Viking age Scandinavia developed into the number one sea faring region of Europe from where many voyages were started to destinations far away. The Vikings travelled all over Europe and even to northern Africa and parts of the Middle East in addition to trips across the Atlantic Ocean. The sea was the main highway for the Vikings – the inland infrastructure didn’t stand out the Romans never arrived this far north so there wasn’t any road network like you would find in other parts of Europe. Hence transport around Denmark during the Viking age was much easier by traveling by boat.
One of the large inland waterways in Denmark was Limfjorden which were a sheltered inland passage from the North Sea to Kattegat on the other side of the peninsula of Jutland. Limfjorden was sheltered from the waves you would find in the open sea making it a good place to have a safe harbor which could be used as a base. Not surprisingly there was many large Viking settlement in the area around Limfjorden and even a Viking fortress Aggersborg at Aggersund.
The many Vikings living in the area naturally meant many people would eventually die. Considering the long time they inhabited the area there was naturally be some grave sites in the area. One of these major grave sites is found at Lindholm Høje. The area is located just north of the city of Aalborg in northern Jutland. The local people buried their dead’s in this area for generations. The graves were located at a large hill with the oldest grave near the top of the hill and newer graves were located further down the hill.
Unfortunately for the locals there was a lot of sand at the coast many miles away – but the sand was blown by the wind and the sand started to arrive at the fields around the area. The locals fought against the blowing sand for a while but eventually the sand made it impossible to grown any crops at the fields in the area. The settlement at the area was finally abandoned. The graves on the hill was covered by sand and forgotten for generations.
The graves were marked with many large stones – these stones would have a significant value in the old times when they could be used for building materials for churches and large manor homes for the elite of the area or even houses for the farmers. If they had easy access to the stones at the graves it is highly likely they would have been recycled in other buildings. But the sand had covered the stones around 1100 and they were forgotten until the 19th century when there was a renewed interested in the ancient history of Denmark. The hill was made a protected location in 1901 and it was finally excavated in the 1950s.
Today it is possible to go and visit the graves – there is a museum next to the graves as well which has some artifacts found at the area. We only looked around the graves so I have no idea what is inside the museum.
The oldest graves are from around year 400 on the top of the hill. They have a triangle of stones marking the grave. The people inside these ancient graves were usually burned before they were buried and they got some offering into the grave. Many people were buried with their dog as well to help the master in the afterlife.
Over time the burial traditions changed at this location the later graves from the 10th century is shaped more like a ship. These cultural burial ships is found many places during the Viking age when the rich Vikings would be buried in a ship or a grave with stones formed as the shape of a ship. The most famous of these graves is the large burial complex at Jelling where the first king from the current royal family is buried. During the 10th century other traditions changed as well. By now the dead were buried intact instead of using the old tradition of burning the dead. This change in practice might be due to the increasing Christian influence in the Danish territory which influenced the burial tradition as well.
The whole hill with the graves is fairly large and it is an interesting place to go and walk around the old graves for a bit. It is quiet and your only company might be the sheep’s which enjoy the green grass around the hill and fill their hungry bellies.