Archaeology of Denmark

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The Archaeology of Denmark is important for the science of archaeology as a whole for several reasons.

For one thing, the history and prehistory of the area, presents an extraordinary rich and varied abundance of archaeological artifacts. Many different cultures has roamed or settled here since the end of the last ice age and left archaeological footprints in the landscape itself or beneath ground. In addition, the climate and natural conditions in Denmark proper, is exceptionally favourable for preservation. Boglands, shallow waters, a cold coastal climate with relatively small temperature variations throughout the seasons and other factors secures the natural preservation of ancient artifacts.

In addition to these factors, Denmark and Danish scientists has also played an important role in establishing archaeology as a science in the 1800s and continues to contribute with fundamental methods and discoveries to this science in general. Denmark and Danish archaeologists has a long history of both international collaborations and engagements and public outreach, education and mediation of the results of archaeology. Many Danish museums plays a leading role in public outreach and mediation.


A treasure of medieval coins is being uncovered at the island of Møn.

In 1848 the National Museum of Denmark initiated a commission to investigate an interesting find of flint tools they had received in 1837. Prehistoric flint tools are abundant in Denmark, but these tools were found in a heap of ancient oyster shells. This indicated that the oyster shells might be the remains of some prehistoric activity, rather than ordinary natural deposits. The commission proceeded with an excavations in Northern Djursland and concluded in 1851, that some ancient shell heaps indeed were signs of human prehistoric activity; they were found to be kitchen middens and leftovers from their meals.[1][2] The commission used the Danish term køkkenmødding to describe these shell heaps and the name was later Anglicised as "kitchen midden". A later commission initiated in 1893-1895, executed a large scale, thorough and interdisciplinary excavation at the Limfjord. The site is named Ertebølle and so the rich and defining archaeological find coined the now well-known Stone Age culture of Ertebølle.[3] Apart from archaeology, participating scientific disciplines included botany, zoology and geology. Kitchen middens has since been viewed as important archaeological sites internationally.[4]

The first submerged settlement excavated in Denmark was Tybrind Vig in 1977. The site was excavated over the following decade. 300 m from the shore and 3 m below the surface, divers excavated sensationally well-preserved artefacts from the Ertebølle Culture. A large kitchen midden was also found.

Notable archaeologists of Denmark[edit]

see also List of Danish archaeologists

Name Born Died Specialization Achievements
Christian Jürgensen Thomsen 1788 1865 Introduced the universal three-age system
Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae 1821 1885 Played a key role in the foundation of archaeology as a science.
Pioneered paleobotany and archaeological stratigraphy (in relation to the three-age system).
Sophus Müller 1846 1934
Georg F.L. Sarauw 1862 1928 Pioneered fossilized pollen studies and discovered the Maglemosian culture.
Peter Glob 1911 1985 Internationally recognized writer and mediator of archaeology.
Internationally known for his excavations and investigations of bog bodies.
Led several large scale archaeological expeditions to the Middle East.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The excavation site of the first køkkenmødding site is located in the forest of Nederskov, just north of the Meilgård manor, near the beach and between the coastal villages of Bønnerup Strand and Fjellerup.
  2. ^ "Meilgård bopladsen fra jægerstenalderen [The Meilgård settlement from the hunter Stone Age]". Danske Fortidsminder (in Danish). Danmarks Kulturarvs Forening, DAKUA. January 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Søren H. Andersen. "Ertebølle - a world famous midden". 1001 stories of Denmark. The Heritage Agency of Denmark. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  4. ^ A.P. Madsen, Sophus Müller (1900). Affaldsdynger fra stenalderen i Danmark, undersøgte for Nationalmuseet [Waste heaps from the Stone Age in Denmark, investigated for The National Museum] (in Danish). Paris, A.A. Hachette. Retrieved 8 January 2015. . The original publication from The National Museum of Denmark, funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.


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