3500 year old skeletons unearthed

24. October 2017 | Landscape and Archaeology

Eight skeletons found near Kerteminde will reveal unique new knowledge about life in the Bronze Age.

In September this year, the Museums of Eastern Funen carried out a major excavation between Kerteminde and Revninge, close to Kerteminde Fjord. In 2016, a burial mound from the Bronze Age was discovered there, and now there was a desire to see what more that spot could reveal.

Interesting in a Northern European perspective

“We were not disappointed!” said archaeologist and excavation leader, Malene R. Beck from the Museums of Eastern Funen. “The finding of eight skeletons from the Bronze Age isn’t only interesting from a Danish perspective, but also in a Northern European perspective. What we have here are the most well-preserved skeletons from the Danish early Bronze Age, and the spread in age and gender means that we can learn completely new things about life in the Bronze Age.”

Preserved in time in a pocket of lime

In terms of the early Bronze Age (1700 - 1100 BC), there is relatively little bone material from the people of that time. It requires very special soil conditions to preserve skeletons over so many thousands of years. In the spot where seven of the skeletons were found, there is sandy soil full of lime (calcium) that is ideal for preserving the skeletons intact. And by using modern analysis techniques, we will be able to get a great deal of data from the bones of the eight buried people, like: Where did they come from? What did they die of? Were they related to each other? What did they eat? And so forth!

Half of the skeletons were from children.

Two fo the eight skeletons had been excavated in 2016, and when the dig was commenced in 2017, six more cam to light.

Bone expert and anthropolist from The University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Svenja Weise, PhD has already determined the approximate ages of the skeletons at the time of their burial. There are three children’s skeletons, age 5 to 8, though one of them is very partial, being represented only by the top of the skull (minus the jaw). There is a teenager of about 13-17 years and four adults in their twenties, thirties and forties. The average life expectancy in the Bronze Age is judged to have been between 30 and 40 years of age.

With their eyes on the sunrise

The chalky soil that is capable of preserving the skeletons so well, is not, on the other hand, good at preserving textiles. There are no remains of the clothing of the buried individuals. There are, however, grave goods such as mussel shells, used perhaps as jewellery, or they could have been laid in the grave as food for the deceased. In addition, a bead was found, made from the canine tooth of a predator.

All of the skeletons were buried with their heads to the west, lying so they would be able to look to the east and therefore at the rising sun. This is, in all likelihood, not a coincidence, especially considering that the sun played a central role in the mythology of the Bronze Age.

Threatened by the plough

The burial ground was, due to its location in a cultivated field, threatened by the plough. To secure this unique find for posterity, the Agency for Culture and Palaces allotted funding to finance the excavation.

 

For further information, please contact:

Malene R. Beck, archaeologist, phone 23967971 or mrb@ostfynsmuseer.dk

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