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The wild life of the Vikings..........

Jelling   Denmark

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photos

runic stones in Jelling

The Jelling Church

The Jelling Mounds

 

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The Stone Ship

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Stone ships were a burial form used in the bronze- and –iron ages and during the Viking period. They were shaped like acute oval stone circles, and might frame a grave established within the sides of the ship, but they could also function as memorials for the deceased. It is not really known why rich Vikings were buried in this way, but it is believed that the stone ship symbolizes a boat which was to carry the deceased to the kingdom of the dead.
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Such a stone circle has existed in Jelling, a gigantic stone ship 354 metres long. The stone ship is the oldest of the memorials in Jelling from the Viking Age.

When Harold Bluetooth erected the two gigantic mounds, he took the stone ship as his starting point. Part of the stone ship was covered by the South Mound (Gorm’s Mound). The remnants of the oldest Jelling monument from the time of the Vikings are to be found there.

When excavating the South Mound in 1861 King Gorm’s grave did not appear, but various large monoliths did; but because of the narrow galleries it was hard to acquire a comprehensive view of what they were. Monoliths also appeared when excavating the North Mound the same year. Here they were placed across the gallery and had to be blown away by engineers.

The South Mound was the target for yet another excavation in 1941, and it was decided to dig down from the top of the mound. Neither this time did they succeed in finding a grave, but quite a few of the monoliths became visible. They stood in two rows about two metres apart. The prolongation of the rows formed an acute angle. A line drawn in the middle of this angle runs through the centre of the South Mound, Harold Bluetooth’s large runic stone, and the barrow in the North Mound.

In 1992 new measurements and examinations were undertaken at the South Mound. They revealed that the monoliths had been put up in two slightly curved courses.

 

       

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The stone ship in Jelling was formed as a gigantic ship, and its length of 354 metres far surpasses all known stone ships in Scandinavia.

Big rocks have appeared in the churchyard and its banks in Jelling in the course of the years, and below the floor of the church are boulders, which may have been used as the base for posts relating to a former king’s estate or a wooden church.

The newly found monoliths at the northern end together with the monoliths under the South Mound constitute the remnants of a 354-metre-long stone ship erected close to the highest point of the area.

In a stone circle near Bække, 30 kilometres south west of Jelling, a large stone ship is found close to two hills from the bronze age. The runes on the tall stone in the bow of the ship inform us that two sons put it up as a memorial to their mother.

Near Glavendrup on Funen the sons of Ragnhild and Alle have erected a stone in memory of Alle, Ragnhild’s husband and the boys’ father. The stone stands on a small hill at one end of a stone ship.

If King Gorm’s runic stone had been in the prow of the large stone ship, the oldest monument in Jelling would have looked like the stone ships at Bække and Glavendrup. However, the scale was far bigger, worthy of a member of the ruling royal house.

In a wonderful way the stone ship was incorporated in the Christian church. It may be the reason for our talking about the “nave” of the church, and why many churches boast model ships hanging in the nave.  

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Illustration: Arkæolog Peter Jensen, Moesgård

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In 2006 an area north of Jelling Church was scanned by means of radar in order to find out what the conspicuous marks in the ground concealed. They turned out to be large stones, some as big as boulders, lying in a curve.

In October 2006 the stones were dug free. There are 7 large stones, only a furrow below the surface of the ground.

Originally the large stones were upright, but they have been overturned. First a hole was dug, and then the stone was pushed into it. It was then much easier to cultivate the field.

The stones are about 1,5-2,0 metres long and reminiscent of the stones found under the South Mound in 1941.

At the top northern end of the stones there was a 1,7 metre-deep post hole. The hole showed traces of a wooden post with a diameter of 50x70 cms.

It is remarkable that it is situated right on the main axis, 177 metres north of the centre and burial chamber of the North Mound, and we can find the same distance from the middle of the North Mound and through the middle of the South Mound to the southern point of the stone church.  

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Over the years several monoliths and traces of stone have been found inside and outside the churchyard. 
They fit in well with the theory of a gigantic stone church.  

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Over the years several monoliths and traces of stone have been found inside and outside the churchyard. They fit in well with the theory of a gigantic stone church.

The stone church has been 354 metres long, and has consisted of 370 monoliths.

 Søren Abildgaard was a draughtsman from the record office, and when in 1771 he visited Jelling, he wrote in his diary,” On the eastern side of the Queen’s Mound (that is, the North Mound) in Lars Sognefoged’s field, there are some large boulders in a row from south to north.”

Did he see the remains of the gigantic stone church?

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Work is still being carried out to establish the importance of the new stones

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