Lindholm Høje is a large burial site in North Jutland containing 680 graves from the Viking period. Traces of a settlement and a field have been found at the foot of the hill. The finds can be seen in the nearby museum.
The burial site
The hill, also called the Voerbjerg, was first used as a burial place around 400 AD. The oldest graves are at the higher point of the site, the later ones lower down. At the bottom lie the most recent graves dating from around 1000 AD. 41 of the graves on the site are unmarked interments, the others are cremation burials marked by stones laid in a variety of formations: triangular, oval or in the shape of a boat. Research has shown that the triangular or boat formations indicate a male burial, while most of the female graves are marked by ovals or circles. The bodies were cremated and then buried in the same place. Despite the heat of the fire, many grave gifts have been preserved, consisting of everyday objects as well as very unusual ones. These grave gifts tell us that the settlement of Lindholm Høje was important to the local community.
The graves have been so well preserved because the site was covered in a thick layer of drifting sand about 1000 years ago. When the sand was removed during archaeological excavations in 1952-1958 the sand was found to be four metres thick in places. After the excavations the area was planted with grass to prevent erosion.
The settlement at the foot of the hill was inhabited between 700 and 900 AD. From archeological finds we know that the location changed over time. We do not know precisely how large the settlement was, but the total area measured thousands of square metres. Traces of long-houses have been found along with huts with sunken floors (indicating small workplaces) and water wells. Agricultural areas were enclosed by rows of posts. When the site was covered with sand, about 1000 years ago, the village was moved once again, this time to the top of the hill. The new village was built on top of the oldest graves which at that time lay under the sand. The village was inhabited until the 12th century, when it was finally abandoned.
When the sand was removed, traces of an agricultural field were discovered at the bottom of the hill. It was clear that the field had been ploughed with a new type of plough, which turned the soil. Using four to six mouldboards close together created small ridges of soil and produced a greater harvest than before. Such fields were planted with both winter wheat and winter rye.
The museum is next to the site at Voerbjerg and holds a fine collection of archaeological finds. These include some remarkable pieces as well as everyday objects, which give a good insight into life during the Viking period in Denmark. Not only are the finds interesting in themselves but visitors can gain a deeper understanding from the information provided by panoramas, maquettes, illustrations and animations
All in all, Lindholm Høje is an impressive monument and the accompanying exhibition brings the history of the period to life.
The site is open to visitors, the museum opening times can be found on the website at www.nordjyskemuseer.dk/vikinger-lindholm-hoje.
Text and photos: Nikky Kruithof
Translation: Alun Harvey