Roman Iron Age Weapon Deposits - Other Danish Sites

Other Danish Sites

A good number of weapons sacrifices are accompanied by boats, such as the Nydam Boat and the Hjortspring boat. Most Danish weapons sacrifices date from 200 – 500 AD. but earlier ones are known back to Hjortspring, around 350 BC, where more than 50 shields, 11 single-edged swords and 169 spearheads accompanied the boat.

The artifacts were often burnt, broken or bent before deposition. The surviving boats were sunk in the lakes though other boats are known simply from clumps of burnt rivets. Sites often had more than one act of sacrifice. Illerup is known to have had at least three over the period around 200-500 AD. The bogs and lakes used appear to be surrounded by cultivated fields. Clearly this archaeological evidence has something to say about Germanic paganism.

These finds allow for some changes in the Germanic warfare to be monitored e.g. the change from single edged swords at Hjortspring to double edged swords at Illerup. From grave finds of arrow heads, bows were significant war weapons in the Germanic area from about 200 AD. South of Denmark these are typically leaf shaped. In Denmark they are thiner and designed to penetrate the rings of mail armour. This change of weaponry is assumed to account for the Illerup shields having a layer of gut stretched over the surface. Besides keeping the shields dry, experiments show the shields much more resistant to splitting and penetration by arrows.

The rarest find from these sacrifices is a complete coat of mail armor. Reconstruction shows it to have had 20-23,000 rings and weighed just under 10 kg.

Perhaps even more interesting are the scabbards. A number have been recovered. Two of the more decorative from Nydam, one from the third century and one from the fifth had fur lining on the inside. We can reasonably speculate that this fur was oily and designed to keep the blade absolutely free from rust. The further speculation is that a pristine appearance of the blade would only have been so highly valued for pattern-welded blades.

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