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Lindholm Hoje – Viking graveyard hidden for a thousand years

Ian Harvey

The ancient Viking graveyard of Lindholm Hoje lay buried underneath several tons of sand for a thousand years before it was rediscovered. Since the very first excavations at the site in 1889, around 700 individual graves have been found.

The area was once a thriving settlement, positioned strategically at the place where Limfjord is narrowest, making it an important crossing point. In addition, it occupied a strong strategic position atop a chalk hill some 42 m (137 ft) above sea level, giving the town’s inhabitant commanding views of the fjord and the rest of the surrounding landscape.

 

 

Lindholm Høje Photo Credit

Lindholm Høje Photo Credit

Two distinct settlements have been found at the site, a northern village dating to between 700 – 900 AD, and a southern one that dates to around 1000 – 1150 AD. Several houses, wells, fences, and roads have been discovered, as well as other outlying buildings used for work.

Experts believe that the northern village would have been inhabited by about 10-15 families.

Evidence from the graves suggests that the site was already settled by 400AD, long before these two villages were founded. The oldest graves lie at the top of the hills, and the newest towards the bottom.

 

 

Lindholm Høje Photo Credit

Lindholm Høje Photo Credit

It is believed that the area was abandoned by humans due to the phenomenon of “desertification”. As the population grew, so did the need for building materials. Hundreds of trees were cut down to create ships, houses, and other things, and this extensive deforestation exposed the soil to the intense winds. Over time, the area was covered in a thick layer of low-quality soil, carried by the wind.

This layer of infertile, sandy soil was several meters thick when major archaeological work began in the early 1950’s.

The area’s declining ability to support agriculture would eventually have led the people who lived there to move away, leaving the graves of their ancestors behind.