Finds tell us
Finds and sustainable remains are the sources to our knowledge about ideas of the past. We should be careful in setting labels and look out for what is special and what is common in culture. Looking back gives roots and looking south gives the influence
Agriculture, culture, feudalism, kingdom, cattle-people, cattle-breeders, Norse law, ceorl, cannibal, waste, Illerup bog, golden neck-ring, necklace, Vittene, grave finds, women graves, wart-trophies, Parthian style, mask, cavalry grave, horsemen, golden hoards, Turehom, Timboholm, craftsmen, Roman wine service, blot, oppida, season of herring, Unicorn, Frisian Brothers.
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The early archaeology set names on many things and that can be inadequate today. We separate hunters, gatherers and other cultures. Instead we should different ways on living on nature including mineralogy and metallurgy most of the time they were parallel of course. We are often looking on a very short period on the timeline and in every time they had their own roots.
Often agriculture is seen as the real root of civilisation. That is right if we mean that urban culture is the measure and quality. But there is also culture in societies of hunters, gatherer, fishermen, herds and so on. If culture is a question of voting urban cultures always win. If it is a question of quality and sustainability rural cultures win. Still real agriculture is only 100 to 200 years of age. Before that the methods were the same far back to the beginning of agriculture.
The map of culture and agriculture of the past would be very different from today and even from my childhood in the forties. Then 80 - 90 % of people were living in the countryside. Now it is the other way around that people live in cities. Farther back before the land hunger in 19th century agriculture used the best places in nature without much of draining water in the planned way. The local climate was harder and wetter and naturally agriculture was risky.
Then it was the best and secure way to live in villages being like collectives since it was a way of life to share and help each other. With feudalism and kingdoms the nobility wanted to share by taxation and the kings preferred individual owners as tax objects, while feudal masters wanted slaves but mostly got tenants. It was a process of thousands of year and with different pace depending on landscape and climate.
Agriculture came in waves and looks sometimes as short mission while gathering, hunting and keeping animals were the secure and traditional ways of living. We do not see much of rituals showing the traditional industries including mineralogy and metallurgy that also cultivate earth. Once agriculture become stable the population increased and gave the base for bigger villages and more of specialised workers. For long it was the big farms and nobility that kept specialists.
The cattle people settled in the best places near a well but higher than wet and misty meadows and we sufficient wind for the draw. Many of our place names have an ending that tells about milking place or some kind of coral for keeping the animals during the night. They suppose that change of climate during Iron Age forced people to keep the animals indoors and harvest hey and leaf for the winter.
Cattle-people or mainly cattle-breeders needed normally 25 - 50 square kilometres for a settlement that used the nature for all materials needed in household. A measure of the width was that a young girl should drive a heifer from sunrise to sunset around the land they claimed. That was the practical measure that a settlement should be able to get their animals home for night.
It is inevitable that they looked also for hunting possibilities; fishing water; a place for the cabbage garden; hey meadow and perhaps a little cornfield giving the beer. We have to understand that kind of folklands before the time of planned villages that came with kings and taxation. Before that it seem s to have been collective villages of farmers and others with noble traders producing things for sale besides their agriculture.
Agriculture would need much smaller space but could not live without all the raw materials they needed from nature. Still effective agriculture could feed cities.
This is naturally about the conditions on Dal when I tell about the mediaeval order until 17th century:
The Norse law of 1271 by the king Magnus Lagabauter was written for the tenants of the crown and other within the rule of the king. Free peasants followed usually the same pattern since the laws build on normal practise. The normal was that a family of two plus children needed 1,2 tunnland (the size of an acre needed for sowing a tunn = barrel) but they needed also a fallow field besides that. That means that the family used 1,2 barrel and the same for seed and the rest was waste used as food for the animals and they calculated with thrice the seed. If they got more they maybe sold the rest.
They kept cows so they had at least butter from one cow for the taxes and three cows for the family. A cow gave 25 kilos of butter a year and twice in meat as average over time. These figures are the same as on Dal in 17th century. Some farmers did not grow corn at all and bought perhaps what they needed from others. They did not cultivate more than they needed since there were no places to sell it. Another thing is that they did not want the king to know that they could produce more. In province with more nobility and better possibilities the taxes were much higher than in the sparsely populated Dal.
Reverse of a medallion from Mauland Rogaland Norway. The composition is partly Roman but without the fallen enemy. The horse is Nordic and so is the snaffle
The golden finds and even the other imported items are surely not after ordinary people that mostly were cremated as far as we know. Then it is another thing that the richer part of the farmers surely copied the nobility and maybe it has always been that these gave new blood and new riders to the nobility. That sounds like normal behaviour and the upper class was maybe only a tenth of the population.
There are hardly any grave finds from the heartland Denmark. Norway give us more and from the evidence we can cautiously conclude that only a generation or two were buried with gold and they were only a family among the others. The fact that some of the rich burials are on a "common" graveyard tells that the rich was just one among the others. Still other made a big mound for the rich. We cannot generalise in these questions since evidence is sparsely.
Norway is special with the deep fjords and they are like small folklands. Maybe there was a big farmer and trader dominating or serving the others with what they needed and kept a craftsman or two. Some of the rune texts give the impression the some Erils was "bread guest" or should we say "ceorl" =huskarl.
The finds in Denmark are earlier than in the rest of Scandinavia simply because they needed land with rise in population. But we can note relatively many finds in bogs in North Jutland with the Snake Pit bract and maybe it was just an offer for good yield. Still in Denmark even the bogs have been dried out but in rest of Scandinavia we have still most of the bogs left and with few finds of that kind. In Norway there are 61 finds and only two from the bogs. The environment of the localities affects the possibilities to hide or find things.
Finds and conditions
In Sweden I drive at the "Faculty of Religion" that housed the research in "ancient religion and ideas" until 1981. It is like the Buck being gardener. I think they have delayed a normal view on "ancient ideas" and they have created preconceived frames for "pagan/ heathen" times. That cause we are told that footprints on the rocks are "Gods footprint" while the rational Romans say "Footstep of Man". This attitude creates a foreign world of the old days of far ancestors. With the attitude follow an animated academic-made language that does not correspond to normal life now and neither then.
Often they refer to the Dane Worsaaes theory of war offering from 19th century. That was build on what the Roman Orosius wrote in 5th century about the Cimbri threatening Rome around 110 BC. None has thought that fierce ceremonies when destroying war spoils could be meant as deterrent theatre making the Romans fear the Cimbri.
It would dishearten next time before going to war. It is the same when Cesar told about scenes when Celtic women offered humans. In the Celtic warfare ruled total defence or attack and all people were involved. Deterrence was the signum. In the long run it did not help much against the Romans that were even worse.
We should be careful with words and definitions. For instance in whole Denmark they have found 22 bogs with mainly military stuff. They tell it is remains from offering "spoils of war". The Gothic Silver Bible stored in Uppsala is war spoil from Vienna and the 30-years of war. But in the bogs we find remains from both sides! The swords are bend or destroyed so they just wanted to get rid of dirty things. They maybe wanted to avoid that the youngsters began to play war games since that does not belong to peaceful life. Tacitus tells that the Suiones (Sweden) kept the weapons behind locks in peacetime.
We know from some bigger so-called offer bog finds at Vimose and Illerup that they simply took things "out of circulation". It is much like when we depose nuclear waste for eternity. But do we know it was an offer? Where should they make their deposit if they wanted that things did not come back? Other things they wanted to keep apart from normal life space and the waste should not take land from their living.
They often draw the conclusion that offering in the bogs was the normal. But when we look at Illerup for instance we find 4 depositions in 300 years. They were all after local war and both sides were hidden in the bog. We have not the context for all golden neckrings but those we have tell about various deposit conditions. We can not generalise it to offer and cult. We should find many bogs with continuous offering before we can speak of cult. The only good guess is that women often offered blood, butter and flower in the cupmarks near the cornfield, but that is more like old custom and not religion.
Prof. Mike Aston in the Discovery TIME TEAM said once that "cult" is an expression the professionals use when they do not know the context. It is supposed that an expert always should have an answer. There are more words of the kind. More and more experts dare to say, "I do not know … yet".
It is time we skip the animated vocabulary of the religion researcher since we cannot say much about the spiritual life of those days. One thing is certain those in the sparsely populated Europe there were no organised religion and cult with frames like Christianity. We see only manifold. That does not give room for extend religious systems and cult. In the place names we see the variety of World Order
Waste has always been a problem for man and some of our garbage is dangerous since it can be the root to disease. They surely know about that. In my commune they have used 10 hectares the last 50 years. Think of how much that would be in 1000 years! In fact it would be 200 hectare or as much as our two old estates of nobility. Our local society is more than 5000 years old.
From the bogs we have some finds of human bodies and soon they shout, "Our ancestors were cannibals!" But many of them have been treated as criminals … America has still the death punishment and in fact it is only a minority of countries in the world without it. What do we mean when we say "offer?"
In our days numerous people are offered on the altar of technique when we take calculated risks. So called economy is behind much when they set the limits for dangerous or poisonous activity. Of course it has been better the last decade, but much is left. I think we should not judge our ancestors.
I cannot see why it should be worse when they discover the human offer in some Indian cultures of America than when the Romans let wild animals kill people at the circus in the Roman Empire. The Coliseum of Tunisia was build for 35000 spectators and they had the lions and other beast near at hand. Still in our days they lift the Roman culture to the skies. I am the sceptic and counts also for our own culture. If we should really think of survival of mankind then we should do it with open eyes.
Saw recently a programme on Discovery with the Time Team working in a bog. They found that there has been a footbridge into the dept of the bog. They found different kinds of waste. There were also some human bones. Maybe some came alone and just slipped down. The bogs have many meters thick layer of floating stuff and a heavy body disappears at once when it is thrown in the water. … maybe it was assassination and none would search in a deep bog with no visibility … maybe it was punishment, which is normal in all societies, but murder are rare.
We can only speculate about these things and look for reasons. It seems that they used the bog because it took the things "out of circulation". None would find them again. In that there is also the ethic that some things should not exist within a good society. But there are also signs that our ancestors were cautious in taking another being's life. In this lies also that our ancestors practised social ethics and were no wild barbarians. Sometimes I think those wanting dead penalty are more barbarians than the murderer that may be an offer.
Eril/ Heruli rider and a Spear-Dane at Moesgaard museumhttp://www.illerup.com/default.htm
The rider is the giant since the horse lifts his head and upper body half a meter. He gets the weight and movability of the horse. That is why he is the noble and string. But before that he must have the background so he can afford a horse and a sword. Many got the money from trade and other by serving the Roman Army.
The site about the Illerup bog exposes more than 100 photos and we get an opportunity see the variety of martial as well as more normal equipment. They have found around 15000 artefacts that make it possible to reconstruct many things from this period. They have dated the biggest find to around 200 and smaller finds areas from 225, 375 and 450 AD. The biggest deposit was around 200 AD when a fleet from Viken / Bohus Norway seems to have attacked the place.
My interest is here the reconstruction of the noble man that surely was an Eril / Heruli according to finds of luxury item and some of it from the Roman culture = Legions … se for the context and more details at theHistory of the Heruli . But they can also reconstruct the foot soldier with spears and shield. In Beowulf they use the expression "Spear-Dane" and we know about the two northern legions Cimbri in Africa and Heruli in Concordia Italy.
I have not the total picture but I see that we have to make several categories of finds to grasp the story of the finds. Some use the word "treasury find" if there is much gold in it. But we can ask, "Treasury for whom?" For us worshipping gold or for the one that made the deposit? Unfortunately we have not many cases in which we get the context and then the explanation is just speculation.
We cannot generalise from a single find and need more evidence. Our frames and imagination is bad reference and we should let the artefacts and the worlds of those days speak. For Scandinavia we should know about the "Brothers in South", i.e. the Heruli that called themselves Erilar on the rune stones in Scandinavia. They were the upper class that carried Nordic culture and rode the horses.
Golden neck-rings and necklaces have been ritual items without doubt. But the little statistic does not speak for offer. We have twenty finds we know circumstances and environment. Only the neck-rings found in Skedemosse Auland are clearly taken out of circulation. In eight cases they are found in field, gravel pit, deposit in fortification, sea shore, one in a grave and two in stone mound that can have been a grave. The big neck-ring from Tureholm seems to have been a hoard. In the Vittene finds the items have been crumpled up and they are not treated as sacred.
The gold hoard from Vittene Trollhaettan in which the neck-ring with knobs seems to have been made of same master as artist of the Havor neck-ring from Gotland
It was hard job to get the gold and that counts even for what they probably robbed in Ephesos and Greece. It is natural that they were as cautious as we are. The fact that they made very thin golden bract speaks for that they did not use more than necessary. Many of the bracts are small and that counts for the later thin golden plates too.
Our dating are not exact but it looks as if gold disappeared from the "market" like a decision among the nobility, "Now we hide our gold". The big hoards show the same and maybe the finds should be seen as hiding. The style used by the goldsmiths is much the same in entire Scandinavia including Finland with few finds. That fact and the spread of golden bracts speak for nobility with contacts Scandinavia, Balticum, Poland and Germany and of course among Anglo-Saxons.
Silver is later known as "farmer's treasure" was used for women's' jewellery and in finds from Norway it was used in the most precious buckles and fibulas. They used silver denars at least 250 years after Rome ended the coinage. That we can decide from a few grave finds. The major parts of the coin finds are from Gotland and Poland showing where the trade was, but also where the archaeology has been. The later fact makes our conclusions relative.
Reverse of medallion from Aneby Skaane. The woman correspond maybe to the custom that the brought victory the Lady of House as we learn from Beowulf
In the opinion of Mackeprang there are no grave finds in Denmark. However I read his texts and note treasure hunting in mound and ploughing in a mound. In two places at Bornholm the golden bracts were found in mounds. At Stenholt Viborg Jutland the farmer's son were searching in a stony mound and at Hvolbaek there were small boulders around the place.
Another thing is that cremation was common and then there is only the grave gifts left and they can be "lose finds" in time. At Lunde Vest Agder Norway the ash was in a kettle of bronze and upon that they found a golden bract. Another golden bract they found "in the mouth" in a normal burial. That is evidence that at least some were used as ticket to Otherworld.
We know that the early import of Roman handicraft reached Denmark first and that the main settlements of Erils were on the Danish Isles and Jutland. It would not be logic if they were not buried there or at least those who came back with the goods and gold. We know of one case when some that found golden bracts sold them to a goldsmith and in another case they made wedding rings of the find. But we do not know how frequent this was in 19th century.
I have no intention to survey the total archaeological field. But I need background and use the technique to let the example speak. Then I use a rich find from the catalogue of Mackeprang to get a feeling of the upper class. There are finds of the same class in a number of places also in Norway and some more in England and this is from Sarre Kent Nr 309:
1 bit golden flat thread
1 little silver ring with spiral signet
6 golden D-bracts with different image
133 amber pearls
7 other pearls
2 disc trinkets of bronze with inserts
1 beaker of glass
2 iron knives
2 iron keys
1 iron scissors
1 silver spoon
1 crystal globe with suspension in silver
1 silver fibula relief model animal ornaments
1 big fibula of bronze relief model
1 chape of bronze
1 bronze buckle
1 silver button
1 bronze button
1 marine hedgehog
1 bronze coin Marcus Aurelius(161 - 180 AD)
1 bronze coin Tetricus? (268 - 273 AD)
some silver mountings
piece of bronze needle
This is obviously a woman grave king size. Most of the graves with golden bracts we know of are women graves with some exceptions and some is containing man and woman. The sword remain may have been her own since some women wore swore or dagger.
The crystal globe makes us rise an eyebrow and there is some other find in Bifrons Kent. Were they seeress or Vala beside s being Lady of House. In the find from Lilla Jored is a medal with a Roman augur and there are some more sign of their interest in fortune telling or maybe predictions.
In the society I grow up at Northwest Zealand it they were an equal pair at the farm or as they say the draft animals before the wagon. It is nearly the same expression as in the Indian Rigveda more than 3000 years ago. They saw the pair as the wheels on the chariot.
When we find keys in the graves it correspond to medieval expressions telling that Lady of the House kept the keys. We also know from Beowulf that the warriors were mostly young men. They brought the war-trophies to the Lady of House. Then he gave some arm-ring and gave to the bold warrior. An arm-ring was symbol of giving one's arm to somebody and in this case the sword arm. That indicates that they all belonged to a clan. Maybe they gave the golden a golden bract or two to a fiancée too. In the woman graves we usual find one or two golden bracts or medals.
This grave is not at all the richest but it shows the variety. In other graves there may be vessels of clay or wood, iron reed and weight for the loom, other trinkets and maybe the cruciform fibula. It tells about a normal woman's everyday life.
There is no great difference compare to burials in all times even in Scandinavia apart from the cremations that usual give no or only a few grave gifts. The rich could afford to give much and we should remember that some believed in afterlife. We can only be grateful since they gave them afterlife and we now know a little about their life.
The best way of creating an idea about their life is pretending they were like us. Knowledge about medieval customs helps us also since in a way the feudal society began with the Romans and their foedorati. We do not carry much gold and precious jewellery in our everyday life and surely they have their kind of everyday outfit and another for feast and representation. The rider did not put on his heavy outfit and sword before it was time for battle or training … or the special parade outfit.
This is a Roman example showing a cavalry mask used in parades. It is probably a Parthian rider since his headgear is inParthian style. Their horse wore also mask at the parades
On some of the golden bracts there are one or several masks. We have a find from Auland and the place name Larv in West Gautland that is mask in Old Swedish. Probably the origin is the Mithras cult from Persia perhaps that became fashion especial among cavalry. Boys of all ages love secret leagues and rites. They think it gives them strength perhaps.
We have only a few male graves and then the gifts are naturally the weapon. The sword has been the male symbol since Bronze Age as we see on our rock-carvings that they all have that. The rich put gold on their sword sheathe as we see from the Tureholm hoard while the neck-ring surely was only for the leader. Hard to know if the golden bract was decoration or ticket to Otherworld since we have too few examples can never be sure when deciding from circumstances.
The richest male example of a cavalry grave is from Grebo church and it is much alike another from Auland. At Grebo the bold horseman got he got a big prod lance, spear, round big shield, yard-long sword, knife, spurs but no helmet in this grave for some reason.
The Roman sources tell that cavalry used longer swords than foot soldiers. The Erils / Heruli are mentioned as light cavalry and like other hired cavalry they used national /tribe outfit. But they all including Romans were much influenced by the Parthians. From Vimose on Fyn is the find of chain mail and a long sword that both can be import from Persia. The spurs are probably an invention from east that made it possible to ride and shoot in all directions.
There is a find from Auland containing more than 100 spearheads of an eastern type. We can not say if that was import on speculation or if they really used them. There are no finds of bows. The bow belonged to the heavy-armed cavalry.
A couple of finds of mountings or silver plates for the belt tell us about what became custom among peasants as we se in Middle Age. They all carried a belt and the rich had silver so they could buy a farm with it. Other gifts were much like the female such as pots, arm ring, finger ring, buckles, fibula and big golden bracts may have been badges for merit. The Roman centurions covered their breast wit round medallions showing their belonging to Caesar and their own cohort and maybe some badge for merit.
The horse was the mate and half the cavalryman of course. Special features in Scandinavia are the rings we see on the shaft at medals and we have also some finds as evidence. On the golden bracts we also see round discs on the harness Roman style, however some of that is freely drawn as decoration.
Surely some bold ladies used similar outfit for their horse. Woman warriors are known and the Scandinavian woman is equal as long as they do not become slaves under feudalism and modern factories and offices. Precious harness for horses is known since Bronze Age … I remember the weddings and other festivities during the World war when all transport were in chariots and wagons and the horses got their "best clothes" too.
As soon as rich grave gifts are given the treasure hunter is born. We know that from Egypt but also from many places in Scandinavia. Hoards are just another category among grave finds, lose finds, field finds and bog finds. Sometimes when I read Beowulf I see it as a long song about treasure hunting. However when they came into the bog I think of searching for bog ore that gave much of their fortunes.
The hoard seem to have been hidden deliberately and sometimes the treasure is found by a hunter and sometimes by people that following the law turn the find to the government. The definition of a hoard is that the item are not for personal use and contains mostly raw material, parts for production and maybe ready items for sale and there can be items in silver and bronze too.
The Scandinavian environments vary very much. Already in those days it could difficult to hide things … I remember my childhood in Denmark that I could never do anything "real fun" without someone seeing it. Maybe it was a little easier then but the afterworld has used nearly every inch of land in many places. Deep going ploughs have brought up much that was not hidden well, but nowadays hardly any sees something from the high tractor or machine. In the wooden Scandinavia it is the opposite that there is so many places for hide and it is like searching the needle in the haystack. Some of the places that were good those days are hidden in the forest today.
They are still working with the finds from Vittene so maybe we will get more facts later. The golden finds tell us at once that they were unsentimental about the ritual gold consisting of three golden neck-rings. They are crumpled up and half a neck-ring has already been used to something new or it is maybe in the gold tread. We can conclude that for just Vittene.
Since they are three neck-rings they were probably used in some ritual and procession and it can be with priestesses as well as priests. They are shaped and they have wanted them, to be beautiful and not only a symbolic oath-ring. The one with knob maybe has been for the leader and those with the triangle for the ritual maids/servants. The one with snakehead has been for a priestess since it symbolises the womb (animal, earth or human). That kind of ring is found in entire Scandinavia and around Baltic seas.
This golden treasure weighs nearly two kilos and gives me some ants on my baldhead. But we have much heavier treasures. The biggest was found in 1774 on the estate of count Bjelke at Tureholm Saudermanland. I wonder if the peasant that found it got anything? The government had not the money to buy it so the count got most of it.
The ring can be opened but whether it was for the neck of some ritual leader or for setting it on some statue is hard to say. It so heavy that I doubt anyone wanted to wear it for long.
The mounting for sword sheathes tell that the treasure belonged to more than one and maybe to a league since it contains a total of 12,1 kilos of gold. Most of it is in raw spirals and bars. One man cannot have earned al this by working. Transferred to solidus it would have been 2767 items or pay for 307 man years for a soldier. One possibility is robbery and then we get associations to the Herulian fleet that "were on journey" in Ephesos and Greek cities around 267 AD.
It cannot have been a society of peasants that have gathered this. Then we can speculate in the league of Erils and we remember that they were driven out of Denmark around 500 AD. Jordanes tell that they settled outside the Gauts. Eats Sweden has few finds of Roman import, golden bracts and other golden items from the time. It looks as if they did not really belong to the West Scandinavian culture.
Then the conclusion is that the remaining Erils gathered their gold on hand and they hide it for the time being. The heavy neck-ring speaks for "brotherhood" and that the oath sworn leader was responsible for the deposit. In some other places in Scandinavia the same happened. The size of the treasure is about half the gold found in East Sweden and in West Gautland we have a treasure of the same relative size.
This is the treasure fromTimboholm in Skaude West Gautland and weight 7,1 kilos. The rest of the Tureholm treasure was in this shape
Big finds are always spectacular and surely if it is gold. Treasure hunters and archaeologist get always certain lustre in their eyes when they hear about gold. They deny it different reasons. Here in West Sweden we have two ongoing excavating lately. One is the Vittene find and the other is a find of around 6o small thin golden leaflets that got the diggers to the field.
At least in Vittene there have been other diggers in the dark nights and on Gotland it is business as usual. The treasure hunters steal our heritage and the archaeologists hide in deep cellars and seldom we get to know what they have done. Still we have out heritage somewhere in a "mound".
Maybe the gold and silver smiths have left the biggest variety of finds. However it is difficult to get any reason and idea in it since it is just raw material. Still it tells us about normal life that jewellery was worn out and melted down to new precious art.
There are 45 items in this find from Djurgaardsaeng, Skara West Gautland
In this find the silver is the heaviest part and gold is only side issue. I think ordinary farmers may have used silver in the same way as in medieval times I know of. Men and women used the silver for precious trinkets at feast and as the name "head silver" and maybe a crown for the wedding. That does not mean that everyone had, but maybe they borrowed. This means that jewellery was worn out and changed against new pieces.
There are 9 silver bars, semi-products, finished articles, silver tread and pieces the artisan has got in exchange. In gold there is only a minor bar, 2 worn medallions, a bundle of flat gold tread, 7 spirals and a few worn out pieces. There is remaining of the cloth that has been wrapped around it all.
This is clearly the supply of the artisan. If we go behind this we will understand that as master he had at least ten years as pupil and journeyman and the last finish before the material speaks to the master. Probably he had been in Greece and Olbia and learnt some techniques that needed skill. Such a big hoard must have belonged to a master.
In normal grave finds there are seldom more than three golden bracts, while the artisans' hoards may contain up to at most 20 bracts. The bars, spirals and worn out pieces are naturally the characteristics. Some of the bits have the standard weight they used as coins. They surely looked for the weight when they got worn out coins and wanted to get the specified value. This type of finds represent about a tenth of the finds.
Finds at Holte Rogaland Norways
2 even D-bracts
7 bits of gold
8 weights of lead
1 bit of a finger ring of gold
1 little golden grain
The find is not big but the lead weights let us know that they weighed gold and silver and probably used the Roman standard. The little golden grain speaks for the supply of an artisan and maybe they bought ready-made golden grains. I was interested in the name, since on one Gallehus horn the text tells that the artisan came from Holte. It is one possibility besides Holte on North Zealand.
My analysis of the craftsmen then and later in Viking Age is that they were ambulating after their learning period. Some rich trader maybe hired for long time while in other cases it was like the thinker I remember from my childhood. On Island the name "eril" means peddler today with a sound of tiresome guest.
The Erils maybe as traders sailed along coast and rivers and visited settlements for long or for short and expected to get food. The peasants could not resist when armed men were in the suite. During the visit they did business and maybe handicraft. Some excavations are done in places that seem to have been a big farm combined with handicraft. Sailors, armed men and teacher we do not see from such material. Then we have to know the general organisation of the old Celtic world
This model explains the spread of the golden bracts. We can follow some of them around in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany. A few travelled farther and the fine art of necklaces and other skilled work they must have learnt somewhere. For gold the obvious first place is in Olbia near Odessa. The Greek goldsmiths furnished the Schytians with gold work and surely even the Scandinavians. However in time even the Nordic artisans got the skill to do the finest art.
We have no sure signs of market places but surely there have been some big centres with continuous production and maybe market days. Valuable goods and precious jewellery needed guardians so it was not for everyone to keep such facilities. Such place we can decide from the finds and some excavatings.
They are Gotland of course; Bornholm and Helgau before Birka and I think that Auland has been the real Birka and since long centre of the east Erils. One heavy cause is the possible iron production. The big female necklaces are a question of years of work that could have been done in Olbia as well as on Aland.
In west we have Fyn as centre; some place on Zealand; Ribe and Viborg at Jutland; in Norway Viken and Rogaland. They told that West Gautland is "Another World" and the inland gives another structure. But the finds from Vittene speaks for an industry. In Halland there may have been a place or two of the same kind. Grimeton is one of them.
As soon as the Romans realised their limits began the peaceful trade with the Roman fortification at Rhine. It was not continuous peace since the Germans always followed the politics in Rome and as soon as they saw weakness they tried to take a bit of the Empire. That includes even the Erils that at least one time were "in Viking" against the Gauls. Another thing that pirates seems to have been in West Europe all the time.
When generalising we can state that the early import before 268 Ad reached mainly Denmark. In next stage we see the imports in a wide area in southern Scandinavia. In the early agriculture plains only a fraction of artefacts have been collected for the museums. Local people made often the choice and spared what "looked like something".
Surely it was as in my childhood that fine artefacts were store on some shell in the joiner shed. People did not know that even smaller bits and fractions of stones could tell something. We collected stones small but too big and big stones and they were stored in a mound. That was used for fill in roads or the basemen in new buildings. I remember pieces of flint but did not know that flint was not natural in that environment. It must have been brought for use to tools at some time in history.
They tell about people using artefacts in daily life after the old rule "take what you have and use everything to something". Even golden artefacts have been thrown into some corner or spike in the shed. Much later some have observed that there may be a value in it. Some gold medallion was given to a child as a toy. Others sold or made wedding rings.
The Golden Age was short and the Roman import was only double of that. E few hundred years must be compared to that our soil carry 6000 years of culture. Some places have been better for handicraft and trade than others have. In Poland it was surely the Baltic amber that brought 40000 denars to the area. The Roman historian Tacitus (ca 100 AD) mention specifically the amber trade.
Iron was also a steady demand and we find Roman import even in Northern Sweden where the Iron Land is. Even in our eyes small quantity had high value. In Rome sevral metals were used for coins and sometimes they simply melted it down for product in times when the coin value corresponded to price on raw material.
Maybe the fleet of the Erils drove that trade. Dry fish is a good cargo and so is iron. Gotland was ideal for traders since it is an island easy defended. From the bogs they could get bog ore and the bear claws show that they must have traded on places with bear.
Auland had also bog ore but near was Smaaland with more and there we know of places where there has been relatively big production. Roman bath and fortresses show influence and other cultural import make the island to a great centre for the Erils. Ancient traders preferred to settle on islands. They could also use the bog ore for industry and the climate was good for farming. Bornholm seems to have early contacts with Greece and imported the skill in working with thin bronze plate and maybe also gold.
Denmark was good farming land and maybe the trade with cattle began along the "Oxroad" that begins in North Jutland and is a path through Jutland toward Rhine. Beef for soldiers stomach and hide for their outfit were steady demands, while the fishermen brought dry fish from the Atlantic west coast even far from Northern Norway. Even Denmark and Norway had their own iron resources so that the peasants could get their need for iron and maybe sell something too.
This treasure was found in the wall of the fortress Havor at Gotland
We cannot tell if they placed the Roman wine service deliberately in the wall or did they hide it? It has not been used much but it is obvious that it was for the Friends of Bacchus or some special fellowship. We do not know if they imported wine but even some of the receipts for Nordic mead can use these tools.
They think that the Sumerians grow corn mostly for the beer and of course there is a song about Inanna drinking beer in the face of Leo. We hear also that bold Scandinavians were drinking much and from the medieval figures we know that it was about 3 - 7 litres a day. It sounds much but then they did not drink water or milk. The beer was a way of drinking unpolluted water. Surely in many places they used also mead from all kind of berries.
In the old language the root FE means cattle as well as richness. Cattle such as cows, sheep, goats were they richness everywhere and in some places they kept many horses and pigs especially in oak forests. The cattle furnished with food but also with raw material for clothes and tools. Here on Dal growing crops was only for beer and bread until 19th century.
They preferred to live in big family clans since that is the most rational way of doing the jobs and the most secure way of having sufficient cattle for all needs and all variations with climate and supply. One pastor can watch a big flock and in a big flock if one animal die it is not a big loss …later feudalism and kings wanted for own profit to split up the natural and rational way of living
Naturally we must mention the cauldron and the big pot. So-called "hemoor pots" are frequent and they are a pot with round bottom and handle so that it can hang over a fire. The Nordic version is the Vestland cauldron with roots in Bronze Age. The special feature is that the bottom is plane and just above the bottom the side is curved out a bit. Such vessels stand steady when set on ground.
Some interpreters let their imagination fly when they hear the word "blot" and associate to blood ghastly things. I think that their blot at feast was much like those I have been at as we say in West Gautland and even in Karelia "dip in the cauldron". That means that the steak and melted flesh is in the cauldron. All guests break their bread and dip in the cauldron and take a bit of the steak.
We do it only at Christmas and that gives it a holly touch, but I think that that was the normal in families even in ancient times. Another thing is that they celebrated other feasts in much the same way. It was those for the family child births, wedding and grave-beer and after some big works was done and the August beer after the big harvest is one of the old ones.
Maybe it was the custom in everyday life since they maybe owned only one big pot. They lived in a big household at list at the time we see the big houses. The common blot they speak of was maybe only for the nobility when they were gathered to thing for the league or the provinces of those days. We have no evidence of offering and then it is better to see such thing as normal justice is and crime was not too frequent in sparsely populated provinces.
Now back to the Havor fortress and other similar such as Eketorp and Ismantorp showing there were houses inside. It is not necessary that they were build for war. Maybe they just wanted a safe place for their goods. The Erils traded big values and maybe gathered merchandises from many places before they sent a fleet to Rhine. This is also the old Celtic principle of "oppida" which was a fenced little town. That was in the same way as the cities in Middle East since the earliest urban culture… I read the world "urban" = out of ban of nature.
Later kings build their "fatebur" that was simply a big store and then a guard was needed too. There they store taxes paid in what nature gives. At time maybe they called the king's settlement Hall and in later language Hus = house and then we normally understand that it was build of stone.
The other old principle is that since ancient times traders and invaders settle first on an island Thanet, Isle of Weight and Isle of Man are known from Anglo-Saxon and Viking times. In Sweden we have Auland, Gotland and the smaller Helgau and Birka. Market places with much trade of course grow and another principle in trade was the "enclaves". This means that traders from different places build their own town in the town so to speak and maybe they contributed to a fortress with the needed guards. Often such places were open only in the sailing season here in Scandinavia out of practical reasons.
Havor was not big and can have been an enclave for one clan of traders. Eketorp is bigger and could house about 300 inhabitants. They could have produced iron and handicraft. Another use of the strongholds could be as safe place during the "season of herring" as we know from medieval season at Falsterbo in Skaane. In Northern Norway they have excavated the big Hall at Borge an also some other place with many big houses.
Maybe fishermen from Norway, Denmark and even South Sweden were gathered there when it was season. When the Unicorn Age came maybe they were catching the narwhal and they sold the sprout as the horn of Unicorn. In the church at Visingsau former a kings stronghold there hang a narwhal sprout from those days: they tell that the Norse Sigurd Jorsalafar gave the emperor in Constantinople a "Unicorn horn" when he was on crusade in 1108 AD.
Is it Venus or Aphrodite is just the same? Is she perfect art does not matter? The buyer liked her and maybe a Nordic girl thought of trying the hairstyle and maybe a dress like that.
It is a find from Ausby near Eketorp. About 20 statuettes of Roman idols are found and most of them in Denmark. Maybe they came with the "Frisian Brothers", that liked just these and there are many finds in Frisia. There are also finds of golden bractys adn the Erils surely build an enclave there. They think that Frisians founded Ribe and maybe Birka too. However as stated above maybe traders from different places were behind the market places.
In Laangelaut near Ismantorp they found a pair in odd style. Both are naked and she has a snake around her arm. The hairstyle is slim and parted in the middle and similar to the style on a mask found in the neighbourhood. It is not the Celtic style with long flying hair. Is it import or a journeyman on tour behind this since it is nor Celtic style. Then we have to remember the name Isman and that the stronghold is build in Balkan style.
Under the entire first millennium we must be open for the possibility that there was a stream of people even to Scandinavia. Maybe some immigrated away from the Romans already before Zero AD. For instance on the map of Ptolemei he mentions Favonai in East Sweden maybe. The word tells maybe that they got some "favour". There seems to have been a big growth in population in that area during Iron Age. Immigration would be the reasonable cause. East Sweden have few finds from the time as if they did not belong to the old Celtic culture of Scandinavia.
In the light of the few texts on the golden bract we can ask if some of the gods were immigrants. The Edda gods are not mentioned on the golden bracts and early inscriptions. Another thing is that we can never tell if traders brought the cultural items or if it came with immigrants. Some cultural influence is of the kind that it must have been foreign people behind. And so has it been during the growth of civilisation the last 6000 years.