- Like the one the Tollund Man Lived in
Traces of the villages people lived in at the time of the Tollund Man have been found all over Denmark. Many houses have been excavated in Jutland in particular.
Iron-age village by Lejre. Big picture© Lejre Experimental Centre
The houses were often built close to each other in small groups but some were also placed apart from the other houses. Most of them were oblong, approximately 20 metres long, and 5 to 6 metres wide. They were often placed facing east and west with the stable for the livestock in the eastern end of the house and the room for the residents in the western end. Most of the houses and the villages were unprotected - some of them were surrounded by an animal fence, however.
Many of the houses in the village were small stables and outhouses. People kept cows, sheep, goats, pigs and horses as farm animals, and close upon the heels of the iron-age man was his dog.
The social system of the Iron Age consisted of many small villages but you would also find bigger villages - we call them "central villages". This is where families who had separated themselves from the majority of people and had accumulated wealth and power lived. Other people would settle down in the vicinity to benefit from their protection. And the protection probably also included the smaller "normal" villages closeby.
Over the years many excavations have been completed in the area surrounding Silkeborg where the Tollund Man was discovered and they seem to show that the villages were placed just as close to each other as they are today - the villages of the Iron Age were probably their ancient predecessors.
Both people and animals lived in and
around the village. Big picture© Lejre Experimental Centre
Next to the central villages and the normal villages, which might include approximately a dozen farms there were also other kinds of settlements. They were usually more scattered groups of farms which were placed a couple of hundred metres apart.
The farms of the most wealthy farmers often covered an area measuring 180 x 200 metres at least. We have found traces of them dated from around the birth of Christ.
The village where they were located might be surrounded by a stockade fence made of closely placed solid poles.
Protected by the fence were farms with long houses, some of them with small outhouses and fences.
The iron-age village seen from the
other side. Big picture© Lejre Experimental Centre
In several cases the sites of the houses were covered by a culture layer as thick as a meter containing potsherds, ashes, burnt stones and slag from forging or iron extraction. This is a clear indication, that the people had lived in the same place for a long time.
Next to the villages with the biggest farms we often find in the nearby burial place several graves with valuable objects and a logical guess would be that the village leader and his family are buried here.
We can therefore see that there were many different kinds of villages and settlements in Jutland during the Early Iron Age, i.e. before the birth of Christ.
How the people settled in the eastern part of Denmark is on the other hand less clear. It is true that on Funen traces of several settlements from the Iron Age have been discovered but we still don't have a clear picture of how the villages were organized. On Sealand there are still only a few excavations which provide us with information on the typical farm and the settlements from the Iron Age.