Means of Transportation
Carriages at the Time of the Tollund Man
Only very few iron-age farmers used carriages. Fancy harness and spurs discovered in sacrificial bogs and in graves next to the dead seem to prove that only people with a high social status had horses and carriages. Only a select group of people used a horse as their means of transportation - most people walked.
Fast and light carriages were pulled by horses, while heavy wagons were pulled by oxen.
During the Bronze Age light carriages with spoke wheels were developed and people continued to use this kind of carriage during the early iron age, the time of the Tollund Man.
We have not discovered complete wagons from the time periods before the birth of Christ. But with the help of discoveries in bogs we have been able to get an idea of what they must have looked like.
The heavy wagons had four plate wheels. The undercarriage consisted of a fork and a similarly forked (shaped like a y) shaft as well as the axles of the wheels. Resting on the wagon was a basket made of wickerwork and with a bottom made of wood. The shaft and the yoke used for pulling the wagon were tied together. The yoke was also tied to either the horns of the oxen or it rested on their necks.
A copy of the waggon from Rappendam
located at Silkeborg Museum. Big picture
The wheels were heavy plate wheels. The wheel sometimes consisted of two to three parts. By constructing the wheel with several pieces of wood it was possible to make much better use of the fibres of the wood. This is the kind of wheel that was discovered as an offering find in Rappendam, close to Hilleroed on Zealand.
Two light carriages, probably used by the headmen and maybe in connection with processions, were excavated during the 1870s in Dejbjerg Bog close to Ringkoebing in Western Jutland.
Both carriages were beautifully equipped. Neither of them had been completely preserved, but they were of the same kind. One was a little bigger than the other, the wheels on one carriage had 14 spokes, the other had 12.
One of the carriages from Dejbjerg
reconstructed. Big picture © Skalk
On both carriages from Dejbjerg the hub and rims had been cut out of ash tree, whereas the spokes were made out of beech. Every rim consists of one piece of wood that was bent into shape and embraced with an iron band which had been added while it was still burning hot. The carriages were decorated with delicate bronze ornaments.
The two carriages had clearly been taken apart before being placed in the bog.
In order to test to qualities of the carriages from Dejbjerg, true copies of them were made. The reconstructed carriage turned out to be a light and springy vehicle which behaved dignified and elegantly at the test run.
Transportation by Sea
The sea and the rivers were used for transportation and travelling. Dugouts were used for both purposes while the bigger boats, which were made out of several pieces of wood, were used on the sea.
Reconstruction of the Hjortspring Boat. Big picture © The Hjortspring Boat Guild
Some of the dugouts were stretched and thus made wider than what you could normally make a tree trunk. The tree which was typically used was lime but oak trees were also used now that axes made out of iron were quite common.
A 22 metre long wooden boat, a war canoe, which could hold 22 warriors, was discovered in a sacrificial bog by Hjortspring on Als.
Today the Hjortspring Boat is on display at the National Museum. A reconstruction of the boat shows that it moved well in the water. The captured boat weighed more than 500 kilos - and yet it was a slight weight for a boat of that size.
Prince Henrik and others on a trial trip of a copy of the Hjortspring Boat. Big picture
© The Hjortspring Boat Guild
Boats like the Hjortspring Boat were easy to manoeuvre and could sail not only on rivers but could also travel considerable stretches on sea.