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Horsens Museum 

Traces of the prehistoric Horsens

More than 2,500 fine prehistoric pieces are assembled in the exhibition Traces of prehistoric Horsens and tell us about 10,000 years of history in Horsens and the surrounding country.
The antiquities have been found during the many archaeological excavations performed by Horsens Museum and show the development throughout our entire prehistoric times.
From the Upper Palaelothic (12,800 – 8,900 B.C.) especially finds from the inlet of Horsens are remarkable and from the Neolithic period (3900 – 1800 B.C.) there are numerous finds from passage graves and burial mounds. The oldest metal in Northern Europe, found at Årupgård, also dates back to this period.

The Bronze Age is represented by jewellery, weapons and other grave finds. In the Iron Age section of the exhibition especially the rich finds from Hedegård consisting of many roman import goods and golden jewellery are remarkable.
A chain mail as well as a rare roman legionary dagger – the only find north of the Roman Empire – was also found at Hedegård.

Golden bracteate from Elbæk Skov at the inlet of Horsens
The bracteate, found 1938, is made of gold and weighs 2.8 grams. It has a diameter of 2.2 cm and it dates back to approx. 500 A.D.
The bracteate is a Nordic imitation of a roman gold coinage. The motif is a mythological creature, which is well-known from several finds, mainly in Jutland.

An extraordinary piece of jewellery
What makes the piece extraordinary is the fact that it is not, as it is normally the case, produced by pressing a thin gold plate into a matrix by which a motif in high relief is obtained. In this case the relief is created by means of filigree.

A thin gold plate was planished. With a pair of compasses the circular shape is marked. The areas outside the body of the animal are stamped or cut out from the back. On the animal itself three rows of pearly filigree threads were fixed. On the edge of the bracteate is a thicker pearly filigree thread. Then there is a pretzel-shaped ornamentation and finally between the “pretzels” and the animal there are different types of pearly filigree threads.
Finally the eye is fixed and the bracteate is polished with a soft stone.

The use of filigree work has been a well-known technique, also used on other types of jewellery.


Emperor’s medallion
It is assumed that the function of the bracteate was the same as that of Emperors’ medallions, which was to tie the recipient to the giver – in this case a deserving subject to a chief.
How and why the piece has ended up at Elbæk Skov is still a mystery. The nearest parallel is a bracteate found in Scania in Sweden.

Magnificent weapon from Hedegård
Extraordinary rich graves with grave goods showing international connections 2000 years ago were not exactly expected to be found in the Central Jutland. None the less is that what happened during an examination of a burial site at Hedegård between Horsens and Herning, where Horsens Museum has been doing excavation from 1986 to 1993.
In total 200 graves dated 50 B.C to 150 A.D. were examined.
The oldest graves, which were different kinds of cremation graves, were clearly the richest graves and they cover a period of approx. 100 years.

The unusual urn grave
Especially one urn grave proved to contain more than expected. The urn itself was a figured, black glazed vase in which there were only a few burned bones. The urn was supplemented by three other earthenware jars forming a small arrangement. Next to the group of jars some melted bronze as well as a lump of corroded iron was found, which was not spectacular at first sight.

The most part of the bronze came from a bowl, which had been on the funeral pyre, and had melted beyond recognition.
The corroded lump of iron would prove to contain big surprises.
At the excavation a pair of scissors formed like old-fashioned sheep-shears were immediately to be made out. A radiograph, however, revealed more. The corroded lump contained several iron items close together: Under the pair of scissors was a dagger with a sheath. Furthermore there were a knife and a slim lance point of an unusual form.
It was our luck that the dagger had been taken out of the sheath and that they were put next to each other in the grave, because it makes it much easier for us to study all the details.

The dagger
The dagger (a so called Pugio) and especially the sheath were true showpieces and they have been a delight to the eye. The weapon itself is 35 cm long of which the handle makes up nearly a third. The sheath is made of two pieces of iron sheet. The top side is arched and the underside is flat.
What is most impressing about the weapon is the minute ornamentation covering the front of the sheath. The entire decoration is created by hammering different kinds of metal into a groove pattern engraved in the iron sheet.

Roman mercenary from Hedegård?
The Danish art smiths of that time were hardly capable of making such magnificent daggers, so the piece was imported from the Roman Empire.
A dagger belonged to the equipment of every roman soldier, but naturally not every warrior owned a treasure like this. It was reserved for officers – maybe given as a special distinction.

How on earth did this roman speciality end up in Jutland? It is the first time such a magnificent dagger has been found in Scandinavia and they are very rare so far away from the Roman Empire.
Trading object, loot – or has a man from Hedegård returned home with a distinguished present after many years of serving as a mercenary in the Roman army?