Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Sun Temple of Vasagard

Bornholm is a rocky island in the Baltic Sea, now part of Denmark.

At various times it has been an important fortress, for example during the seventeenth-century wars between Denmark and Sweden, and during World War II, when it was a German base. This is a thirteenth-century castle on the island known as Hammerhus, the Hammer House.

The island may also have been an important place during the late Neolithic, around 3500 BCE. There are several megalithic monuments on the island, much like those of Britain and Ireland --long barrows with passage graves, stone circles like this one, and so on.

For the past few years a joint Danish-Polish archaeological team has been excavating a site on the island known as Vasagard. Vasagard was a large site surrounded by several impressive palisades.

The strangest thing about the site is the profusion of these objects that have been found there.

These are called "sun stones," and they vary from the quite elaborate to those that are just pebbles with some lines scratched on them. Several had been found here before the modern excavations began, so these new finds are just a sample of the total set. Others have been found at other sacred sites throughout the region, but this is a remarkable concentration. Hence people think the site might have served as a solar temple.

Some of the finds came from the surface of plowed fields, so there is not information about where they were discarded. During the excavations, some were found in trash deposits. Yet they seem to have been deliberately burned and broken, which certainly sounds like a ritual act.

I found an excavation blog for the 2014 season at the site, when the digging focused on this burial trench ("System grave" in the plan.) Only scattered fragments of bone were found, and the trench showed evidence of having been redug several times. The excavators think it was used for temporary burial; corpses were placed in the ground until the flesh had rotted away, then the bones were removed for display in charnel houses or some such.

Fascinating. The enormous investment late Neolithic people made in religion, astronomy, and burial of the dead never ceases to amaze me.

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