søndag den 18. januar 2009

Memories from the Bronze Age

A couple of weeks ago one of our friends from Liseleje, Axel Hvidtfeldt, occurred on TV where he proposed the creation of a Bronze Age center in Northern Zealand. The background for this idea was the occurrence of a huge stone filled with Bronze Age drawing, Petroglyphs, close to Liseleje at Hyllingebjerg.

The Hyllingebjerg Stone is an 8.5 tons granite monolith, which was left atop Hyllingebjerg, by the receding icecap in Northern Europe about 10 000 years ago. Hyllingebjerg is a 28 meter high earth cliff at the coast of Northern Zealand in Denmark. The stone was in the Bronze Age, about 3000 years ago, decorated with rock carvings including ships, sun wheels and about 300 bowl shaped carvings.

The stone and its rock carvings were first discovered in May 1983 when it was lying on the beach at Hyllingebjerg, where it had tumbled from the cliff 28 meters above. The stone had lodged at the waters edge half buried in sand after storms had eroded the cliff. The Danish National Museum was alerted, but was not at the time, interested in a conservation project because of lack of funds.

Following a period with some interest from one of the National Museum’s specialists, the stone was moved to a local museum in Frederiksværk, Gjethuset, but in August 1999 an attempt was made to have the stone exhibited in a diamond shaped glass cage within a fully controlled atmosphere (Relative Humidity and Temperature) at the top of the Hyllingebjerg cliff, which 3000 years ago was a cultural and religious place. The project was not realised due to lack of funds, so the stone remained hidden away from the public in a dark corner of the “Gjethuset”.

At that time the rock carvings were not drawn up and barely visible. Sometimes during 2001 the stone was then transported to Stone Conservator Leif Vognsen´s facility at Gram in Jutland, Denmark, a journey of 317 kilometres. There is no record of this transport. The stone spent the next 4 years at Leif Vognsen´s shop. Here the stone was cleaned, but it is not known precisely which methods and which agents were used in this process and this needs to be further investigated.

The hundreds of rock carvings on The Hyllingebjerg Stone were in August 2004 identified by Scandinavia’s foremost authorities on rock carvings, Gerhardt Milstreu, and the Danish National Museum’s Flemming Kaul on a grant from the EU. The carvings were touched up with white paint and the carvings were photographed 2-Dimensionally. The beautiful 3000 years old artwork was now after 11 years again clearly visible. The stone was to remain at Leif Vognsen´s conservation shop for another year.

In November 2004 “Hyllingebjergstenens Venner” – The Friends of the Hyllingebjerg Stone - had received a grant, which made it possible to have the rock carvings photographed using a new 3-Dimensional photographic technique. We also had a model of the Egtved Girl from the same Bronze Age pose next to stone so as to give an impression of the size of the stone. The result was posted on the Internet and can be viewed at www.frvhistorie.dk/Hyllingebjergstenen. Here the artwork can be admired from all sides through manipulating the computer mouse.

The again on the 19th of November 2005 then stone was transported to Hilleroed, where it was put in a cold store, as it was explained by the National Museum, to protect the stone from decaying if left out to the rain and sun. This was a little bit stiff to the local historic committee and to our friend Axel Hvitfeldt, so right now they have increased their lobby, not only to get – at least a copy – if not the stone itself back, but to create a Danish bronze Age Center in the area of the find.

Now the Bronze Age – which in Denmark and the Nordic countries is dated from 1800 BC to around 500 BC, was a period with a nice warm climate, in fact you could grow grapes in Denmark. The coast line was much higher – maybe what we will see in another hundred years as a result of the melting of the inland ice. The period was named after the most precious metal used for weaponry and ornaments, most particular some very characteristic women belt ornaments.

The so-called ‘girl from Egtved’ (Pictured beside the stone )represents this glorious period and the short skirt clearly illustrates the climate.

At the North Zealand peninsula Halsnaes around Hyllingebjerg we do in fact find a lot of Bronze Age Mounds, very characteristic burial sites as well as remainders from villages and fishing places .There is little doubt that the Nordic Bronze Age produced a high level of technically well equipped ships, which are among the most typical drawings on the petroglyphs. It is believed that the carvings represent pictures of the sun and that the ship actually illustrates the transport vessel of the sun across the sky.

These ships later developed into the Vikingships, but already in the Bronzeage they were obviously used as a means of transportation across the Baltic sea and deep into Europe on the rivers following the so-called amber-route, where the Nordic people exchanged fur and amber for precious metal and occasional weapon.

It is believed that the religion contained to Gods – a male and a female – which can be seen on contemporary petroglyphs in Sweden, and that these Gods later became absorbed in the Nordic mythology as Freya and Frey – or Freja and Frøj. Freya seems to have been the goddess Nerthus as described by Tacitus.

The 'sun wagon' from Trundholm Mose depicts the Sun God.

The beautiful North Zealand area would be perfect for a living Bronze Age museum, and as the Jelling Stone – one of the Unesco Heritage points in Denmark – is also in need for coverage against weather and sun the project for the Hyllingebjerg Stone developed by the Famous Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard could easily be replicated and re-used.

I do hope that this project will attract interest also of some of the heavy weight foundations in Denmark. It would be a beauty along with the Neolithic center in Hjerl and the Iron Age Research Center at Lejre.

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