Rare Bronze Age funeral pyre found in Denmark

A rare Bronze Age funeral pyre was unearthed in Bellinge, a suburb of Odense, Denmark. The site was excavated by Odense City Museums archaeologists in spring 2019 in advance of construction of a housing development. There was a burial mound there, but excavation revealed no central burial as is customary in ancient mounds. Instead, the team found the remains of an early Bronze Age (ca. 800 B.C.) cremation bonfire.

The deceased was cremated on a 3×2-meter pile of wood contained within pilings. After the funerary conflagration, the bones were removed and buried elsewhere. What remains today is a thick layer of charcoal peppered with bone fragments and the postholes from the pilings. Bronze Age cremation pyres are extremely rare, and this one is in particularly good condition, rich with remains that will give archaeologists an unprecedented opportunity to discover new information about Bronze Age ritual. Using the archaeological information, the team recreated the pyre, a pig standing in for the Bronze Age human.

The mound was built on top of the cremation site. It was created by piling turf into a mound 75 feet in diameter and lining its perimeter in large stones. It overlooked the landscape for a thousand years before again being used for funerary purposes. Over the course of three centuries, more than 100 individuals were buried on the mound surface, making the Bellinge Common mound one of the largest Iron Age burial grounds on the island of Funen.

Most of the burials were cremated remains in earthenware urns. There are also some inhumations with grave goods including jewelry (silver, glass, amber and pearl), daggers, pottery with food and drink offerings.

The urns have been transported to the Møntergården museum in Odense where they will be excavated in public view beginning on January 21st, 2020. The museum is setting up a laboratory in the foyer where visitors can see the archaeologists at work and look into the urns as their contents are unearthed.

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