Sunday, October 18, 2009

King Hrothgar's hall?

Is there anything to this story from the Copenhagen Post?

Could a large mud building unearthed in Lejre have been a cult place or beer hall of the ancient Viking kings?

The hall, 48 metres long and seven metres across, overlooks the site of a Viking palace unearthed in 1986 in what is an historic area of Denmark.

‘We are sure we have found a royal building of some sort,’ said Tom Christensen, curator of Roskilde Museum at the time. ‘The odd thing about the site is that it is littered with bits and pieces of exquisite golden jewellery, glass and bronze broaches, high quality artifacts, such as drinking glasses and ceramics, which all seem to have been deliberately smashed in some ritual.’

‘There is also a huge pile of cooking stones from primitive ovens. This was obviously a place frequented by the upper classes of the Iron Age. Maybe it was some sort of beer hall or a sacred site where cult or religious activities were carried out. The building’s post holes are over a metre deep, so it must have been an impressive construction,’ said Christensen.


Set in the period of the Germanic migrations in the fourth to seventh centuries, the poem [Beowulf] places the Scylding King Hrothgar’s Hall, Hereot, at Lejre, while Saxo Grammaticus, a 13th century chronicler who compiled a history of both legendary and historical Danish kings, also identified Lejre as an ancient royal seat.

Many modern Beowulf scholars identify Hereot with Lejre and, with the discovery of the hall, Danish archaeologists believed they had finally found the site. ‘The date of the cult place fits perfectly with the era of the Scyldings,’ Christensen said.

In 1986 archaeologists discovered a major upturned boat-shaped Viking longhouse, but only the foundations of the huge hall and outhouses remained as the original construction had been of wood. The 50-metre-long, 10-metre-high longhouse was twice the size of any similar hall discovered in Denmark, leading archaeologists to believe they had stumbled on a royal palace from the time of the sagas.

The dimensions of the hall were calculated from 200 posthole marks on the ground from the huge oak beams that supported the walls and roof. There were signs on the site of earlier constructions, dams, windmills and other buildings including a bronze foundry, workshops and outlining fencing, underlining the importance of the Lejre settlement.

A museum now occupies a plot of land near the site. The English web address for the Lejre Museum is

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Blogger MAC said...

It fits in with what I've read before, but I'll have to go back and re-check Landscapes of Desire (not being a Beowulf scholar that's really the only source I keep ht hand--read it if you haven't). I think there might be something to it, but every big long barn from the same era is likely to be proclaimed by someone as Hrothgar's Hall. It's like pieces of the true cross.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

Not a new idea. There are at least two great-hall foundations already excavated in the Lejre area. Lejre (Hleiðargarðr) has been associated with Beowulf and/or the saga of king Hrólfr kraki (the analogue of Hroðgar; he also had his court rid of an invading monster by a visiting hero whose name started with B) for ages.

Tom Shippey gave a great talk on this at the 2007 Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, on the occasion of the publication of John Niles' _Beowulf snd Lejre_, itself an expanded translation of a book on the same topic by Tom Christensen that came out in 1991. Shippey said that neither of the two existing sites was just right for Beowulf, but that he suspected it was just a matter of time before the "right" one would be found. Is this one "it" -- or is it just one of the two old ones?

3:40 PM  

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