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Dyndved
Haraldskjaer



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The Source:

P.V. Glob :
"The Bog People - Iron-Age Man Preserved"
Faber & Faber, London, UK, 1988

Horace Marryat:
A Residence in Jutland, the Danish Isles, and Copenhagen"
John Murray, London, 1860

The Case:

The story starts in 1835 when some workmen were digging a ditch in Juthe Fen, part of the Herregård of Haraldskjaer. They found an arm and a foot sticking out of the turf. After some difficulties, the body of a woman was uncovered. It was taken to St. Nicolai Church in Vejle. Some over-enthusiastic scholars, led by Professor Peterson, declared that it was the body of Queen Gunhild, who - according to legend - had been drowned in a bog by King Harald. The Danish King, Frederick VI, was so impressed that he had a special glass-top coffin made, so the body could be put on display.

Sadly - or should that be fortunately ? - soon there were other experts who had little trouble destroying the myth that this was Queen Gunhild. For a start there is serious doubt about the historical truth of the Gunhild stories. And there is also criticism about the way it was decided that the alleged death of Gunhild had taken place in Juthe Fen.

The question has been raised if the woman was dead when she was pinned down in the bog. Some argue that she may have been still alive. That is not for me to decide. What makes things interesting for us is the fact that the body of the woman had been pinned down with a number of stakes, which - thanks to the conserving properties of the bog - still were in good condition.

The Date:

We have been given the year of 1835 for the discovery of this body. Its real date however, according to radiocarbon dating, seems to go back to the 5th Century B.C.

The Place:

The Herregård of Haraldskjaer appears to be located South of Jelling, which can be found somewhat to the North-West of Vejle.

Personal Comments:

I know that there is no way this can be the body of Queen Gunhild, of whom legend tells us that she was drowned in a bog by King Harald. But I just love that brilliant photo of all those wooden stakes that were used to keep the woman of Haraldskjaer down. Seeing all that, I am happy to believe that people were afraid - for whatever reason it may have been - that she might return from her watery grave.

There is a nice and entertaining report from the hand of Horace Marryat, who visited Vejle in 1858 and did go see the body of "Queen Gunhild". He also went on to Copenhagen where he saw the objects found with the body, including the stakes.

Possible Follow-Up:

You should definitely try to find yourself a copy of Glob's excellent book which is full of information about those interesting corpses found in the bogs. This being a rather famous find, you will find this corpse in practically every book you will read on the subject of bog bodies. And on the internet there is plenty of material as well, both articles and photos. And of course there is St. Nicolai Church in Vejle where the body is on display, plus the museum in Copenhagen where the other finds have gone to.

© 2014 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed November 2014

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