Iron Age peat cutting and ritual depositions in bogs – new evidence from Fuglsøgaard Mose, Denmark

Morten Fischer Mortensen, Charlie Christensen, Karin Johannesen, Ernst Stidsing, Reno Fiedel, Jesper Olsen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


With the discovery of peat and gyttja deposits containing archaeological remains, sealed below a colluvium, at Fuglsøgaard in eastern Jutland in 2002 came a rare opportunity to investigate a bog with abundant traces of peat cutting and subsequent ritual deposition dating to the Early Iron Age. Pollen analyses show that before, during and after the ritual deposition, the bog lay in an open cultural landscape surrounded by arable fields and pastures. Around
180 cal B.C., extensive peat extraction commenced in the bog, targeting the well-humified wood peat that had formed during the Atlantic period and could be found in the deeper layers.
In this relatively tree-less area, the primary aim of the peat cutting was presumably the acquisition of fuel. It is estimated that 250-500 m2 of peat was removed, leaving the bog with numerous small water-filled pits, i.e. peat cuts.
These water-filled peat cuts had a secondary role as elements in ritual activities in which depositions were made of pottery vessels, parts of domestic animals, wooden objects, bundles of flax, quantities of white/light-coloured stones etc. More than 130 pottery vessels from period II of the Pre-Roman Iron Age (250-1 cal B.C.) have been excavated at the site. 14C dates for Linum usitatissimum (common flax) stems in two pottery vessels assign the depositions to
the period 180-1 cal B.C. All the depositions included white/light-coloured stones, and these appear to have been a general feature of many ritual depositions in wetlands at this time.
As the peat cuts in the bog became overgrown, due to renewed peat accumulation, the depositions decreased and there appears to have been a clear link between the offerings and the presence of open water into which these could be lowered. During the entire period of use (i.e. peat cutting and deposition), the bog appears to have been open and without tree cover,
presumably due to persistent grazing and/or haymaking. But at the turn of the millennium, the bog had lost its ritual significance and its surface became colonised by willow scrub.
TidsskriftDanish Journal of Archaeology
Sider (fra-til)1-30
Antal sider30
StatusUdgivet - 2 dec. 2020