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Viking "Death House" Unearthed in Denmark

Jul 01, 2016 08:27 AM EDT

A tomb unearthed in Denmark contained the remains of a Viking man and woman who were laid to rest with honors. The burial structure is a type of building known as a dødehus ("death house"). Archaeologists dated the site to 950 AD.

The death house is located in the small town of Hårup, Denmark. It was first discovered back in 2012 in the course of a highway engineering project. After years of analysis, the site excavation team has presented its findings in a paper published by the Saxo Institute.

The team leader, archaeologist Kirsten Nelleman Nielsen, informed Science Nordic that the tomb was the resting place of a powerful couple, as well as a third person speculated to be their successor. Speaking of the couple, Nielsen highlighted how both the man and the woman were lavishly honored in death.

"It's very special that the man and woman's graves are marked by the same tomb or palisade. It's unusual that we're able to establish that the man and woman were equals with such certainty," said Nielsen.

The Viking female's remains were laid to rest in a type of wagon that was used by women of noble lineage. Two keys were buried with her, one of them a special artifact that symbolized her elite status. A recreation of the woman's grave is on display at the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark.

In the same chamber as the woman was buried a man, presumably her husband. He was found with a large battle axe, an indicator of his importance. A separate, later addition to the tomb held the third corpse, a man who was buried with a smaller war axe.

The archaeological study put forth that the design of the dødehus may have been inspired by structures elsewhere in Europe. Nielsen noted its similarity to the wooden stave churches of the era.

The building design, along with the artifacts buried within, suggested that the entombed couple were well-traveled, visiting many foreign lands during their lifetime. Ancient Origins reported that among the artifacts were two silver coins that originated from as far away as Afghanistan-a very long way indeed.

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