Houses and villages

In the Early Iron Age, when Grauballe Man lived, people lived in small farms standing singly or in small clusters of ‘wandering villages’, which were moved every 30 years or so.

Iron Age long houses

No actual houses survive from the Iron Age, but from the traces these houses leave in the soil and a few burnt examples, we do have a good idea of what they looked like and how they functioned. The houses were rectangular ‘longhouses’, with two rows of timber post supporting the roof, which was probably thatched, or covered by turfs. Walls were made of wattle and daub, a pattern of interwoven sticks covered in a mixture of clay and straw. Floors were made of compressed mud or finely placed stones. The houses, which were generally between 16 and 20 metres long and 4 to 5 metres wide, generally have two entrances in the long sides. These were the only sources of daylight in the houses, which did not have any windows.

'Wandering' villages

The two rows of posts inside the houses divided them into three aisles lengthwise. Yet the houses were also divided into three rooms in the other direction. In the area around the entrances there often was an entry room, divided from the western and eastern end of the house by partition walls. From here you could enter the western end of the house where we find the fireplace. This is where the family lived, ate, slept and busied themselves with crafts. At the eastern end cattle could be stalled in the winter. After about 30 years, the houses were worn out, so the community would move a few hundred metres away. In this way, they could use the old settlement area, which had been manured naturally by the people and animals who had lived there for 30 years, for their fields. This system of ‘wandering villages’ was common at the time.

Village societies

Later in the Iron Age, farmsteads became gathered in denser clusters and fences started to be built between them and around the villages. There was closer cooperation between the villagers, but also increasing inequality between the farmsteads, as reflected in varying sizes of the farms, suggesting some families owned more cattle than others.