The Iron Age Landscape

In the Iron Age, the open, cultivated agricultural landscape that we recognise today came into being, but wild places, such as bogs, were equally important. People lived a farming life and lived in small hamlets dotted around the landscape.

Cold and wet - Iron Age climate change

The transition between the Bronze Age and Iron Age in Denmark (at c. 800 BC) was marked by a very sudden shift from a relatively warm and dry to a much wetter and colder climate. As water tables rose, many low-lying areas became bogs. These were sacred places where sacrifices and offerings were made, but people also used bogs in more mundane ways, to cut peat for fuel, or to graze their animals.

Forests and fields - Human impact

Besides natural changes in the landscape as a result of climate change, people impacted on the landscape quite significantly in the Iron Age. As agriculture expanded, woods were cut down to be replaced by typical small Iron Age fields surrounded by low banks build of stones gathered in the fields. In this way the open agricultural landscape that we know today, with commons, arable fields, meadows and pastures, first appeared. Settlements moved together into clusters of farmsteads and over time Iron Age farmers came to live in small hamlets. This marks the beginnings of village life that we also know from more recent historic periods.

The Iron Age landscape

The landscape in Central Jutland, where Grauballe Man lived, was characterised by commons, arable fields of cereals, flax and other crops, and meadows where cattle and sheep grazed. Steeper slopes and ridges would still have had woodland and former fields, no longer in use, were covered by heather. The Nebelgaard Bog, in which Grauballe Man eventually ended up, was a very small ‘kettle bog’, only 150 metres across. It was surrounded by a dense thicket of alder and one of many such boggy areas found between the hills. Pottery and rubbish pits dating to Grauballe Man’s time have been found within two kilometres of the bog indicating that the people who cut peat here lived close by. How did they live their lives and what did a day’s work involve? Click here to find out more about Iron Age life.