Travel, trade and interaction

In Grauballe Man’s time we see the emergence of the first village societies in which people became closely linked to each other. These communities were more or less self-sufficient. Yet they were not isolated. It was important to maintain contacts with neighbouring communities to find marriage partners, to exchange animals and to obtain raw materials or items that could not be found near the village.

Local and regional contacts

Iron Age people must have been in regular contact with neighbouring villages which they visited occasionally. Different village communities within a region may also have gathered periodically, at set times in the year. They would have travelled by foot, or, when they lived on the coast or near a navigable river, by boat. Both log boats and more sophisticated plank-built boats have been found in bogs. Various kinds of wagons, drawn by oxes or horses, have also been found, though these are more likely to have been used during work on the land or in battle.

Celts and Romans - The wider world

Most people will have spent the majority of their lives within the close-knit village communities typical of the time, occasionally visiting others nearby. Yet they were very aware of what happened elsewhere in the world at the time and some must have travelled longer distances. This is becoming increasingly clear in the later Iron Age, when people in Denmark started to involve themselves in the many wars waged further to the south, either as mercenaries or in the form of armies from the north. Rich warrior graves and equally wealthy female graves show that the Germanic people inhabiting Denmark were in contact with Celtic groups and later with the Roman Empire to the south. Over time, a warrior society, with an extensive network of contacts, became established in Denmark’s Iron Age villages. The resulting growing social inequality is reflected in the increasing social differentiation seen in Iron Age villages. The more these warriors became involved with warlike societies further south, the greater their need to defend themselves and their newly acquired wealth, which was accumulated in the form of cattle.