Warfare and violence

The small Early Iron Age village communities in Grauballe Man’s time relied on each other, so they must have interacted in a friendly way. Yet not all contact between Iron Age people was friendly. Warfare and violence were a common occurrence.

Weapon sacrifices

We know about Iron Age warfare and violence from skeletal remains with weapon wounds, but also from the large amounts of weaponry found in various bogs across Denmark. Here the victorious army sacrificed their war booty to the gods after a battle. The spoils typically include the remains of weaponry and soldiers’ personal possessions. Weaponry includes both items for close man-to-man combat, such as swords, shields and lances, but also bows, arrows and spears, which could be used at greater distance. Axes, hammers and belt pouches with personal belongings like dice, gambling tokens, razors, combs and tooth picks were also carried by Iron Age warriors. These large assemblages of finds demonstrate that organised fighting units, or real armies first appeared in the Iron. They had a clear hierarchy and different contingents like cavalry, bowmen and foot soldiers.


One of the most famous weapon offerings from Grauballe Man’s time was discovered in a small bog near Hjortspring. Here a complete boat was found with a large amount of weaponry and equipment. The amount of weaponry indicates that there probably were three to four boats, each of which held about 20 warriors. Each of these had a large wooden shield, a heavy sword or lance and a light spear. The 10 to 12 officers that could be identified from the weaponry carried a short sword and some wore ring mail.

At the start of the battle, roughly cut flint stones were probably fired at the enemy with slings. Once the enemy came within closer range, spears were used and finally the warriors will have fought man-to-man, using their swords and protecting themselves with shields. After the battle, the victorious army stripped their enemies from their weaponry and took the boat to the Hjortspring bog, where they sank the boat and threw in the weaponry after making it unusable by bending or breaking many of the items.