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ARCHAEOLOGY

Lost medieval village discovered in Denmark

The site of a village described in written sources from the Middle Ages has been found by archaeologists in Denmark.

Lost medieval village discovered in Denmark
Photo: Kirsi Pedersen

Traces of three courtyards surrounded by a ditch marks out an area which archaeologists have interpreted as the centre of a village dating back to the Middle Ages at Tollerup in eastern Denmark, reports ScienceNordic.

Historical sources suggest that the farms belonged to the village rulers. A cellar in the largest farm was probably used to store tax revenues in the form of objects collected from the villagers.

“The interesting thing about this find is that we have some very old written sources that [give us] an entirely new understanding from what we can interpret from the excavation alone,” said Gunvor Christiansen, archaeologist at Roskilde Museum, Denmark, speaking to ScienceNordic.

The excavated farm houses date back to the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (around 1400 to 1600 CE), and it is a rare to find such well preserved remains from this period, outside the large market towns in Denmark, says Christiansen.

READ MORE from ScienceNordic: Archaeologists excavate 400 Iron Age houses in Denmark

Archaeologists do not know why the village was abandoned but they knew it existed as it is mentioned in a number of written sources.

A letter from King Canute IV first records the gifting of a village at this location to a bishop in 1085. The excavated houses were built later. A number of tax rolls from Tollerup also refer to six farms and a manor on the site, which was possibly used to store the collected taxes.

A gravel pit alongside the three farms could explain why they did not find the remains of the other three farms, says Christiansen.

“Compared with other farms of the same period, we can see that one of the farms must have been the manor house, referred to in the written sources. It’s a qualified guess, because the farm is so large,” she said.

The three farms are approximately five metres wide and 15 to 20 metres long, but the manor has a cellar area of 50 square metres. The foundations of the outer wall of the manor suggest that it was a two-storey building.

The archaeologists were pleased to see that the cellar remains were buried so deep. This would have protected them from disturbance at the surface, for example by farming equipment turning the land over the years.

READ MORE from ScienceNordic: Archaeologists finally know how old Denmark’s fifth Viking fortress is

It’s rare to find houses from the Middle Ages in Denmark, says archaeologist Nils Engberg, curator at the National Museum of Denmark.

“We have lots of excavations from earlier periods. For example from the Stone Age and Bronze Age. But unfortunately not from the Middle Ages because the houses were built in a different way,” he said.

It was at this time that people began to construct houses with stone foundations after a law was passed to prevent felling of trees. Previously, all houses were timber constructions, which led to a timber shortage throughout the country. But the remains of stone houses could be easily looted and the materials used elsewhere in subsequent buildings, meaning that few were preserved to this day.

When in use, the cellars would have been full. Archaeologists found evidence of two grinding stones from a mill, plough equipment, and many more everyday objects.

Moreover, they found traces of clay flooring, an oven, and pieces of tile with religious motifs, including a priest.

READ MORE from ScienceNordic: Did Stone Age people build a large labyrinth in Denmark?

“Religious motifs were very typical of the 1500s,” said Christiansen.

Engberg agrees. This was when Christianity gained momentum, he says.

“In this period we had a permanent royal power and a centralised administration. The country was split into dioceses such as Roskilde and Lolland Falster diocese. Soon, a government formed and we begin to slowly see a societal structure similar to that of today,” he says.

Archaeologists suspect that the village fell under the Diocese of Roskilde.

“The Bishop of Roskilde received the taxes during this period and he may well have rented the manor for a vassal to administer it. In the end, all taxes from Tollerup went to the bishop up until the Reformation after which the king took control,” says Christensen.

It is not yet absolutely certain that the town is the disappeared village recorded in the old tax rolls and the king’s letters. Archaeologists and historians will continue to study the site to find out for sure.

READ ALSO: 1,100 year-old Denmark crucifix ‘may change history'

This article was originally published on ScienceNordic

HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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