Archaeology : The Viking Feasting Hall Of Heorot Found?

First of all, I would like to tell you in a very very summarized way about the Epic Poem of Beowulf which is relevant for this specific archaeological finding. One of the oldest literary works, translated and written in English, is the epic poem of Beowulf. The poem tells us the story of the hero Beowulf who defeated the monster/troll Grendel – the terrible fiend who terrorised the Great Hall of Heorot, in which the Danish King Hrothgar made his great feasts. In this Anglo-Saxon epic saga, the monster Grendel repeatedly attacks Heorot after becoming enraged by the sound of feasting. The Danes were powerless to defend their people and fight against the Grendel, until the arrival of Beowulf of course. Beowulf came from the land of the Geats (nowadays southern Sweden) killing the monster and then descending into the fiend’s den and killing his mother; in other versions, Beowulf descended under the sea to kill the monster’s mother.

Now, speaking of such feasts, excavations in the area have revealed that this great hall particularly in the time of Hrothgar, did indeed host feasts on legendary measures.

In Lejre – eastern Denmark (on the island of Zeeland, 23 miles west of Copenhagen) – archaeologists are currently working on the site to reveal the truth about the epic saga of Beowulf. Lejre was the centre of one of the most powerful Viking Kingdoms, and in fact, it was a huge trading area receiving goods from all over the places the Viking traders had been; from the mediterranean to India.

The extent to which the events of the poem are based on historical fact is controversial, but it seems to have been inspired by the wealthy Danish court at Lejre. However, the current excavations held in the area have confirmed that giant feasting halls were an integral part of life at Lejre. Archaeologists have found a total of seven halls dating from various points between the VI (6th) century and the XI (11th) century, implying that the structures were periodically torn down and rebuilt. The earliest of all the halls, which dates back somewhere in the year 500 BCE, is the one most likely to have been the inspiration for Heorot.

On the site of the excavation of this great hall, the remains of hundreds of animals have been found, apparently killed and eaten at massive feasts, as recounted in the poem. The animals – cattle, sheep, suckling pigs, goats, chickens, geese, ducks, deer and fish – imply that the Scandinavian elite enjoyed a varied and lavish diet. Pottery has also been found on the excavation, as well as up to 40 pieces of jewellery made from precious metals.

The area is/was thought to have been largely isolated from the rest of Europe, but in truth, as mentioned before, Lejre was a centre of northern trading with the rest of Europe and parts of Asia; not having those people from those parts of the world right there to trade, but the goods being brought by adventurous Norsemen. To support this, there are many objects which have been found at Lejre, although, there is one particular and interesting item – an animal jawbone which is believed to have belonged to a brown bear given to the Danish ruler by another European king.

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