archaeology
Remains of one of the dogs found at SkodstrupJacob Due, Moesgaard Museum

Archaeologists have unearthed the "unusually well-preserved remains of an entire Iron Age community" that include sacrificial remnants of humans and dogs while excavating in Skodstrup, north of Aarhus in Denmark, the Moesgaard Museum has revealed.

The human and animal remains were discovered in a hole 4m below a village. This was originally used as a peat cutting bog, say archaeologists from the museum, but "several centuries" later, the hole was used for sacrificial purposes where humans and dogs were placed in the peat cuts as offering to the Gods. They have unearthed the remains of one human skeleton and eight dogs which were laid next to three tethering stakes, in the most recent findings.

Archaeologist and excavation director Per Mandrup from Moesgaard Museum said: "We expected great things of the excavations because a settlement, a burial ground as well as extensive offerings and sacrifices in the bogs around Skodstrup have previously been found. But these new discoveries more than live up to our expectations and the finding of a human skeleton is the crowning touch."

human bones
The remains of the young femaleJacob Due, Moesgaard Museum

The human skeleton was a heap of bones alongside two stakes – one of which was sharpened. Only the jaw remained of the skeleton, with the museum suggesting that the rest of the head had been removed, either at the time or at a later date. The remains were taken to the museum where tests confirmed that the they belonged to a women in her mid-twenties.

A bog 150m away, where excavations have been ongoing since the 19th century, was the offering place of "swords, lances and parts of shields, a human sacrifice, burnt human bones in a layer of charcoal, a wooden phallus and 13 dog skeletons".

"At Skodstrup, we have the whole spectrum of an Iron Age community: a well-structured village with an associated burial ground and sacrificial bogs. It gives us a unique insight into the life of Iron Age people in war and in peace, and not least a glimpse into their religious universe," says Mandrup.