Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Stone Age? Without smartphones, broadband Internet, cable TV or dare I say it… cars?!
Not so long ago, I did just that.
Why? Well, at the time, I was flirting with a new interest in the submerged prehistory of Britain and northwest Europe. As you do.
I had read several papers on the excavation of Tybrind Vig, a submerged Stone Age site in Denmark. Having researched similar sites in the UK and Netherlands, it got me thinking about what it would be like to experience everyday life in the Late Mesolithic.
Therefore, with that in mind, I set off to Denmark, to the Land of Legends. With a name like that, who wouldn’t ?!
The Land of Legends (Sagnlandet Lejre in Danish) is the National Centre for Historical Archaeological Research and the home of experimental archaeology in Denmark.
Founded by Danish ethnologist Hans-Ole Hanson in 1964, Sagnlandet Lejre is located near the village of Lejre, 23 miles west of Copenhagen. Set in a lush rural woodland landscape, Sagnlandet Lejre is beautifully unique, and strangely magical 43-hectare open-air archaeological museum. It is the place to go if you want to see, smell, taste and touch 10,000 years of Nordic history.
Lejre is, however, much more than its open-air museum. The village was the heart of an Iron Age kingdom, which is the cradle of modern Danish civilization. Sources from the 12th century say it is home to both Heorot, the seat of the Scyldings, and the Beowulf myth. Recently unearthed archaeological evidence confirms this.
The Land of Legends is truly incredible; its achievements second to none. Hanson and the Sagnlandet team have painstakingly reconstructed an entire Iron Age village from 200 BCE – 200 CE, complete with a sacrificial bog.
A striking Stone Age camp (circa 5,000 BCE) exists alongside an authentic Viking market place (circa 900 CE), and ad 18thcentury (CE) farmstead. Various grave monuments have also been reconstructed, as has the first stone ship built since Viking times.
My Sagnlandet experience didn’t end with seeing the reconstructions. I met Stone Age hunters, Iron Age farmers and mysterious merchant Vikings. I made my own fibres, ropes and withies, paddled a replica Stone Age canoe, and tested my aim with a traditional bow and arrow. But the adventure didn’t stop there. I also ground my flour, baked bread over a bonfire, and ate goat – cooked to an ancient recipe – for the very first time.
It’s safe to say that I was – and remain – thoroughly and unexpectedly impressed with Sagnlandet Lejre. It is one of the most engaging museums I have ever experienced. It allowed me to step back in time and space to a place that I never really knew existed. The visit was invaluable to my work as a maritime archaeologist, and it grounded me as a person. I have a much better understanding of what life at Tybrind Vig would have been like, and the lessons I learned at Lejre are priceless.
We take so much for granted these days, that I believe it is beneficial for us to connect with life in a different time. It not only helps brings the past into the present, but it also helps us to be present. It allows us to unwind; to slow down, appreciate who we are, where we have come from, what we have, and how we can connect with our own community today.
The Land of Legends, Sagnlandet Lejre, is located at Slangealleen 2, 4320 Lejre, Denmark. Go there!! Alternatively, you can telephone Sagnlandet on +45 46 48 08 78, or pay a virtual visit at Link to https://sagnlandet.dk/en. You won’t regret it!
Photography: © Sagnlandet Lejre