The oldest grape found in Denmark alludes to earlier Bronze Age contact between Scandinavia and southern Europe

oldest-grape-denmark-bronze-age-network_1Credit: Peter Deichmann, Museum Lolland-Falster

While the specimen in question is described to be ‘broken and charred and shabby’, it can very well change our history-based perceptions about Europe in the Bronze Age. We are of course talking about the oldest grape found in Denmark, a fascinating fruit sampling that is almost 1,750 years older than the previous record holder, a grape found in a Viking settlement. Now considering there are no archaeological evidences of vineyards in Bronze Age Denmark, one could credibly assume that this grape came all the way from actual wine-producing regions, thus hinting at a wider European network of contact (between cultures from variant geographical regions) than previously thought.


The grape seed, resembling a stone. Credit: National Museum of Denmark

The grape seed was discovered in Strandholm, east of Rødbyhavn, a site currently being excavated by a research team from Museum Lolland-Falster. It was spotted by archaeological botanist Mette Marie Hald from the National Museum of Denmark, as she was in the process of analyzing a soil sample from the sediment layers inside a well. In fact, the researchers almost decided to forego any kind of radiocarbon based dating, on the preliminary pretext that the site was contaminated by a modern seed. However on closer inspection they found the seed to be of an older variety. Museum curator Bjørnar Måge from Museum Lolland-Falster, said –

The seed is a bycatch — a lucky find. We can’t say that this in itself indicates that grapes were commonly used on Lolland at this time. We can just say that it shows up and that it’s a reason for contact. The interesting aspect is not so much the seed itself, but when you start to place it in a context.

Pertaining to this ‘context’, Måge added –

It writes into the historical context that supports what we’ve heard so much about recently. The discovery suggests that people moved around much more at this time than we previously thought.


Credit: Steen Knudsen, Museum Lolland-Falster

Once again reverting to archaeology, researchers still have scant notions about the inhabitants of the southern tip of Denmark, circa 1100 – 800 BC. However what they do know is that this particular region was inhabited for a pretty long time, harking to back to an extended period more than thousand years before the late Bronze Age. Furthermore, the seed was found in an area that is dotted with evidences of human activities, including cooking stations for large groups of people. As Måge clarified –

In the same area we’ve discovered a megalithic tomb. It’s dated to between 3,300 and 3,000 years BC, but 2,000 years later — late Bronze Age — there’s around 100 cooking stone pits [pits in the ground with a hot stone on which to cook food] arranged in circles around this tomb. So you can imagine that it is connected with the grape seed discovery. We can at least say that there was lots of activity in the area.


The well from where the grape seed was discovered. Credit: Steen Knudsen, Museum Lolland-Falster

Quite intriguingly, the recent assessment of the historical scope of Egtved Girl has also shed new light into the traveling and trading capabilities of the Bronze Age people – endeavors that may been far evolved (and common) than previously thought. To that end, the Egtved Girl herself might have been a southern German female who was mostly likely married off to a Danish chieftain to secure some kind of factional alliance. Moreover, the spiral decorations of her belt were possibly crafted in the Alps region.

Source: ScienceNordic

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