Viking Trelleborg: 4-Year-Old Children Sacrificed?

Posted by Ms Elly on

Viking Trelleborg: 4-Year-Old Children Sacrificed?

If they wanted the gods to help them, not only did they have to confess to the gods but they also had to make sacrifice. The sacrifice of materials like jewelry, valuable goods, or animals was not too strange to us as this is commonly depicted on the TV shows. But what about human sacrifice, especially children sacrifice? 

Near the Viking Age fortress of Trelleborg on the island of Zealand in Denmark, the archaeologists found out many wells and pits that contained goods as well as human and animal remains. What astonished the archaeologists at that time (and even until now) were the children skeletons in Trelleborg wells that they finally excavated. It would be nothing much special if the skeletons were buried alone. Instead, they were buried with animals and other goods which led the archaeologists to believe that these children were a part of the sacrifice. According to the scholars, before the trelleborg was erected, a sacrifice must be made in the wells or pits nearby to wish for success. 

Viking Trelleborg built by King Harald Bluetooth seen from above

The Viking Trelleborg seen from above and the settlements nearby

One of the most famous wells in the site was the well 121 which was excavated in 1937. This well 121 was famous because it consisted of remains of 2 children skeletons who could have died at the age of 4. They were buried with animal bones and other objects. 

The 121 was circular and was about 3 meters in diameter (~118'') and was about 3m in depth. The upper fill layer consisted of pottery, semi-finished antler combs, whetstone, bone skate, and other iron things. The lower layer consisted of the buckle belts, knives, and the skeletons. 

Viking well of sacrifice

Viking well of sacrifice 

The skeletons of the children in Well 121 were quite complete. It was concluded that these children were complete when thrown into the wells. These children from Well 121 were about 3 to 5 years old. They had neither signs of illnesses nor cut marks on their bones. 

Viking Well 121 in Trelleborg where the Vikings once sacrificed two children and their cattle

Viking Well 121 where remains of two children were found

The bones of the children in another well 47 were quite complete yet fragmented. The remains of the children were found somewhere at the lowest layer of the well. After studying the bones, the archaeologists concluded that the bones could have exposed to the fire. 

The fragments of children skeleton in the well of Trelleborg

Remains of a child from the well

Based on the dental development analysis, one child was 4 years old and the other was 7. No illnesses were detected from the bones and the two kids must have been at their age of growth. 

Because the remains of the skeletons were almost complete, the archaeologists could easily conclude that there were no traumas or cut marks on the bones. But that wasn't enough to conclude whether these children encountered any violence or not. 

The archaeologists concluded that the children from the wells were the local Danes after studying the bones. Yet, they could have come from different parts of Denmark. 

For the remains of the animals, there were many butchery marks on the bones. Cattle bones showed us high frequencies of butchery marks. Seemingly, the animals sacrificed were the domesticated ones like pigs, dogs, and goas. Only a few avian bones, red deer, and antler fragments were only the remains of the wild animals. 

Goat bones from the well of sacrifice in Trelleborg

Skull of 1-year-old goat found inside the well in Trelleborg

By far, the majority of the scholars tend to believe that these wells were the sacrificial site where the Vikings made for their rituals like blot or to wish for the help of their gods for the protection of the Trelleborg nearby. In Viking archaeology, the wet sacrificial site was nothing new. For example, the archaeologists found out a lake of sacrifice named Tisso possibly dedicated to Tyr God of Honour and Justice. 

Older Post Newer Post

Recent Articles


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published