Billeder på siden



In every system of migrations, the first comers have been the rudest; in other words, civilisation is but a chain, each link of which drags after it another. The perception of this fact has led many to the belief, that perhaps of no country have we any knowledge of the aborigines. On the contrary, it is probable that even the rudest people has left enduring traces, wherever its occupation has been permanent; though these are not always easily discovered, and when found, not easily recognised.

According to the oldest historical accounts, and the observations of modern times, the earliest immigrants of Europe seem to have come in two streams, one along the large rivers and inland seas of the north, the other by the coasts of the Mediterranean. At the present day, we find on the southern stream remnants of three races that cannot be connected with each other, nor with any other known people: the Basques, or descendants of the Iberians, the Etruscans, whose language only exists on monuments, the Albanese or Arnauts, the probable descendants of the Illyrians. The Pelasgian language and people is but a name. In the north of Europe, very widely spread, lay the Tartars, or more correctly the Tatárs. Descendants of these tribes are the Finns of Finnland and other districts, the Lapps, the Esthonians, and the Livonians. The Finns, doubtless the most widely spread in central Europe, are described by Tacitus as extremely wild and poor. They lived by their bows, and for want of iron, made arrows with bone points. We have reason to believe that the four races enumerated, were the first inhabitants of Europe.



The imperfect notices of ancient times that have come down to us, are yet sufficient to show that the subsequent migratory tribes of Europe followed in the tracks of those who had gone before. It seems to be the destiny of one people to pioneer and make roads for another. Thus we find the Celts in contact with the Iberians, the Latins with the Etruscans. Whence came the earlier races is a question involved in the deepest mystery-the Tatárs excepted, who most probably migrated from the north of Asia. But not so with the succeeding immigrants who poured into Europe for at least two thousand years, all of whom are clearly traceable to Asia, and belong to the great family of nations known as the IndoEuropean.

Between the northern slope of the Himalaya and the Caspian Sea, is supposed with much probability to have been the native soil of the Indo-European stock. From that diverging point, like swarms from a hive, went the races (so-called) who colonised Persia, as well as the northern parts of India, and who came westward into Europe in four great divisions: the Celtic, the Greek-Latin, the Gothic, and the Slavic. Probably the Caspian divided them, and from thence some tribes took the northern route, others the southern. At least in the languages collectively are observable two distinct influences; and each of the great divisions is again divisible into two: the first into Hiberno-Celtic and Cambro-Celtic, the second into Greek and Latin, the third into Scandinavian and Germanic, the fourth into Lithuanian and Slavic.

Besides the historical accounts of ancient Europe, another source of important information has of late years been opened up, by a systematic examination of the graves that belong to heathen times.

Sepulchral tumuli are spread over all the western and northern parts of Europe, and over many extensive regions in northern Asia, as far eastward at least as the river Yenisei. They contain the remains of races either long ago extinct, or of such as have so far changed their abodes and manner of living, that the ancestors can no longer be recognised in their descendants.”* But only in

* Natural History of Man, by Dr. J. C. Prichard.


Denmark have they been so investigated as to be available for science. According to the latest and best description,* the graves are now classed in three periods or ages, the Stone, the Bronze, and the Iron, and named from the prevailing kind of antiquities found therein. The latest of these periods, the Iron age, does not belong to this part of our subject, but some mention shall be made of it in a subsequent chapter.

During the first or Stone age, the grave was constructed of large stones smoothened carefully inside, forming a chamber round which the earth was raised in an artificial hillock. The base of the “hill" was enclosed with a stone circle executed with remarkable industry, and frequently in districts where, at the present day, blocks of stone are not to be found. Sometimes the enclosure was oval, and contained two or three chambers; and even when the graves of this kind had but one chamber, it was placed very near one end.

The “giants' chambers,” probably so called from the enormous labour bestowed on their construction, belong evidently to this period. They are found in large artificial hills, and in conspicuous places, and are all provided with long entrances made, like the chambers, of large stones smoothened inside. When the clay or gravel with which they are filled up, is cleared away, a man may stand erect within.

All the graves of this period, when opened for the first time, have been found to contain the bones of one or more unburnt corpses, together with arrow-points, lances, knives and axes of flint, bone utensils, ornaments of amber or bone, and vessels of clay filled with loose earth. That these were not urns, and never contained ashes, is evident; they were most probably the receptacles of the viaticum, or food for the last journey. Even in the entrances of the giants' chambers, corpses are found, which favours the view that these were family or clan burial-places.

The graves of the second, or Bronze age, have neither massive enclosures nor chambers, but consist in the rule of small stone chests, covered with a pile of stones, and over that with clay, so

* Dänemarks Vorzeit, von J. Worsaae. German Ed.



as to present to the eye the appearance of a mound of earth. . In rare instances, they have small stone enclosures, but invariably contain the remains of burnt corpses in clay vessels that resemble urns. Frequently on the summit or side of a mound, is found an un with burnt bones, whilst the bottom of the hill contains the real burial-place, namely, a giant's chamber with its unburnt corpses and stone utensils. And this is one of numerous proofs that the Bronze age succeeded the Stone age.

During this period, a considerable variety in the manner of burying is observable. The sword and ornaments of the deceased were laid on the ashes of the funeral pile, were covered with a heap of stones, and in the earth raised over this, was placed the urn containing the remains of the body. Instead of the urn a stone chest, about half a yard long, was sometimes constructed. Many of the “hills” .contain from thirty to seventy urns, and these were no doubt family burial-places.

The antiquities of the Bronze age do not seem to have been developed out of those of the former period. The transition is sudden, and tells of the coming in of a new people. Instead of the simple, uniform implements of stone, we discover metal weapons, utensils and ornaments, many of the latter being of gold, and all elegantly wrought. Amongst the antiquities are found the peculiar kind of axe called the celt, knives very nearly resembling those of the present day, swords, battle-axes, daggers, lance-heads, shields, and the war-trumpet called the tur, sometimes in such good preseryation that it may be blown; hair-pins, combs, bracelets, and gold cups highly ornamented.

The use of stone did not cease on the introduction of bronze; stone implements are found in the Bronze graves. There are no traces of written characters during the second period, but towards the end the ornaments convey the impression that writing must have been understood. The mixed metal of the Bronze age, it must be observed, contained nine-tenths copper and one-tenth tin, neither of which is to be found in Denmark, nor is there any country from whence they could probably be brought, Britain excepted.

The graves of the Stone age are found in Denmark, principally along the coast, and in particular districts; in one parish, there yet stand above a hundred Stone graves.

The graves

and giants' chambers of this period are likewise found in the south-west of the present Sweden, namely, in the old Danish countries of Schonen and West Göthland, a few in the east and north, but none in Norway. Almost all north Germany, parts of England and Holland, the west and south of France, Portugal and Spain, contain Stone graves coinciding with those of Denmark; and the contents are everywhere the same.

The peculiar graves of the Bronze age have about the same extent as those of the preceding period in Sweden and Norway; but in other countries they are not so limited. Thus from these investigations we learn, that whilst the first inhabitants of Denmark and northern Europe lay along the coast and subsisted on hunting and fishing, only the people of the second period were enabled by their metal implements to penetrate the country, and construct boats that could be available for extended navigation. It is also evident from the intermixture of the stone and bronze antiquities, that there was no extermination of one race by another, but a gradual absorption, that mysterious process by which peoples disappear, to vulgar eyes “ leaving not a wreck behind.”

Now arises the question, who were the people of the Stone age? Not the Finns, whose descendants are the present Lapps, says Prof. Worsaae; and not the Celts, for these burned the dead, and extended over districts where no Stone graves are to be found. Thence he concludes that the Stone people are unknown to history. Nevertheless, though this people were not the nomade ancestors of the Finns or Lapps, the probability is that they were a Tatár tribe, perhaps mixed with some of the earliest of the Indo-European stock.

The people of the Bronze age stood on the same grade of culture as the Celts; yet Prof. Worsaae cannot bring himself to suppose that they were anything but the Gothic ancestors of the present Danes. His principal, if not only, reason for this is, that the Bronze age lasted into the eighth century. But this age may have been common to Celts and Goths, as the fact of an equality of culture

« ForrigeFortsæt »