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VIKING MONUMENTS AND SITES / Jelling mounds, runic stones, palisade area and church

Date of Submission: 07/02/2011
Criteria: (iii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Heritage Agency of Denmark
State, Province or Region:
Vejle Municipality
Coordinates: N55 45 23 E9 25 12
Ref.: 5581
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Part of transnational serial nomination

The Viking serial nomination comprises land-, sea- and townscapes stretching from the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea. Among the thousands of Viking sites from the eighth to the twelfth centuries AD, these nine nominated properties from six nations are outstanding examples representing the wide diversity of this early maritime culture.

In the Viking Age the Norse peoples - the Vikings - developed a maritime culture which had an enormous impact on Northern Europe and beyond. Within Scandinavia the Viking Period witnessed the transformation from tribal to state societies and a change of religions. The three Christian kingdoms that developed from this transformation, and out of which the present Nordic States evolved, were by the end of the Viking Age an integral part of Europe. Thus, in modern times, Viking culture has contributed significantly to the creation of cultural coherence, symbolic values and cultural identity in the Nordic region, and it continues to hold immense public appeal world-wide. This culture and its heritage developed in close interaction within a unique natural environment. It is composed of distinctive urban landscapes and monuments. The culture also produced one of the world's great literatures: the Sagas, Eddic poetry and runic inscriptions.

Harnessing the technology of the ship, Vikings used the sea for expansion, exploration, longdistance trade and overseas settlement. The travels of the Vikings brought them across the Baltic Sea and down the Russian rivers as far as the Black and Caspian Seas to Byzantium and the Caliphate of Baghdad, as well as west out into the Atlantic. They were the first to settle in Iceland and the first Europeans to reach Greenland and North America about 1000 AD. In so doing, the Vikings were the first people to succeed in opening routes across the northern hemisphere from North America to Asia, thus connecting different cultural regions of the earth. Adapted to very diverse types of natural environments, success was on the one hand in the use, and at times ecological misuse, of regional resources, and, on the other hand, in the development of social and political systems. This combination formed the basis for a rich cultural region. Internally, Scandinavia witnessed an economic, religious and social transformation aided by a boom in internal and cross-cultural communication during the Viking period. New institutions were developed, smaller regions were merged into larger units and the Scandinavians took part in European development on a larger scale. Scandinavia at the time of King Knut, in the early 11th century, was vastly different from the Scandinavia that was visited by the missionary Ansgar in the early 9th century.

The component parts cover a wide temporal and spatial range. They are of exceptional quality and diversity. They include trading towns, harbours, defensive structures, production sites, burial monuments, and assembly sites. Viewed as a whole these sites bear witness to the extent of Viking social and cultural development.

DESCRIPTION OF COMPONENT PART

The complex of Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones, Palisade Area and Church is a unique depiction of the creation of the national state of Denmark and linked to this the transition between the old Nordic religion and Christianity.

Of the two large Viking-age grave mounds lying on each side of the church, the one has royal burials of King Gorm the Old. But the mound has been emptied at a very early stage, probably by King Harald, the son of Gorm and Thyre.

The two runic stones by the church have a connection to the burial mounds. The smaller was set by Gorm as a memorial to Thyre. The bigger stone has two pictorial sides, one with a Nordic dragon and the other with the earliest depiction of Christ in Scandinavia. The text tells that Harald gathered all of Denmark and Norway and christened the Danes.

In 2006-10 related parts of a palisade, and indications of a ship setting, were excavated. These discoveries are subject to further investigations in 2011 by the National Museum and the Museum of Vejle.

transnational serial nomination

 

transnational serial nomination

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The selection of sites bears an exceptional testimony to a unique cultural tradition in which the ship became the essential feature. Due to the natural environment of lakes, rivers and sea the use of waterways and the development of navigational skills had a long tradition. In the Viking Age ship technology was taken to a new level. Vikings were the first to settle in Iceland and the first Europeans to reach Greenland and North America about 1000 AD. In so doing, the Vikings were the first people to succeed in opening routes across the North Atlantic to North America and eastward to the Russian Plain and Byzantium, connecting continents and cultural regions. Internally, Scandinavia witnessed an economic, religious and social transformation aided by a boom in internal and cross-cultural communication during the Viking period. The component parts represent key attributes of Viking culture while the ship is the common feature throughout. In modern times, Viking culture has contributed significantly to the creation of cultural coherence, symbolic values and cultural identity in the Nordic region, and it continues to hold immense public appeal world-wide. The component parts demonstrate clearly the key features; expansion, cultural communication and a strong narrative tradition past and present.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The two large Jelling Mounds have retained their original form. The North mound was constructed over an impressive burial chamber of oak. The South mound contains no burial chamber. The National Museum has carried out several scientific excavations, retaining the finds and documentation in the archives. The continuous use of the cemetery and the present church, through its predecessors, extends more than 1000 years back in time.

Changes have been limited to some, inevitable, one thousand years of weathering but this has impacted on the inscriptions on the two Runic Stones and made them highly vulnerable for further erosion.

The Palisade and The Palisade Area has been investigated since 2006 and excavations will continue in 2011.

The complex is publicly owned; the complex and its surroundings as well as the setting are highly protected through legislation, zoning and nature-protection measures. The complex is accessible to the public.

In order to fulfil the protection of the values and the preservation of the site, the Town Council of Vejle cooperates with the Heritage Agency of Denmark and the National Museum in order to implement the plan for the surroundings of the monument, including the Palisade and the Palisade Area. This has started in 2010 and is due to be completed in 2013.

In order to protect the Runic Stones from further erosion and keep them in original position there is an urgent need to provide them with protection from the weather. The construction work of this protection - the result of an architectural competition in 2009 - will be completed in 2011.

Comparison with other similar properties

General:

The transnational project unites properties already appointed as Viking Age World Heritage with the newly nominated sites of Danevirke and Hedeby as well as GrobiĦa, the Danish fortresses, the Vestfold burial mounds and Hyllestad quernstone quarry. They all rank among the most important historical places in the Viking Age and have moreover, as archaeological sites, contributed essential insights into Scandinavian culture of this period. In this period the Nordic region developed from being a peripheral zone of Europe to being an integrated component of the Christian West. Of exceptional value is the good condition of preservation displayed by the project's combined monuments, ideally complemented by Old Iceland's rich supply of written records and by other outstanding archaeological finds such as the ships from Gokstad, Oseberg and Roskilde. Corresponding nominations for the period between the 8th and the 12th century AD have to date not been represented on the World Heritage List.

Jelling mounds, runic stones and church:

It is striked in the ICOMOS evaluation from 1994 that the Jelling monumental complex is beyond comparison in the region and unique in its complexity. There is no other monumental complex in Scandinavia which is comparable with that of Jelling for its symbolic value.