Late Holocene landscape development around a Roman Iron Age mass grave, Alken Enge, Denmark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Sediments from the small lake Ilsø situated in the Illerup/Alken Enge Valley were studied in order to investigate past landscape development at the time of a probably ritual human mass burial following battle during the Roman Iron Age (ad 1–400). A pollen record from Ilsø and a number of other records from Jutland were combined using the Landscape Reconstruction Algorithm to reconstruct local vegetation changes through the last 2,800 years. These methods were supplemented by studies of catchment-related geochemistry of the Ilsø lake sediments. The results show a marked reforestation event associated with a strong decrease in erosion levels at the very beginning of the first century ad, contemporaneous with the finds of human remains at Alken Enge. Comparison with a pollen record 10 km away and with those from other sites, reveals that this reforestation occurs unusually early and rapidly, and is an unparalleled development in a Danish context. We suggest that the major landscape changes at the beginning of the Roman Iron Age and forest cover for the next few centuries comprise a possible example of ritual control of local land-use.


External organisations
  • Aarhus University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Archaeology
  • Geology


  • Erosion rates, Iron Age, Landscape Reconstruction Algorithm, Palaeolimnology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-292
Number of pages16
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number3
Early online date2016 Oct 18
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May
Publication categoryResearch