The Project  
 Projects of the Partners  
 The Forum  
 Virtual Exhibition  

Culture 2000

European Union


Gudme - a Focus of Archaeological Research since 1833

by Henrik Thrane


The story began in april 1833. One of the outfields of the manor of Broholm was cleared of shrubbery in 1829 and during the eighth ploughing the plough hit something that made the ploughman turn it over and remove the obstacle with the ploughstake. When he passed the spot ploughing the next furrow, he saw the thing gleaming in the sun. The soil was searched and more was found, so that the overseer was able to return to the manor with six gold rings in his pocket which he presented to the owner, the widow Mrs. Edel Sehested. Her son passed by, and when he had learned why the ploughmen were idle, discussing the event, hurried back to the manor to inspect the rings. By weighing them in water he discovered that they were golden and immediately returned to the field where he managed to dig up 20 more objects. More were found more leisurely afterwards and further rings appeared from various pockets, including those of the overseer, who was responsible for one neck ring and two fragments. Another ring had been found a couple of years earlier and yet another appeared some years after the great discovery. The latest finds have been made in the 1980es.

This great treasure from the field Enemærket is known as the Broholm hoard and its 49 objects were handed over by Mrs. Sehested, accompagnied by her son, to C.J.Thomsen at Christiansborg where it became one of the prime exhibits of the new museum.

Apart from the lost gold horns and a huge Viking Age ring from Tissø the Broholm treasure with its more than four kilos gold remains the heaviest gold treasure that we know. It will continue to be an important piece in the Gudme mosaic independant of its interpretation as a royal treasure or otherwise.

Actually the saga began 1826 when the Elsehoved treasure was discovered. Its giant fibula remains one of the chefs d'oevre of Germanic animal style I but neither this set of female ornaments nor earlier gold finds became known to the proper authorities in time to provoke any archaeological reaction. The story of the lies about the Elsehoved find illustrate the provinciality of Fyn at that period. The antiquarians only occasionally penetrated into the rural remoteness. To them Copenhagen and the immediate neigbourhood was where things happened.

One of the great figures in Danish archaeology

The young man who accompagnied his remarkable mother to Copenhagen to hand over the treasure according to the 1752 law was Frederik Sehested. He was born 1813, six years before the death of his father and inherited the estate six years after the gold rush at Enemærket. Frederik Sehested is the hero of the Gudme saga, a remarkable man by any standard, and one of the great figures in Danish archaeology. He deserves a biography, but due to his manner of keeping all his papers, it will be quite a job to do his life; some day I hope to be able to find the time.

Sehested cultivated Tangegård from woodland, carving out an independant existence for himself, but only a few months after his mandage he inherited the estate and had to devote his energy to developing Broholm into the model estate that it soon became.

Forestry was one of Sehested's strong sides, but what wasn't? He wrote pamphlets on the land reforms of the day - revealing him as a staunch liberal - and was a member of county council and parliament, created and headed several local insurance and bank-ing enterprises and financed the development of the local fishermen's hamlet at Lundeborg into a small harbour. He joined a volunteer corps of rifles during the rebellion in 1848 where he got the reputation of being shrewd and untiring.

While it was mathematics, physics and astronomy which interested him during the early years, archaeology gradually became his dominating hobby. During the 1850'es he noticed pits with black fill when fields were drained, including Møllegårdsmarken in 1860. By 1860 he had sufficient material to present to the Scandinavian Scientists' meeting in Copenhagen, introducing the ubiquitous cooking pits to Danish archaeologists - who paid little attention to this new phenomenon. The following years saw him developing his interest and by 1875 he began his major archaeological operation with the drive and effort which seems to have been one of Frederik Sehested's main characteristics.

1875 also saw the first proper excavations around Broholm. Sehested had engaged the young Henry Petersen to be his private archaeologist and they excavated Bronze Age barrows in extenso with important results, dolmens and three Iron Age cemeteries, including the extraordinary group at Langå and Møllegårdsmarken as well as the first Iron Age settlement pits - Maaltidspladser - reproducing the sections. Sehested participated in archaeological congresses, where his peers went to the spas.

The farmers of the estate and their families were engaged in the production not of grain but of antiquities. During two summers so many flints were found, that the operation had to stop. So much had been collected that a special museum was built and opened in 1878.

By 1878 Sehested was able to present a list of no less than 29 gold finds, most of which were single, and of which nine were only known through local lore. It is impossible to decide whether they all date from the Iron Age, but several of them no doubt do so. Incidentally, the next century was not able to add much, although more gold came from Egsmosegård and the weighty ring hoard from Lillesø could be added to the list. It seems strange that so little should appear during 100 years when so much was found during 45 years, but we do well to remember that the Gudme area relapsed into the oblivion that it had enjoyed since the renaissance.

The earliest experimental archeology in Europe

The publication of the observations must have been part of the original plan and a magnificent volume promptly appeared in 1878 which was the year of triumph for Sehested. The Nordic archaeological tycoons Oscar Montelius and Sophus Muller plus the other great contemporary amateur archaeologist Emil Vedel were invited to Broholm where they were presented with excavations at Møllegårdsmarken and shown the new museum and timber for a small house being worked with flint axes and chisels etc. The latter was what impressed Montelius most.

The house was finished in 1879 and now stands in the park of Hollufgård as a permanent reminder of the long Danish tradition in experimental archaeology.

Drilling holes in his stone axes

This combination of scholarly work with a practical approach is very typical of Sehested, who was raised in an environment where practical skills and work provided the daily bread. He was not content with collecting hundreds of flints and describing them. He wanted to know what they were used for and how Neolithic man was able to drill holes in his stone axes.The experiments were intended to form part of a great project for the characterisation and publication of a corpus of Danish stone (read flint) tools, which occupied Sehested during his last years. When discouraged by some of his archaeological advisors, Sehested grew bitter. In august 1881 he wrote to his collaborator and friend Henry Petersen: "My archaeological enthusiasm is paralysed."

After a short illness Frederik Sehested died on january the 14th 1882, a month before his 69th birthday, where he was born - at Broholm. His family and Henry Petersen produced a second volume "Archæologiske Undersøgelser" printed in 1884, presenting the experiments plus the excavations carried out after the first book, namely 281 additional graves from Mølle-gårdsmarken, 2 more gold finds and the first plan of a Celtic field from Denmark. It had been found in the forest estate Addithus in Central Jutland which Sehested bought in 1870 - to indulge in his old passion for the National beech wood?



The first archaeological boom

This first archaeological boom thus ended in 1882. 45 tumuli had been excavated, excluding the ones from Addit, 45 megalithic tombs had been registrered, 407 Iron Age graves had been excavated or saved and 72409 flint and stone artefacts had been collected. It cannot surprise that the Sehested family turned to other interests when it had paid homage to the patriarch by the 1884 publication. His widow and later his heir continued to send the occasional gold find to the National Museum, but otherwise archaeology was very much a thing of the past.


First steps in the experimental archaeology: The tools for building the house
Presentation of the story of Gudme by the museums of Odense/DK


F. Sehested, 1860: Forhandlinger ved de skandinaviske Naturforskeres ottende Møde i København 8.-l4. juli 1860, København 1860;

F. Sehested, Fortidsminder og Oldsager fra Egnen om Broholm. Kjøbenhavn 1878;

F. Sehested, Archæologiske Undersøgelser. Kjøbenhavn 1884;

Henrik Thrane, Gudme - a Focus of Archaeological Research 1833-1987. In: P. O. Nielsen, K. Randsborg und H. Thrane, The Archaeology of Gudme and Lundeborg. Papers presented at a Conference at Svendborg, October 1991, Kobenhavn 1994, 8-15

design: Kai M. Wurm
menu back print