Uncovering Lost Danish Castles: Toponomastics, archaeology, history and geophysics – assisted by moles

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Facing turbulence, strife and civil war in 14th century Denmark, local elites erected a large number of castles and fortifications. But many of these were destroyed in the – often very violent – process of reestablishing central authority towards the end of the century, and in 1396 Queen Margrethe I even issued a ban on private castles.

Fortifications were brought down in large numbers, and today we find only scattered remains. In the Region Midtjylland (Central Jutland Region) about 200 fortifications may have existed, and a selection of castle mounds in the region have now been subjected to a pilot study. Cooperation between disciplines is crucial in extracting knowledge from what little is left for each, and archaeologists, historians, name scholars and geophysicists even had help from moles unearthing brick material! Results and new challenges will be the subject of this presentation, with emphasis on the toponomastic studies.

The analyzed place-name material falls into two categories: 1) Names of the fortifications – or the ruins – themselves and 2) Names in the surroundings indicating their presence. Most often the names, especially in the latter category, have been recorded 3-500 years after the period of interest, and the meaning as well as the reference of the name elements may have changed over time. Sometimes we are even faced with sarcastic naming.

One clear example of the methodological challenges is the name element borg. It means ‘castle’ in modern Danish but has changed its meaning considerably over the ages. Another example, the element holm, simply means ‘island’ but seems closely tied to medieval (and post-medieval) castles none the less, even those not situated on islands.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date7 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2017
Event4th International Scientific Conference on Mediaeval Archaeology of the Institute of Archaeology: Fortifications, defence systems, structures and features in the past - Hrvatski institut za povijest, Opatička ul. 10, Zagreb, Croatia
Duration: 7 Jun 20179 Jun 2017
Conference number: 4


Conference4th International Scientific Conference on Mediaeval Archaeology of the Institute of Archaeology
LocationHrvatski institut za povijest, Opatička ul. 10
Internet address

ID: 179352236