The burial mounds in Gl. Hestehave
In the forests east of Svendborg, many traces of the Bronze Age religious world are found, which is among the most colorful aspects of Danish prehistory.
They danced clad in cord skirts to the sound of lur horns, told stories of the sun traveling across the sky, and offered ancient objects to the gods.
In the forests east of Svendborg (Old Hestehave, Stevneskov, and Hallindskov), situated on a rolling plain from the young Baltic Ice Age, there are many traces of Bronze Age religious rituals. Most prominent are the 23 visible burial mounds erected between 1800 and 1000 BCE. The deceased were buried in oak coffins with personal belongings such as jewelry and weapons.
But there are also traces of two other religious rituals in Old Hestehave. The first is a stone with petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are images or symbols carved into rock surfaces or stone blocks. The word petroglyph comes from the Swedish 'hällristning,' where 'häll' means 'flat stone.'
The local nickname for the stone with petroglyphs is the Æbleskivesten due to its 105 round depressions. These depressions on the stone are called cup marks, one of the most common types of petroglyphs in Denmark. Their exact purpose is still a mystery but falls within the religious sphere of the Bronze Age.
The second trace of religious rituals is not visible at the site today, but in the early Bronze Age, a harness for a horse was sacrificed here. The harness consisted of 25 round bronze plates originating from Central Europe.
It was not only in the early Bronze Age that Old Hestehave was used for burials. Already in the late Neolithic period (approximately 4000-1700 BCE), burials took place in the area. In a cist made of flat stones, two skeletons were found in separate chambers. However, these skeletons were not the first in the cist. The excavation revealed that those buried in the cist earlier had simply been pushed aside to make room for the new ones. This is not an uncommon phenomenon when looking at other cists or dolmens and passage graves from the late Neolithic period.