A German-Danish team of archaeologists discovered well-preserved and previously unknown remains of the Ox Trail during excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Danewerk. The wagon tracks, visible as gray discoloration, on the historic main traffic route between Viborg in northern Denmark and Wedel near Hamburg were partly found under building foundations that date back at least to the 17th century, as the Archaeological State Office announced on Tuesday in Dannewerk. "In the area under the former Rothenkrug, we found both small remnants of individual lanes and, further west, a piece of a wide roadway, which we will examine in the coming weeks," said Astrid Tummuscheit, head of the excavation.
It is the first time that an untouched older section of the Ox Trail can be archaeologically examined in this way, Tummuscheit said. The other, exposed sections of the path in Schleswig-Holstein were still used in later centuries.
Frauke Witte from the Danish Museum Sønderjylland said that the location immediately in front of the gate opening in the Danewerk makes this find particularly interesting: "We can now see that the Ochsenweg ran west of the present Ochsenweg towards the culvert in the wall, at least for a part of the time. This is an important addition to the knowledge we have gained in connection with the discovery and excavation of the gate opening.” Further investigations should now show how old the discovered wagon tracks are exactly.
The current excavation is the largest ever at Danewerk. It takes place on the site of the demolished Danevirke Museum and the also demolished Gasthaus Rothenkrug and will be completed in September. On an area of around 2000 square meters, traces from the Middle Ages and modern times are searched for here. The new Danevirke Museum is to be built on the site. According to earlier information, it is expected to open at the end of 2024. During the transition period, the Danevirke Museum will be housed in a visitor center in the car park opposite the current location.
Since the current excavation began on May 2, the archaeologists and their team have made other finds in addition to the wagon tracks - including high-quality glassware, ceramics, window glass, coins, remains of tobacco pipes, animal bones and large quantities of oyster shells. "The findings suggest that a socially high-ranking audience had a good time here," said Tummuscheit. Even in the centuries when the Danewerk had no military significance for long stretches, this place on the Ochsenweg was a special one.
The historical border wall Danewerk is an important monument, especially for the Danes. It was probably built by the Danes in the fifth and sixth centuries to mark the southern border of their territory. There was only one gate in the wall. This made it possible to control who came into the country by land. In the Middle Ages, the Danewerk consisted of earthworks, walls, ditches and a barrier in the Schlei.
The complex has been rebuilt and expanded several times over the centuries. In the Viking Age, the Danewerk also served to secure the trade routes to Haithabu, the northern European Viking metropolis that arose near the Danewerk. Both places together were declared a World Heritage Site in 2018. According to the State Office, the Danewerk is the largest archaeological monument in Northern Europe. It is a system of ramparts, walls and ditches with a total length of around 30 kilometers.