History and museums
Moesgaard Museum (MOMU) is a Danish regional museum dedicated to archaeology and ethnography. It is located in Højbjerg, a suburb of Aarhus, Denmark.
MOMU cooperates with the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology and Anthropology at Aarhus University.
The main part of the museum’s archaeological collection is of Danish origin. In addition, the Ethnographical Collections contain almost 50.000 artefacts from all over the world. They are used both for research and exhibitions. The collection also contains photographic material, films and sound recordings.
The museum’s exhibitions presents several unrivalled archaeological findings from Denmark’s ancient past, amongst others the Grauballe Man, the world’s best preserved bog body and the large ritual weapon caches from Illerup Ådal, testifying the power struggles and warfare of the Iron Age. The collection also contains seven local rune stones. Temporary exhibitions at the museum also display examples of the world's cultural heritage.
As an open-air museum, the landscape surrounding Moesgård Museum displays different epochs and eras of Denmark's past, from ancient to modern times. A larger part of the woodlands represents different prehistoric climatic epochs of the Holocene, and a number of reconstructed buildings are strewn across the landscape, stretching all the way to the beach and shores in the east. The buildings include several relocated tumuli from the neolithic and the Bronze Age, houses from the early Iron Age and Viking Age, and several Medieval buildings, some of which are still in use.
Just south of the new museum building, two houses and a stave-church from the Viking Period have been built. First is a house from the Viking Age town of Hedeby near Schleswig, Germany. It has been dated around 870 AD and is interpreted as the home of a craftsman’s or trader’s family. The other house is a reconstruction of a pit-house Viking Age Aarhus, from about 900 AD. Pit-houses are small huts, dug half-way into the ground, which could be used as dwellings, workshops or storerooms.
On a small hill behind the houses a stave-church has been erected with a bell frame. None of the original stave-churches have survived, but the floor and post-holes from a stave-church were excavated under the present Hørning Church near Randers in 1960. Compared to the stone churches it was quite a small building, 31 feet long and 15 feet wide. Also preserved from the stave-church in Hørning was a portion of the so-called hammer-beam, the horizontal beam just under the roof-projection, which held the vertical planks. The "Hørning-plank" was found as early as 1887 during a restoration of the walling of the present church. It can be seen in the Danish National Museum. On the outside the hammer-beam from Hørning was ornamented with the writhing serpents characteristic of the Late Viking Period. On the basis of the growth-rings in the timber, it has been dated to about the year 1060, to the transition from the Viking Age Period to the Middle Ages.
At the excavation site in Hørning, traces of a bell frame were discovered. This has also been reconstructed just in front of the church entrance. The church bell has been cast at Moesgaard, following a 900-year-old description of bell casting. It is a replica of the almost 800-year-old bell from Smollerup church near Viborg.
The estate of Moesgaard covers 100 hectares of park, forest, open fields and shoreline, and extends from the museum buildings down to the Bay of Aarhus.
In the park at the manor one can find a house from Thailand. It is a donation to Moesgaard Museum, given by the government of Thailand in 1975. The house is around 100 years old and originally from Ayutthaya, the old capital of Siam, 200 km north of Bangkok. The house was once a part of a larger building complex.
From the manor park, a 4 km long Prehistoric Track starts off, running through the estate all the way to the sea in the east. A short walk from the park, an Iron Age house has been reconstructed. It is a typical farmhouse from 200-300 AD, based on a settlement at Tofting near Husum, just south of the Danish border. This house-type was common throughout Northern Europe in its day. The building is 16 m long and both humans and cattle lived under the same roof.
The open fields and slopes below the manor are grazed by sheep, goats and horses, and present a handful of ancient tumuli. In the forest of Moesgaard Skov further east, it is possible to visit the old timber-framed Medieval water mill of Skovmøllen, powered by the stream of Giber Å. The first reference to the mill dates from 1590 but all the buildings were rebuilt and an overshot mill-wheel was installed in 1785. An extra storey was added to the mill house in 1852. Production ceased in 1910, but the mill is still in full working order as both a saw and grainary mill. The milling business was initiated again by a team of volunteers in 2000 and guided tours are held throughout the year. There is a restaurant in the attached buildings. Skovmøllen has a long history of recreational activities.
Near Moesgaard Beach is a reconstruction of a Stone Age cult-building from the Funnel Beaker Period, around 2500 BC. The original house was located near two dolmens and a passage grave at Tustrup in Northern Djursland. It is believed that the building served religious ceremonies – perhaps as a resting place for the dead, until the flesh had decayed and the bones could be moved into surrounding graves. The original wooden building burnt to the ground at some point, and parts of the roof sheeting of birch-bark with turf cover collapsed inwards with the burnt wall planking. 26 richly decorated offering vessels and pottery ladles representing the golden age of pottery in Danish prehistory were found inside the collapsed building. The ceramics can be seen on display at the Moesgaard Museum.
Further east, at the mouth of the Giber Å stream on the beach, is an old fisherman's house from 1856. The residents used to serve the estate until 1935, when Aarhus Municipality acquired the land.
Moesgård beach is popular in the summer with people looking for a sunbath, recreational watersport activities or a place for picnics. Public toilets and a kiosk selling ice-cream and fast food can be found here.