The signal made it!

05. December 2017 | The Viking Museum at Ladby

It worked! It is possible to send a message over long distances with the help of beacons with signal fires - and it is fast! Local school children were part of the project that proved this theory, when they lit signal fires from Funen’s Head (Fyns Hoved) to Odense and to Ladby on November 8.

It was a marked success when the signal fires flamed up along Odense and Kerteminde Fjords. In half an hour, all eight light stations along the route were lit. This experiment showed that it only took 10 minutes for the signal to be sent on the dark route from Fyns Hoved to Ladby. This would surely also have been true for Odense, in a time without street lights.

Part of the Vikings’ infrastructure

Beacons are signal fires placed at the highest points in the landscape. The Vikings lit these beacons when they wanted to send messages over long distances. This could be, for example, when an enemy sailed in from the Kattegat or the Great Belt, and when the chieftain returned home.

The experiment was not only conceived to test this form of communication, but also to make archaeology visible in the landscape. For example, there are finds from at least two Viking graves near Søndre Skovgyde Road near Midskov, and excavations on Munkebo Hill have revealed Viking buildings and signs of blacksmith activity there. The finds tell us that the Vikings lived and worked near these beacon locations.

Educational activities can also be seen as research

It was pupils from local schools who built the fires and stood ready to light them, and to document the whole experiment. A sense of being a part of local history created a very special atmosphere around the fires in their high places.

The pupils’ documentation of the experiment will be used in the research project “From Central Space to Urban Place”, which is funded by the Velux Foundation. Lighting the signal fires on the beacon hills will be, in that sense, both educational and research-related in one.

Now, the pupils’ documentation needs to be collected and studied. It will be exciting to see what their notations and photographs show!


Photographs by Emil Andresen and Kim Allan Kristensen 


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