Welcome to Brovold – a protected ancient monument from the early Middle Ages. The site is open to the public, but it is fenced due to grazing cattle that keep the vegetation down from May 1st to October 30th. The site consists of meadow and bog and is a nature conservation area under the Danish Nature Agency (Naturstyrelsen).
The first thing you notice is a four-metre-high rampart, which is located about 100 metres before you reach Bromølle. The earth rampart is about 250 metres with a “dry moat” in front of it. It was covered with turf on both sides. Between the rampart and the moat there was a “berm” – a flat strip of land designed to prevent falling material from filling up the moat. This structure with peat, berm and dry moat is also seen in Hedeby, Danevirke and Århus city ramparts and dates to the early Middle Ages, so from the end of the Viking Age to around 1200.
Originally, the rampart was six metres high and shaped like a semicircle. It formed a triangular, protected area, bounded by the steep slopes of the fjord to the north. In the Viking Age and the Middle Ages, Augustenborg Fjord continued all the way to Mjang Dam and formed a natural barrier for the north and southbound traffic on Als. At the village of Bro, the fjord bends almost by a right angle, and here there was a ford and a trading post within the protective rampart.
The rampart probably served as a strategic fortification which could be manned when the local people feared an invasion or raids from the Wends (Slavic tribes), a problem up until the end of the 12th century. The rampart and the surrounding medieval churches may have been part of a larger fortification of the whole of Als.
Helmold, the chronicle of the Slavs, mentions several attacks by the Wends on the Danish coasts, including an attack on Als in the middle of the 12th century:
“After almost 14 days, the army of the Slaves arrived quite unexpectedly, took possession of the whole country, laid the churches in ruins, took the island’s population prisoners and struck anyone down, who dared to defend themselves, with a sharp sword.”
After the first excavations at the site in the 1930s, it was believed that a town from the Viking Age had been found. But an excavation in the 1970s revealed that the date had to be moved a few hundred years forward, to the early Middle Ages. The dating was done using ceramic pieces, combs, keys, buckles, horseshoes, and other finds at the site. The findings indicate that the greatest activity here was from 1150 to 1200.
The excavations showed that there were a number of houses and stalls around a marketplace. The houses were small – approximately 3 by 4 meters in ground area. A total of 8 houses and 25 fireplaces were found. The size and the fact that no traces of stables were found may indicate that they served as a temporary residence. The houses, which were very uniform in appearance, were located mainly at the fjord bend in the northern part of the site, where traces of a small harbour or berth have been found.
Thousands of animal bones were also found evenly distributed across the site. This suggests that it was a marketplace which was used at a certain time of the year, perhaps during the slaughter season in late autumn. It is worth noting that, until the beginning of the last century, large cattle markets were held at Brovold.
Over the years, the wetlands east of Augustenborg Fjord were cut off from the fjord by dams and roads. Today, the stream “Strømmen” runs in the old fjord bed from Mjang Dam to Nydam and into the Little Sea (Lillehav). If you are fit, you can continue on foot to Mjang Dam, which is not covered by this guide. Follow the Augustenborg Path to the village of Bro, and turn right at Brovej. Then follow the golf course to get all the way to Mjang Dam, where you can be lucky to hear the nightingale or get a glimpse of the beautiful, bearded tit. In the sky, the reed hawk is often seen, which is slightly larger than a buzzard.