Four burial mounds in central Denmark were targeted by “professional” grave robbers who have “erased” parts of the nation’s history, cultural officials said on Friday.
Grave robbers plundered four different burial mounds in the Billund area last week that date back to well over 4,000 years ago, an archaeologist from the Danish Agency for Culture (Kulturstyrelsen) said.
“This is a huge catastrophe. The grave robbers have destroyed a piece of Danish history,” archaeologist Lars Bjarke Christensen told DR.
Because the burial mounds are protected by law, archaeologists have never explored what lies below them. But archaeologists and historians know that burial mounds were used thousands of years ago to mark the resting place of important people and that often buried beside their bodies were valuables such as tools, pottery and jewellery.
Danish Agency for Culture spokesman Peter Kronsted said that unknown grave robbers dug over one metre deep into the burial mounds in what he said was a well-planned effort.
“This appears very professional. It was systematically carried out. They were down precisely to that layer where there can be buried bodies,” Kronsted told Politiken.
The oldest of the four burial mounds is from around 3500 BC, and Kronsted estimated that a stone axe from that era could bring in up to 15,000 kroner (around $2,500).
According to Christensen, the grave robbers have wiped out the possibility of learning more about what life was like thousands of years ago.
“What we could have gleaned from these burial mounds is now erased from history,” he told DR.
Christensen said that last week’s plunder marked the first time that grave robbers targeted burial mounds since the 1890s.
The grave robberies are currently being investigated by South-East Jutland Police.