Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Letter from Denmark: Hamlet Had It Wrong Volume 53 Number 1, January/February 2000
by Elizabeth J. Himelfarb

[image] Left, the clocks turn back to 1534, and a courtly quartet makes its way to the coronation of Christian III. Right, a maiden breaks bread at the Horsens festival. (Elizabeth J. Himelfarb)[image]

From Copenhagen to Elsinore and from Roskilde to Ribe, I quest for a taste of the Middle Ages. Traveling by train, often hitting two cities a day, I savor Denmark's bold approach to recounting its history, seen in innovative building projects, exhibits, and reconstructions. I come closest to understanding medieval life in the town of Horsens, where a medieval festival is underway. Crowds move cheek by jowl. Bagpipers play and the crowd claps in time, feet stomp and ankle bells jangle. Peasants brush by kings; knights and nuns hobnob with merchants, whose tents display dried nosegays, home remedies, leather shoes, new-spun wool, knives, and armor. Revelers line up for chicken legs, fresh brown bread, shrimp and snails, dried fish, and wine. Ale flows freely into clay goblets. These were not the Dark Ages.

Elizabeth J. Himelfarb is an assistant editor of ARCHAEOLOGY. She thanks the Danish Tourist Board and Middelalder '99.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America