History of Denmark between 401 AD - 792 AD
Germanic Iron Age is the name modern scholars give to the period 400–800 in Northern Europe, and is part of the continental Age of Migrations. The Germanic Iron Age begins with the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of the Celtic and Germanic kingdoms in Western Europe. During the decline of the Roman empire, an abundance of gold flowed into Scandinavia; there are excellent works in gold from this period. Gold was used to make scabbard mountings and bracteates.
After the Roman empire fell, gold became scarce and Scandinavians began to make objects of gilded bronze, with decorative figures of interlacing animals. In the early phase, the decorations tended to be representational—the animal figures are rather faithful anatomically Later they tended to be more abstract or symbolic—intricate interlaced shapes and limbs like those characteristic of the Viking Age that followed.
Some of the best-known remains from the period in Denmark include the "peat bog corpses", among them the well-preserved bodies of two people deliberately strangled: Tollund Man and Haraldskær Woman. You can also visit Scandinavia’s largest centre of wealth at Gudme, where hoards of gold treasure totalling 10 kg have been found.
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.