The River Kongeå as a Transportation Route
The river Kongeå was not just a border across Jutland. It was also a transportation route, which linked the sea to the inland and the region with the world. Archaeological findings show that the river Kongeå played an important role in terms of transport and trading in past times. Gredstedbro also played a key role in this area.
When the river Kongeå was to be straightened out in 1945, the workers discovered the remains of a large ship from the 600s. Some pieces were broken off and handed over to Ribe Museum, while the rest of the ship was left there. Unfortunately, the actual location of the discovery was never accurately recorded, and although archeologists have searched for the ship several times, it has never been found again.
Ships from the 600s are otherwise extremely rare and only very few have been found in Northern Europe.
Burial site from the Iron Age
Gredstedbro probably marks the limit for how far up the river Kongeå the larger ships could sail. Therefore, it is hardly a coincidence that just east of the ship, possibly the richest burial site has been found from the Roman Iron Age in Jutland. There also appears to be a ship burial. So there is no doubt of the maritime connection at the ford at Gredstedbro.
Both the Gredstedbro ship and Brokær findings can be seen at Ribe's Viking Museum.
Burial mounds show the transportation route
There are also signs further up the river that the river has once been used as an important transportation route. At the end of the Stone Age and especially in the Early Bronze Age, thousands of large burial mounds were built across the country. They were erected for society's most important people and it was a way to demonstrate their power.
The burial mounds were placed in long rows across the lanscape. This is because the mounds were laid alongside the roads in order for them to be visible. In this way, we can follow the main transportation routes in the country from more than 3,000 years ago. Today we know that Kongeåvej and the route over Foldingbro towards Ribe is more than 3,000 years old. Burial mounds from the Bronze Age show the way.
When the burial mounds follow the road, they usually follow the dry land too. Therefore, it is interesting to note that a stretch from Tobøl and towards the east, contains a fair amount of burial mounds that are located right on the Kongeå Valley. It is an unusual location, but the intention was for them to be clearly visible from the water.
If burial mounds are generally located along major transportation routes, then these burial mounds also indicate that the river Kongeå was an important transportation route. You should not overlook the significance of the fact that the burial mounds at Tobøl are among some of the largest and richest in the region.
You can see more about Skelhøj and other burial mounds in the relevant area at Sønderskov Museum.