The Prehistoric Trail at Moesgaard is a 4 km (2.5 mi) walking trail near Aarhus, Denmark that runs from the Moesgård Manor to the beach and back. Along the route are several reconstructed prehistoric buildings and burial mounds.
The Prehistoric Trail transects most of the 100 hectare area of garden, park, forest, fields and beaches that is owned by the Moesgaard Museum. Along the route are several reconstructed prehistoric buildings and burial mounds. The trail also passes through the Prehistoric Forest, an area divided into sections representing the successive forest types of Denmark since the ice sheets of the last ice age retreated. The idea for this unique trail was conceived in the 1950s by renowned Danish archaeologist P.V. Glob. Points of interests - both historical and biological - are explained on information boards along the trail.
A pamphlet published by the museum in 1973, describes the trail this way : "The Prehistoric Trail leads you through a piece of the most beautiful nature in Denmark."
For the most part the the trail is marked by large white stones adorned with a red dot. It is an easy walk although parts of the trail is not suited for strollers or people with mobility difficulties. Public toilets can be found at Moesgaard Museum (free) and at the beach.
This walk assumes a start at the Moesgård Manor near the Moesgaard Museum but you can also start at Moesgård Beach. Moesgaard Museum is located about 10 kilometers south of Denmark’s second-largest city Aarhus and is easy to reach both by car and bus. There are city buses (yellow) from the center of Aarhus stopping at 1 Moesgaard Museum (line 18) and at 2 Moesgård Beach (line 31, April - September).
- The first section of The Prehistoric Trail leads you through the baroque-styled Manor Park, laid out around the same time Moesgaard Manor was constructed (in the 1770's). Many of the trees are more than 200 years old. You will pass a newly established orchard before reaching the field shown on maps as "Jens Michelsens toft". In this field called 1 The Burial Chamber Collection are several stone burial chambers from various parts of Denmark illustrating how traditions of burial changed over time during the Stone and Bronze Ages. These were relocated here and carefully reconstructed when their original sites were lost to development. The field is grazed by Gotland sheep in the summer to keep the vegetation around the burial chambers down.
- Leaving the field and crossing the road you enter the surrounding beech woodland. Here it is possible (but not easy) to spot well-preserved remains of 2 ridge-and-furrow field systems from the Middel Age. This type of cultivation with wheel ploughs was used until the late 18th century.
- The next points of interest along the trail is a 300-year old 3 water mill by the Giber Stream, which has now been converted into a restaurant named "Restaurant Skovmøllen". Shortly thereafter you reach the ruin of a long barrow from the Funnel Beaker Culture period before the route leads into the ancient woodland starting with a 4 forest swamp, which is crossed on a footbridge. Among the Red Alders that are adapted to growing with their roots in water are tussocks rich in herbs such as Marsh Marigold and Lady's Smock.
- The trail continues through The Prehistoric Forest, which the museum planted in 1964 to illustrate the ecological succession in the forests of Denmark from the Stone Age until today. Thus the forest is divided into the periods Birch and Pine period (9550-8250 BC), Hazel and Pine (8250-7500 BC), Early Lime (7000-3800 BC), Late Lime (3800-700 BC) og Beech (700 BC - today). The trail exits the Beech period close to the beach.
- From the beach the trail leads back west through the forest past a couple of reconstructed houses. First you will passe 5 The Tustrup House, which was originally located in the town of Tustrup on the peninsula of Djursland north of Aarhus. This house was probably used for religious ceremonies and perhaps for storing dead bodies until all that remained was bones, which could then be placed in a passage grave or stone barrow.
- After walking back through the forest along the Giber Stream you will then pass a reconstructed 6 Iron Age house from 200-300 AD. It looks a little dilapidated, so probably best not to venture too close.
- The Prehistoric Trail ends back at the Manor, which nowadays houses the museum administration, Aarhus University offices and student facilities. There is no public access to these buildings. However just across the road is the last point of interest on The Prehistoric Trail, the reconstructed 7 stave church from a town about 35 km to the north of Moesgaard.
The trail finishes just below the new (2014) Moesgaard Museum which is well worth a visit. Do keep in mind that you will probably need to spend at least 2 or 3 hours there to see everything on exhibition. If you are not up for that after walking The Prehistoric Trail, you should at least climb the roof to enjoy the nice view over the forest and sea. The museum has a café should you need some refreshments.