A 5,000-year-old fish fence

Fish fence in excavation

The fish fence continues on the other side of the sheet-piled 4 x 4 m box, and it will be interesting to follow its continued course during the excavations in 2014.


During the preliminary explorations, archaeologists from Museum Lolland-Falster found an approximately 5,000-year-old fish fence. Due to the incredibly good preservation conditions of the site, the impression was almost like that of a place that had only just been abandoned.


The preliminary exploration took place in sheet-piled boxes measuring 4 x 4 metres, and it therefore only provided an insight into what was found within the four walls of each box. Even so, it quickly became clear that an amazing find had been made.


The fish fence consists of sharpened, scorched sticks, mainly made from ash wood, which had been hammered vertically into the bottom of the lagoon. In between these sticks, which would have had a diameter of about 5 cm, are thinner branches placed horizontally on top of each other, thus forming a dense fence. In contrast to earlier finds of fish fences, these branches do not appear to have been woven around the ash sticks. Instead, it looks as if the horizontal sticks have been placed between two upright sticks standing close, directly opposite each other.

The museum hopes to learn more about the fish fence in connection with the ongoing excavations.


Fish fence in excavation, cleaned



Detail of fish fence in excavation



Ancient fish fences
Most often, the fish fences would consist of sharpened and scorched hazel stakes, in between which willow twigs, for instance, were intertwined. Together, they formed a dense fence, which not even eels could get through. Archaeological finds of fish fences show that they can be very long. By the island of Nekselø, for instance, it has been possible to follow a fish fence more than 200 metres out into the Great Belt.

Depending on the fish fence's position in relation to the coastline, it would have been used in two different ways: If the fence was placed in parallel to the coastline, it served as a kind of tidewater trap. At high tide, the fence was flooded by the sea, and fish could swim unhindered into shallower waters. But at low tide, they would not be able to swim back to the sea. This meant that they were trapped in large shoals behind the fence, and they could easily be 'shovelled up' by means of woven baskets or nets.

Other fish fences, such as the fish fence from Rødbyhavn, would have stood at a right angle to the coastline. This type served the same function as present-day fixed gillnets. This type led the fish along the fence and out into deeper waters, often through further fenced-off areas or traps, after which they would be gathered in so-called eelpots - a sort of wickerwork basket in which the fish would get trapped.
This form of fishery was used throughout most of antiquity and right up until around the 1900s, where the fence and the traps were, however, made of tarred nets rather than wickerwork. The eelpots, which were used for gathering the fish were made of intertwined branches and wicker up into historic times.