Research on the royal site of Jelling has concentrated on the sepulchral, ceremonial and possibly religious complex ofwhich the two mo-numental banows and the picture-/runestones are the most striking elements. Jelling is situated in a region which by nature is well defined (Hvass 1991, Christiansen 1999). To the south the micro region i bounded by the Vejle rive1· mostly running in a harply et off and very wide valley which in the bottom i mar hland (Fig. 6). Here the well known bridge at Ravning Enge was built in the 10th century (Ramskou 1977). To the north-west there are the wide and marshy headwaters of the Omrne river ( the Skagerack drainage) and in the north-east the Grejs river and a north-western tributary running in an unusually dramatic and narrow valley forming a wide bow clown to Vejle by the Vejle Fiord. To the west the agricultural guality of the land deteriorates
Fig. 6. The srnrnundings of Jelling.
4 5 K Ancient woodland is indicated by ,___..___..___..___..___ the wavy lines.
rapidly and the land falls and levels away. The centrality of this microregion is high and the plateaux around Jelling and Lake Fårup control the traditional north-south communication route through Jutland. Unlike Lejre, which holds a dis-tal position the situation of Jelling is central and strategic, although rather defensive.
The landscape around Jelling itself is part of the young moraine landscape of eastern Jutland with mixed clays. The microregion defined above has a comparatively moderate relief energy and is generally characterised by a smooth profile.
Right through this massive, however, runs a tun-nel valley, the central, lower part of w hich is Lake Fårup. From the lake the Grejs river flows in a north-eastern direction into the more and more narrow valley, later to tum east and due south as already told. These qualities of the microregion
of Jelling spell out the strategic and defensive character of the location. Any aggressive force advancing from the south or landing in the inner part of Vejle Fiord is confronted with serious obstacles in the terrain always giving the defenders the advantage to charge downhill into the river valleys where it was difficult for the enemy to deploy their troops effectively. The best chances for an attack were from the north through the territories of the historical villages of Hvejsel and Vindelev. This approach could however not allow a swift surprise attack.
The historical administrative division also demonstrates this centrality of Jelling. It is the centre ofthe herred ofTorrild (14th century) and in the earlier Jallung syssel of the early 13th century, comprising the later herreds of Tprrild and Norvang, the centrality is striking. The
pre-eminence of Jelling to other historical settlement is demonstrated by the relative size of the territ ry held by the village in the old syssel.
Only the villages of Vandel in the far wc ·t and Giv kud, Thyregod and H0n ·kov to the north hold comparable acreage. In all four cases we are however in the flat, sandy and at best only moderately fertile zone of western and central Jutland. This means that Jelling probably already in the early Middle Age · wa, a considerable agrarian settlement wiLh ex epti nal re ources, the centre of the adminisLrati n of Jal/1mgsyssel and without doubt a royal domain belonging to the official prut ofthe land holdings of the Danish king . Tf we look al the hi torical administrative map of the microregion we can e tabli, h that the village territory of Jelling i urrounded by a number oftorp-villages. The majority or perhaps all seem to be of considerable age. In same cases the successive historical process of detachment from mother units and the subsequent formation of new units can be traced. In general villages with torp-names here seem to be primary in rela-tion to villages with -b!'llle/balle, -b01, -b0lling names. So the village of Hornstrup to the south-east of Lake Fårup was holding land in a long eastern strip on the southern side of the tunnel valley. The eastern parts were ceded and here the village of Rugballe and Rugballegård were formed. From the village of H!7)rup due east of JelUng certainly the village of Hopballe was ceded. To the west of Jelling there is a group of three small territories with Trollerup, the probable mother unit, in the middle. (Trollerup and T0rrild from an ecclesiastical point of view were organi-sed in the extensive parish of Norup). To the north-east also Kollerup has been subdivided through Lhe development of two manars. To the outh of Jelling, on the northern shore of Lake Fårup was the village of Fårup, the territory of which was probably Jargely intact in the form of the late estate of Fårupgård. Ollerup to the west of Lake Fårup probably also belongs to this corona of torp villages surrounding Jelling to the west, south, east and north-east. Only due north and to the north-west are there no torp-villages. At least two of these historical villages, Styvel and Hygum are presumably old villages.
In the case of Tofth0j the historical settlement
lies so far west that there is indeed enough land for an extinguished torp-village on the north-western boundary of Jelling itself. It can thus be maintained that in the transition period from the Viking Period to the Early Middle Age Jelling lies probably surrounded by a corona of at least five or six torp- villages and two villages to the north with deviating names. Are these settlements of even earli~r date? Only the names cannot prove or disprove the question.
To the south of Jelling and the adjoining settlements just discussed there are if we discount a few settlements with -balle etc. names a chain of settlements on the northern side of the important Vejle river valley with, to judge their names, a long continuity, beginning in the west with Vandel, Lihme, Ravning, Bredsten, Jennum and Hover. Quite disparate is the situation of Skibet, once a royal domain and later transfor-med to an late Medieval estate (Haraldskaer). It is situated on the valley bottom ca. 6 km upstream the Vejle river from the fiord. The river is easily navigable to this point. On the northern side of the complex around Jelling isa similar line of old settlements in N!7)rvang herred as on the southem side but the intervals between them is greater.
The chain runs Give, Givskud, (Bjerlev), Hvejsel, Vindelev, Holtum, Grejs. In the west there are Ast, Uve and Farre. Often very easily recognisable younger secondary settlements fill in same of the intermediate territory.
As it is so often the case in Denmark we · know very little about the Viking Period settle-ment of the area through archaeology. From the immediate·neighbourhood of Jelling we however have same very interesting observations. A considerable settlement has been known for same time at Trollerup to the west of J elling. The exact date of the foundation of the settlement is unfortunately not known but the main dating is Viking Period. In a directly comparable situation near the village of Hörup to the east of Jelling lies another settlement datable to the Late Iran Age and the Viking Period. In both cases we have to do with something more than a single farmstead settlement. We have good reasons to consider these settlements as precursors, each to a historical village with a -torp name. The rather absurd situation with no positive evidence
ofLate Iron Age and Viking Period settlement at Jelling has been got over. Late Iron Age settle-ment traces including houses were excavated at Skovgade in the eastern part of the small town.
The complicated situation with a rather densely built modern centre makes it unlikely that a clear picture of the royal seat like at Lejre and at Gudme will ever emerge. Hopefully however additional information will be secured through target orientated excavation programs. These archaeo-logical observations at three highly relevant locations in an important way corroborate our model of Jelling as a complex territorial structure and demonstrates its early dating. The beginnings lie definitely in the pre-Viking Period. It is consequently possible to advance the hypo-thesis that Jelling was an estate, the core of which consisted of Jelling itself and surrounding villages. Much more complicated is, as we have already noted above, the question if also other agrarian settlements in the neighbourhood were part of the estate. For strategic reasons it is reasonable to think that also the chain of settlements on the northern side of Vejle river were vital to control including the likely landing on the river at Skibet.
Estate organisation of certain settlements is perhaps exemplified by the excavations at Vor-basse only 30 km to the west of Jelling. There, with some reservation, the 8th century settle-ment lay out of the village may be interpreted as a regulated village with a village street and compact plots. Another question is however if Vorbasse was part of the royal domain. That is by no means clear and it could as well be part of some other estate organisation. The royal domain was certainly not the single estate in 8th century Jutland.