Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae


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(1821–85) [Bi]

Danish prehistorian, born in Jutland, who early in life developed an interest in archaeology that led him to be described as the first professional archaeologist. He studied law at Copenhagen University before assisting C. J. Thomsen with the arrangement of collections in the National Museum. He was an enthusiastic exponent of the Three Age System, deducing support for it from his examinations of stratified and associated assemblages. In 1843, when he was only 22 years old, he published Danmarks oldtid oplyst ved oldsager og gravhoje (Copenhagen), which was translated into English and published in 1849 as The primeval antiquities of Denmark (Oxford: Parkers). It was one of the first attempts to write a detailed account of the prehistory of a particular region. Worsaae travelled widely in Europe between 1843 and 1848, playing a major role in the adoption of the Three Age System in many countries. In 1846–7 he visited Britain, Ireland, and the Isle of Man, studying the remains of Viking occupations. In 1848 he was appointed Inspector‐General of Antiquities in Denmark, and in 1855 added to this an attachment to the University of Copenhagen that made him the first academic teacher of prehistory in Scandinavia. He resigned these posts in 1866 to succeeded C. J. Thomsen as Director of the National Museum in Copenhagen.


J. Wilkins, 1961, Worsaae and British antiquities. Antiquity, 35, 214–20

Subjects: Archaeology.

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