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Hersir
Saturday, January 8th, 2011, 02:47 PM
http://www.spiegel.de/images/image-124364-panoV9-cmlf.jpg (http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-58688.html)
Photo Gallery: 8 Photos (http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-58688.html)

Ben Behnke


For a century, archeologists have been looking for a gate through a wall built by the Vikings in northern Europe. This summer, it was found. Researchers now believe the extensive barrier was built to protect an important trading route.

Their attacks out of nowhere in rapid longboats have led many to call Vikings the inventors of the Blitzkrieg. "Like wild hornets," reads an ancient description, the Vikings would plunder monasteries and entire cities from Ireland to Spain. The fact that the Vikings, who have since found their place as droll comic book characters, were also avid masons is slightly less well known.




The proof can be seen in northern Germany, not far from the North Sea-Baltic Canal. There, one can marvel at a giant, 30-kilometer (19-mile) wall which runs through the entire state of Schleswig-Holstein. The massive construction, called the Danevirke -- "work of the Danes" -- is considered the largest earthwork in northern Europe.

Archeologists have now taken a closer look at part of the construction -- a three-meter-thick (10 feet) wall from the 8th century near Hedeby (known as Haithabu in German). It is constructed entirely out of stones collected from the surrounding region. Some of them are only as big as a fist, while others weigh as much as 100 kilograms (220 pounds). "The Vikings collected millions of rocks," says archeologist Astrid Tummuscheit, who works for the state archeology office of Schleswig-Holstein.


A Customs Station, an Inn and a Bordello
At a press conference Friday, Tummuscheit's team announced a further find -- one that they are calling a "sensation." The researchers have discovered the only gate leading through the Danevirke, a five-meter (16 feet) wide portal. According to old writings, "horsemen and carts" used to stream through the gate, called "Wiglesdor." Next to it was a customs station and an inn that included a bordello.
For a century, archeologists have been d
reaming of finding this gate between Denmark and Charlemagne's empire. Experts knew its approximate location, but archeologists were not allowed to dig: an old roadhouse was in the way. "Café Truberg put the brakes on everything," says Claus von Carnap-Bornheim, head of the Schleswig Holstein archeology office.
Things only began moving forward when the café went broke and could be purchased in 2008 with help from the AP Møller-Fonds, a fund belonging to Arnold Maersk, the 97-year-old Danish owner of the world's biggest container shipping fleet. The energy company E.on Hanse, the E.on subsidiary responsible for northern Germany, paid for the building to be demolished and the archeologists could move in. The new find is certain to attract significant attention above Germany's northern border as well -- the Danevirke is seen as a national treasure in Denmark. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has visited the site, as has Prince Frederik.
New calculations as to the age of the construction indicate, however, that the earliest parts of the wall might have been built by the Frisians and not by the Danes. Archeologists now think the foundation stone might have been laid as early as the 7th century.


Known for their Pillaging Ways
The Frisians, who lived on the west coast of what is now Denmark and on a number of islands in the North Sea, were fighting for supremacy in the region with three other peoples: the Danes, the Slavs and the Saxons (see graphic). "It was the Kosovo of the early middle ages," says Carnap-Bornheim. In the end, however, it was the Danes who emerged victorious. According to contemporary records, King Göttrik of Denmark ordered in 808 that the border of his empire with that of the Saxons be fortified.
But why make such an effort? To what end did the Vikings pile up millions of tons of rocks on their border? Comparative structures like border fortifications built by the Romans or the Great Wall of China were built to protect them from marauding hordes. But in the case of the Danevirke, the builders themselves were the ones known for their pillaging ways. In the 8th century, Denmark had neither cobblestone roads nor houses made of stone. The pagan king was guarded by fanatic warriors wearing animal costumes -- so-called "berserkers."
Only their long boats were state-of-the-art -- fast and light but easily navigable. They allowed the Danes to develop a formidable network of trading routes. They plied Russian rivers all the way to Byzantium and sailed the North Atlantic to far-away Iceland, Greenland and even the northern reaches of North America.


Overland Trade


But there was an Achilles heel in this far-flung trading empire, and that was at Hedeby. In order for goods from the east to be shipped to the west, they had to cross the narrow strip of land at the base of present-day Denmark. Traders would sail inland on the Schlei Inlet, but when they got to Hedeby, their wares were offloaded and carted overland to the Treene River, 18 kilometers away. Only there could the goods be reloaded onto boats and sailed into the North Sea. For the duration of this short overland trek, the valuable goods -- including gold from Byzantium, bear pelts from Novgorod and even statues of Buddha from India -- were open to attack from the mainland. In order to protect this important trade artery, archeologists now believe, a bulwark of earth, stone and bricks was constructed. The Danevirke, in other words, was little more than a protective shield for commerce.


In the coming weeks, archeologists hope to excavate the newly discovered gate right down to the old street level. They are hoping to find old paving stones, hinges or postholes -- the remains, perhaps, of the erstwhile gate into the land of the Vikings.


Source http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,714235,00.html

velvet
Saturday, January 8th, 2011, 03:13 PM
To what end did the Vikings pile up millions of tons of rocks on their border?

For the same end every such effort is undertaken: to keep unwanted people out. And while the trade route aspect certainly was one factor, the advancing christians who became more and more aggressive certainly also played a role.

Of course, many like to ignore that the attacks against monasteries in fact were retaliation for these tries to advance christianity into Denmark, which though simply were not welcome. The allegedly groundless attacks against monasteries all around though are a clear indicator for this.

The alleged "richness" and therefore attractivity for a raid against monasteries is pretty much nonsense, because the early monasteries were mainly of Benedictinians, who had an oath to reject every material wealth. So the reason for doing so was simply that the monasteries were the well from which ever new missionaries sprung, and to stop this, the Danes and Vikings attacked the monasteries, to destroy the ever advancing outposts of something that they correctly identified as a threat to their independence and culture.

Ingvaeonic
Saturday, January 8th, 2011, 03:26 PM
Archeologists Find Gateway to the Viking Empire

Interesting article. I wonder what else they'll find in this dig.


To what end did the Vikings pile up millions of tons of rocks on their border?

For the same end every such effort is undertaken: to keep unwanted people out. And while the trade route aspect certainly was one factor, the advancing christians who became more and more aggressive certainly also played a role.

Of course, many like to ignore that the attacks against monasteries in fact were retaliation for these tries to advance christianity into Denmark, which though simply were not welcome. The allegedly groundless attacks against monasteries all around though are a clear indicator for this.

The alleged "richness" and therefore attractivity for a raid against monasteries is pretty much nonsense, because the early monasteries were mainly of Benedictinians, who had an oath to reject every material wealth. So the reason for doing so was simply that the monasteries were the well from which ever new missionaries sprung, and to stop this, the Danes and Vikings attacked the monasteries, to destroy the ever advancing outposts of something that they correctly identified as a threat to their independence and culture.

Interesting idea: Viking attacks on monasteries were in retaliation for spreading Christianity into the lands of the heathen Germanic tribes. Charlemagne's massacre of 4,500 Saxon men, women, and children to forcibly convert the Saxons to Christianity is a pretty clear example that the Frankish king was prepared to resort to conversion by the sword of heathen Germanic tribes. If memory serves me correctly, Charlemagne waged war against the Saxons for 32 years.

flâneur
Saturday, January 8th, 2011, 03:34 PM
The Romans had the right idea about christians.

Juthunge
Saturday, January 8th, 2011, 04:09 PM
The Romans had the right idea about christians.

http://www.allempires.net/uploads/20060521_111841_Teutonic_order_.jpg
I could imagine they'd beg to differ. ;)

I'm yet to be convinced that Vikings attacked monasteries and churches out of retaliation, especially those on the Isles. Are there any proofs for this?

flâneur
Saturday, January 8th, 2011, 04:41 PM
http://www.allempires.net/uploads/20060521_111841_Teutonic_order_.jpg
I could imagine they'd beg to disagree. ;)


Before they got soft i mean,;)

velvet
Saturday, January 8th, 2011, 06:59 PM
Interesting idea: Viking attacks on monasteries were in retaliation for spreading Christianity into heathen Germanic tribes. Charlemagne's massacre of 4,500 Saxon men, women, and children to forcibly convert the Saxons to Christianity is a pretty clear example that the Frankish king was prepared to resort to conversion by the sword of heathen Germanic tribes. If memory serves me correctly, Charlemagne waged war against the Saxons for 32 years.

Charlemagne wasnt the first and not the last either who resorted to such methods. There have been a long history of destruction of holy sites (and most likely at the same time also killing the priests of this site) by christian invaders, the oldest being from the 4th century from (today) French regions. The Germanic world was not that isolated as many claim, so these stories were well known. Unfortunately, most written history is from Roman, respectively christian sources, so we can only make educated guesses with the help of archeology, but that many raids were concentrated on monasteries while ignoring richer people and houses around is in itself telling.

I think the Danes, Saxons and Frisians knew exactly where the real threat is located. I mean, they didnt mind a battle, and never did they do similar "random" attacks against folks who attacked them, only against monasteries. It simply is not convincing that they did that solely out of greed for the alleged gold (which was nonexistent in Benedictinian, and also other order's monasteries anway). They had seen their neighboring tribes being subdued to christian rule and their native cult places destroyed, it is perfectly common sense then to concentrate the attacks against monasteries, where this comes from, and also, where christian power is concentrated. Around Charlemagne's time it started that bishops were granted a sort of the city major role, sometimes having entire regions under them. So this was indeed the same, a power center and the source of christian missionaries that spread out to convert. Of course you attack this center of power when you think this way you can get rid off that threat.

Adam of Bremen (around 1000CE) still mentions the hostility with which he was confronted in Frisia, and the Frisians destroyed christian buildings (the "town hall", residence of the city bishop and with that, the center of christian rule) repeatedly into the 15th century and hunted the bishops out. This hostility was already centuries old, with the Frankish empire being the traditional enemy of the Frisian empire, and while Frisia was Heathen, this also was traditionally a religious struggle, because the Frankish empire converted already around 500CE to christianity. Some Frisian history here (http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=74114). There are some hints that something similar occured also in Denmark repeatedly, that they threw out the christians and reestablished Heathendom, although the sources are even rarer than for Frisia. King Angantyr comes to mind in this connection (also somewhen around 1000CE).

Anyway, the Franks were a ruthless expansionist people, and they were christians. For anything further north there was no difference between Frankish expansionists and christian expansionists. Hence the hostile conduct against them. And it makes perfectly sense to build a wall along the borders to the meanwhile christianised Saxons, on top now under Frankish rule, therefore, to have control over who enters Denmark and what kind of ideology he would bring with him; an ideology that had neither respect for the people nor their beliefs or their culture, and called their gods demons. Who wants such people in his empire?