View Full Version : Viking Defences and Fortification

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005, 02:30 PM
By the middle of the tenth century, Viking raids in Europe were no longer the source of easy profit they had been, many places having been fortified against attack. Ironically, Scanclinavian market places had themselves become likely targets for raiders as they were seldom fortified in the early years. It was it about this time that ramparts were built around Hedeby, Ribe, Birka and Västergarn.

Strongly built underwater palisades, and the blocking of channels with sunken ships and other obstacles were designed to deter sea pirates from attacking Scandinavian coastal towns and settlements. Recently, several of these underwater defences have been investigated, for instance at Birka and Hedeby. Underwater palisades are also known from elsewhere in the Viking world, probably designed to prevent Viking raiders from journeying up major rivers into the heart of central Europe.

People living in the countryside also needed to protect themselves from Baltic Sea raiders and many fortifications were erected on hilltops and in wooded areas in prehistoric times. The largest hillfort of this type in the Nordic countries is Torsburgen on Gotland, which was reinforced and repaired in the Viking Age.
Danavirke during the war 1864

One of the most remarkable of Viking Age constructions is the Danevirke, a massive earthen and timber wall built across the southern part of the Jutland peninsula and directlv connected to the Viking Age town of Hedeby. The wall was mainly in use between AD 737 and the thirteenth century, but it was re-fortificd in 1864 and again in the Second World War.

In the second half of the tenth century, four extraordinary circular fortresses were built in Denmark during the reign of King Harald Bluetooth (Trelleborg, Fyrkat, Aggersborg and Nonnebakken); the site of a fifth has recentlv been discovered at another Trelleborg, in Skåne, southern Sweden, which was under Danish control at this time. All the forts were built with great precision. The interior was surrounded by an earth and timber rampart with an external ditch, and divided into quarters by streets which crossed at right angles at the centre of the circle. Long buildings with curved sides were positioned within each quarter.

The similarity of the forts' plans strongly suggests that they were commissioned by a single person, probably the king. These were almost certainly regional bases of royal power enabling the king to control his own population locally. They were only occupied for a very short period and then abandoned, never to be reoccupied. The Scandinavian Kolbein Hruga's castle on the island of Wyre, Orkney, dating to the mid twelfth century (known as the late Norse period in Britain), is the earliest stone built castle in Scotland.

Source (http://viking.hgo.se/Files/VikHeri/Viking_Age/defences.html)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005, 03:36 PM
Danevirke defended Denmark, and in a way Norway and Sweden too, against the Prussians, Franks and Austrians. So it's very sad that Danevirke is located in today's Germany. I'd have been a triumph to my ancestors if Danevirke still stod on Danish soil.

Great read BW. ;) This just shows how important fortifications were. Defend your people, land and customs or loose all.