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Thread: Legendary Viking Town Unearthed

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    Senior Member Angus's Avatar
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    Legendary Viking Town Unearthed

    The hidden centre of power for the first Danish kings may well have popped up from the soil in Northern Germany. Archaeologists have surprisingly found some 200 houses and piles of weapons.

    Danish archaeologists believe they have found the remains of the fabled Viking town Sliasthorp by the Schlei bay in northern Germany, near the Danish border.

    According to texts from the 8th century, the town served as the centre of power for the first Scandinavian kings.

    But historians have doubted whether Sliasthorp even existed. This doubt is now starting to falter, as archaeologists from Aarhus University are making one amazing discovery after the other in the German soil.

    "This is huge. Wherever we dig, we find houses – we reckon there are around 200 of them,” says Andres Dobat, a lecturer in prehistoric archaeology at Aarhus University.

    “And the houses we have dug up so far were filled with finds: beads, jewellery, pieces of broken glass, axes, keys and arrowheads.”

    One of the first Scandinavian towns
    The finds support the archaeologists’ interpretation that the town belonged to the Viking elite and functioned as a military strategic centre.

    “Both Dannevirke and Hedeby – two of the world’s largest monuments from the Viking Age – could be controlled from this place,” says Dobat.

    Caltrops are very unpleasant to step on, and that makes them a useful tool in wars – and apparently they were used as early as in the Viking Age.

    “We’re still not fully aware of what significance this site has had. But our excavations have already given us a completely new perspective on many things, including the military organisation in the Viking Age and the nature of the first towns in Scandinavia.”
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    It will be interesting to see what more they're going to dig up from this place.
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    Lost Viking Military Town Unearthed in Germany?

    James Owen

    for National Geographic News

    Published July 11, 2012

    A battle-scarred, eighth-century town unearthed in northern Germany may be the earliest Viking settlement in the historical record, archaeologists announced recently.

    Ongoing excavations at Füsing (map), near the Danish border, link the site to the "lost" Viking town of Sliasthorp—first recorded in A.D. 804 by royal scribes of the powerful Frankish ruler Charlemagne.

    Used as a military base by the earliest Scandinavian kings, Sliasthorp's location was unknown until now, said dig leader Andres Dobat, of Aarhus University in Denmark.

    Whether it proves to be the historic town or not, the site offers valuable insights into military organization and town planning in the early Viking era, according to the study team.

    Some 30 buildings have been uncovered since excavations began in 2010. Aerial photographs and geomagnetic surveys indicate about 200 buildings in total.

    Chief among them is a Viking longhouse measuring more than a hundred feet (30 meters) long and 30 feet (9 meters) wide.

    The longhouse's burnt-out remains seemingly bear witness to a violent attack: Arrowheads found embedded in its charred wall posts suggest the communal building was at some point set on fire and shot at, Dobat said.

    A caltrop—a type of small, spiked iron weapon that was scattered on the ground for the enemy to step on—was also found at the entrance.

    "Maybe [the attackers] even laid out caltrops so people running out of the burning building would run into them," he said.

    Other finds include precious jewelry, glass beads, and silver coins.

    "Lost" Town Key to Viking Defense

    The town is dated to the same period as a nearby fortification known as the Danevirke, a 19-mile-long (30-kilometer-long) system of defensive earthworks built by the Danes in about A.D. 700.

    "It's clear from the relation of the site to the Danevirke structure that [the newfound town] was of great military importance as well," Dobat said.

    According to the A.D. 804 account, Sliasthorp was used as a base by the Viking king Gøtrik—also known as Godfred or Gudfred—who repaired and reestablished the Danevirke in the early 800s due to the threat posed by the northward-expanding Frankish Empire.

    "That's exactly the time that Scandinavia gets on the radar" of the Frankish scribes, Dobat noted.

    Though the town itself wasn't fortified, the site is surrounded by water and wetlands, so access was limited to a narrow land bridge.

    Small wood-and-earth dwellings, or pit houses, at the site may have served as accommodation for Viking fighters, Dobat added.

    "At times it might have been a temporary garrison town," such as when the Danevirke had to be defended, he said.

    The town may also have accommodated workers who built the huge Danevirke fortification.

    "It was a major construction work, which involved massive investment of human resources," Dobat said.

    Viking Power Base

    From the town, Viking kings or their chieftains would have controlled trade and access to the region, the study team suggests.

    Hedeby, an international port and trading center in Viking times, lay just 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) away. While the Füsing site is Scandinavian in character, the buildings down the road in Hedeby are German and Slavonic in style.

    "We have the international traders and craftsmen at one place, and the Scandinavian elite a few kilometers away," Dobat said.

    Füsing's strategic location likely means traders needed permission from Viking leaders to enter Hedeby.

    The excavations are "giving us a lot of new perspectives on the character and anatomy of these early urban communities," Dobat added.

    Mads Dengsø Jessen, of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, added that the new discoveries are important to understanding the development of Viking-era trade centers like Hedeby.

    "Prior to these excavations, we didn't really know what the background was to these rich cities," said Jessen, who isn't part of the study team.

    The Füsing site shows "there's actually a significant settlement before the ports of trade start to gain significance," he added. "There is a very deep local foundation for these international ports."

    "Local chieftains would control the area," he said. "There might have been some sort of taxation or rent that the traders paid to them."

    As for whether the newfound site is Sliasthorp, Jessen urged caution—but conceded it's "the best candidate we have for now."
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