Viking Archaeological Site and Others Earn World Heritage Status
The Unesco World Heritage Committee is currently meeting in Bahrain, and its major order of business is “inscribing” or adding new areas of natural or cultural significance to the list of World Heritage sites. So far, reports Francesca Street at CNN, about 20 new places have been added to the list, which began in 1978 and contains 1092 with the new additions.
The additions for 2018 include Gobekli Tepe, a Neolithic temple in Turkey known for its carved skull fragments, the well-preserved ruins of the Caliphate city of Medina Azahara outside Cordoba, Spain, and the Aasivissuit-Nipisatan Inuit hunting ground in Greenland.
Another of the additions, which promises to yield more insights into Viking culture in the coming decades, is an area called the The Archaeological Border Complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke in what is now Schleswig, northern Germany, on the Jutland Peninsula. According to Kerstin Schmidt at Deutsche Welle, the Viking settlement of Haithabu, or Hedeby, located at the end of a navigable Baltic Sea inlet, was discovered in 1897 and has been under excavation since 1900. To this day, archeologists are still uncovering new artifacts and data about the people who settled the area between the ninth and eleventh centuries, when it was mostly under Danish control. According to Unesco, though, there are ancient burials and other signs that the harbor was used as far back as the first or second century A.D.
Hedeby wasn’t just any Viking town. It turns out the area near the modern day Danish border was the most significant long-distance trading center in Northern Europe during its heyday, and trade routes from all over Europe and as far away as Byzantium, now Istanbul, converged in the area. Hedeby supported 1,500 to 2,000 full-time inhabitants, besides the boatloads of traders that visited. Fully loaded merchant boats could anchor in the city’s harbor and Viking longboats could stage in the harbor in preparation for raiding season, making it an ideal hub.
But Hedeby isn’t the full story. To secure the city and the southern edge of their kingdom, butting up against the Frankish Kingdom, Danish kings also built the Danevirke, a 20.5 mile-long semi-circular wall to protect Hedeby. While the wall helped for a while, it couldn't save the trading center. The Haithabu Museum points out the city's growing wealth and prize location made it a source of contention. Rival Viking rulers fought for the town and it changed hands often. In 1066, a Slavic army invaded, sacking and burning the town, which was slowly abandoned as the Viking Age ended. Its remaining inhabitants moved to the new nearby city of Schleswig, which exists to this day.
So far, reports Schmidt, despite over a century of digging, archeologists believe they have only uncovered five percent of the Hedeby site, meaning there are lots of discoveries to come. Currently, the museum at Hedeby displays the iron, glass, precious stones and other artifacts found at the location. It also includes seven thatch-roofed buildings reconstructed using Viking methods. During the summer, the site offers demonstrations of Viking ironsmithing, baking, glass-bead-making and other skills.
Becoming a world heritage site is a great honor, but it does not automatically provide any legal protection for Hedeby and Danevirk. Instead, the designation raises the visibility and prestige of the area, which, it’s hoped, will lead to a higher level of protection and preservation. It also makes the site eligible for some financial assistance from Unesco and technical assistance in preservation.
Unesco will vote on several more Heritage sites before its meeting concludes on Wednesday, including the 139 war memorials on the Western Front of World War I in Belgium and France and Zatec, a city in the Czech Republic known as the Town of Hops for its role in producing the critical beer-making flower.
About Jason Daley
Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.
Archaeological Border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke
The archaeological site of Hedeby consists of the remains of an emporium – or trading town – containing traces of roads, buildings, cemeteries and a harbour dating back to the 1st and early 2nd millennia CE. It is enclosed by part of the Danevirke, a line of fortification crossing the Schleswig isthmus, which separates the Jutland Peninsula from the rest of the European mainland. Because of its unique situation between the Frankish Empire in the South and the Danish Kingdom in the North, Hedeby became a trading hub between continental Europe and Scandinavia and between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Because of its rich and well preserved archaeological material, it has become a key site for the interpretation of economic, social and historical developments in Europe during the Viking age.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Ensemble archéologique frontalier de Hedeby et du Danevirke
Hedeby est un site archéologique comprenant les vestiges d’un emporium - ou ville commerciale - contenant des traces de rues, de bâtiments, de cimetières et d’un port qui remontent au Ier et au début du IIe millénaire de notre ère. Il est entouré par une partie du Danevirke, une ligne de fortification traversant l’isthme du Schleswig, qui sépare la péninsule du Jutland du reste de l’Europe continentale. En raison de sa situation unique entre l’Empire franc au sud et le royaume danois au nord, Hedeby devint une plaque tournante entre l’Europe continentale et la Scandinavie, et entre la mer du Nord et la mer Baltique. En raison de son matériel archéologique riche et bien conservé, le bien est essentiel pour l’interprétation des évolutions économiques, sociales et historiques en Europe à l’ère viking.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
مجمع هيديبي ودانيفيرك الأثري الحدودي
يحتوي موقع هيديبي الأثري على بقايا مجمع تجاري أو مدينة تجارية، ومنها مثلاً: آثار لشوارع ومباني ومدافن وميناء تعود للألفية الأولى وبدايات الألفية الثانية من تاريخنا. ويحيط بالموقع جزء من خط دانيفيرك الحدودي
الدفاعي الذي يعبر مضيق شليسفيج الذي يفصل شبه جزيرة يوتلاند عن أوروبا القارية. وأصبح الهيديبي، بفضل موقعه الفريد بين الإمبراطورية الفرانكية (مملكة الفرانك) من الجنوب ومملكة الدنمارك من الشمال، نقطة عبور بين أوروبا القارية وشبه جزيرة إسكندنافيا، وبين بحر الشمال وبحر البلطيق. ويحتوي على ممتلكات أثريّة غنية في حالة جيّدة، الأمر الذي يجعله أساسياً لفهم التطورات الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والتاريخية في أوروبا في عصر الفايكنغ.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Пограничный археологический ландшафт Хедебю и Даневирке
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Conjunto arqueológico fronterizo de Hedeby y la Danevirke
Hedeby es un sitio arqueológico con vestigios de un antiguo emporio que muestran trazados de calles, así como edificios, cementerios y un puerto construidos durante el primer milenio de nuestra era y principios del segundo. El sitio está rodeado por un segmento de la Danevirke, línea de fortificaciones que atraviesa el istmo de Schleswig, cuya angostura separa la Península de Jutlandia del resto del continente europeo. Por su excepcional situación entre el Imperio Franco, al sur, y el Reino de Dinamarca, al norte, Hedeby se convirtió en un importante eje del comercio entre Escandinavia y el resto de Europa, por un lado, y entre el Mar del Norte y el Mar Báltico, por otro lado. La abundancia de material arqueológico del sitio y su excelente conservación han hecho de Hedeby un lugar esencial para poder interpretar la evolución histórica y socioeconómica de Europa en la época de los vikingos.
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Outstanding Universal Value
The trading centre of Hedeby and the defensive system of the Danevirke consist of a spatially linked complex of earthworks, walls and ditches, a settlement, cemeteries and a harbour located on the Schleswig Isthmus of the Jutland Peninsula during the 1st and early 2nd millennia CE. This singular geographic situation created a strategic link between Scandinavia, the European mainland, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. A Baltic Sea inlet, rivers and extensive boggy lowlands constricted the north-south passage to the peninsula while, at the same time, providing the shortest and safest route between the seas across a narrow land bridge.
Because of its unique situation in the borderland between the Frankish Empire in the South and the Danish kingdom in the North, Hedeby became the essential trading hub between continental Europe and Scandinavia as well as between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. For more than three centuries – throughout the entire Viking era – Hedeby was among the largest and most important among the emporia – the new trading towns that developed in Western and Northern Europe. In the 10th century, Hedeby became embedded in the defensive earthworks of the Danevirke which controlled the borderland and the portage.
The importance of the border and portage situation is showcased by large quantities of imports from distant places among the rich assemblages in Hedeby. The archaeological evidence, including large amounts of organic finds, provides an outstanding insight into the expansion of trading networks and cross-cultural exchange as well as into the development of northern European towns and the Scandinavian elites from the 8th to 11th centuries.
Attributes of the property include the archaeological remains of Hedeby including traces of roads, structures and cemeteries. In the harbour adjacent to the town are the archaeological deposits related to jetties that extended over the water and four known shipwrecks. Hedeby is surrounded by a semi-circular rampart and overlooked by a hill fort. Three runestones have been found nearby. Attributes related to the Danevirke include sections of the Crooked Wall, the Main Wall, the North Wall, the Connection Wall, the Kovirke, the offshore works, and the East Wall with either above ground vestiges or archaeological remains below the ground or underwater.
Criterion (iii): Hedeby in conjunction with the Danevirke were at the centre of the networks of mainly maritime trade and exchange between Western and Northern Europe as well as at the core of the borderland between the Danish kingdom and the Frankish empire over several centuries. They bear outstanding witness to exchange and trade between people of various cultural traditions in Europe in the 8th to 11th centuries. Because of their rich and extremely well preserved archaeological material they have become key scientific sites for the interpretation of a broad variety of economic, social and historic developments in Viking Age Europe.
Criterion (iv): Hedeby facilitated exchange between trading networks spanning the European continent, and – in conjunction with the Danevirke – controlled trading routes, the economy and the territory at the crossroads between the emerging Danish kingdom and the kingdoms and peoples of mainland Europe. The archaeological evidence highlights the significance of Hedeby and the Danevirke as an example of an urban trading centre connected with a large-scale defensive system in a borderland at the core of major trading routes over sea and land from the 8th to 11th centuries.
Hedeby and the Danevirke encompass archaeological sites and structures of the 6th to 12th centuries which represent a trading town and an associated defensive wall complex. The area includes all elements that represent the values of the property – the monuments and ramparts, locations of significance, and all the archaeological remains that embody the long history of the Hedeby-Danevirke complex. The components representing the Danevirke reflect the stages of construction and the evolution of the defensive works, as sections were reconstructed and new portions of walls were built. The buffer zone is a protective and managerial entity that preserves important viewsheds and ensures that the core elements of the area will be maintained for the future.
The conditions of authenticity of the property regarding the form, design, materials and substance of the monuments has been met. Hedeby has not been inhabited or otherwise built upon since it was abandoned, ensuring the authenticity of its archaeological deposits. Some 95% of the town remains unexcavated and the other 5% has been studied using established archaeological methods and analyses. The Danevirke has also been thoroughly documented and has only seen rebuilding at the 19th century bastions, the remains of which are clearly distinguishable from the older sections of the wall.
Protection and management requirements
The property, its buffer zone and its wider setting are protected by the legal systems in place (e.g. listed monuments, nature protection areas, landscape protection areas). In addition, the majority of sites are owned by public bodies. The values of the sites are also considered and respected in public planning processes. The various protection and planning mechanisms and acts which apply directly to the landscape are sufficient to guarantee the protection and preservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Funding for the site management of the property is provided by the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein and other public owners.
A site management plan was implemented in 2014. All the important stakeholders have committed to the aim of protecting, preserving, monitoring and promoting the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The values, attributes, integrity and authenticity of the property are safeguarded and managed within the plan. In the long run, the core management issues are to increase awareness of the value of Hedeby and the Danevirke as an archaeological landscape and to retain that value by all important stakeholders participating in its management. The management plan aims at further integrating Hedeby and the Danevirke into their cultural, social, ecological and economic settings and to increase their social value to promote sustainable development in the region. Future threats to the landscape, such as wind turbines, land use, housing developments and visitor impact, as well as natural agents such as plants and animal activities, need to be tackled collaboratively. Some specific threats such as damage to Valdemar’s Wall due to exposure or damage require monitoring and mitigation at regular intervals.
Hedeby is first mentioned in the Frankish chronicles of Einhard (804) who was in the service of Charlemagne, but was probably founded around 770. In 808 the Danish king Godfred (Lat. Godofredus) destroyed a competing Slav trade centre named Reric, and it is recorded in the Frankish chronicles that he moved the merchants from there to Hedeby. This may have provided the initial impetus for the town to develop. The same sources record that Godfred strengthened the Danevirke, an earthen wall that stretched across the south of the Jutland peninsula. The Danevirke joined the defensive walls of Hedeby to form an east-west barrier across the peninsula, from the marshes in the west to the Schlei inlet leading into the Baltic in the east.
The town itself was surrounded on its three landward sides (north, west, and south) by earthworks. At the end of the 9th century the northern and southern parts of the town were abandoned for the central section. Later a 9-metre (29-ft) high semi-circular wall was erected to guard the western approaches to the town. On the eastern side, the town was bordered by the innermost part of the Schlei inlet and the bay of Haddebyer Noor.
|based on Elsner [ 3 ]|
|793||Viking raid on Lindisfarne - traditional date for the beginning of the Viking Age.|
|804||First mention of Hedeby|
|808||Destruction of Reric and migration of tradespeople to Hedeby|
|c.850||Construction of a church at Hedeby|
|886||The Danelaw is established in England, following Viking migration|
|911||The Vikings settle in Normandy|
|948||Hedeby becomes a bishopric|
|965||Visit of Al-Tartushi to Hedeby|
|974||Hedeby falls to the Holy Roman Empire|
|983||Hedeby returns to Danish control|
|c.1000||The Viking Leif Erikson explores Vinland, probably in Newfoundland|
|1016-1042||Danish kings rule in England|
|1050||The Norwegian King Harald Hardrada destroys Hedeby|
|1066||Final destruction of Hedeby by a Slavic army.|
|1066||Traditional end of the Viking Age|
Hedeby became a principal marketplace because of its geographical location on the major trade routes between the Frankish Empire and Scandinavia (north-south), and between the Baltic and the North Sea (east-west). Between 800 and 1000 the growing economic power of the Vikings led to its dramatic expansion as a major trading centre.
The following indicate the importance achieved by the town:
- The town was described by visitors from England (Wulfstan - 9th C.) and the Mediterranean (Al-Tartushi - 10th C.).
- Hedeby became the seat of a bishop (948) and belonged to the Archbishopric of Hamburg and Bremen.
- The town minted its own coins (from 825?). (11th C.) reports that ships were sent from this portus maritimus to Slavic lands, to Sweden, Samland (Semlant) and even Greece.
A Swedish dynasty founded by Olof the Brash is said to have ruled Hedeby during the last decades of the 9th century and the first part of the 10th century. This was told to Adam of Bremen by the Danish king Sweyn Estridsson, and it is supported by three runestones found in Denmark. Two of them were raised by the mother of Olof's grandson Sigtrygg Gnupasson. The third runestone, discovered in 1796, is from Hedeby, the Stone of Eric (Swedish: Erikstenen ). It is inscribed with Norwegian-Swedish runes. It is, however, possible that Danes also occasionally wrote with this version of the younger futhark.
Life was short and crowded in Hedeby. The small houses were clustered tightly together in a grid, with the east-west streets leading down to jetties in the harbour. People rarely lived beyond 30 or 40, and archaeological research shows that their later years were often painful due to crippling diseases such as tuberculosis. [ citation needed ] Yet make-up for men and rights for women provide surprises to the modern understanding. [ 4 ]
Ibrahim ibn Yaqub al-Tartushi, a late 10th-century traveller from al-Andalus, provides one of the most colourful and often quoted descriptions of life in Hedeby. Al-Tartushi was from Cordoba in Spain, which had a significantly more wealthy and comfortable lifestyle than Hedeby. While Hedeby may have been significant by Scandinavian standards, Al-Tartushi was unimpressed:
"Slesvig (Hedeby) is a very large town at the extreme end of the world ocean. The inhabitants worship Sirius, except for a minority of Christians who have a church of their own there. He who slaughters a sacrificial animal puts up poles at the door to his courtyard and impales the animal on them, be it a piece of cattle, a ram, billygoat or a pig so that his neighbors will be aware that he is making a sacrifice in honor of his god. The town is poor in goods and riches. People eat mainly fish which exist in abundance. Babies are thrown into the sea for reasons of economy. The right to divorce belongs to the women. Artificial eye make-up is another peculiarity when they wear it their beauty never disappears, indeed it is enhanced in both men and women. Further: Never did I hear singing fouler than that of these people, it is a rumbling emanating from their throats, similar to that of a dog but even more bestial." [ 5 ]
The town was sacked in 1050 by King Harald Hardrada of Norway during a conflict with King Sweyn II of Denmark. He set the town on fire by sending several burning ships into the harbour, the charred remains of which were found at the bottom of the Schlei during recent excavations. A Norwegian skald, quoted by Snorri Sturluson, describes the sack as follows:
Burnt in anger from end to end was Hedeby [..] High rose the flames from the houses when, before dawn, I stood upon the stronghold's arm
In 1066 the town was sacked and burned by East Slavs. Following the destruction, Hedeby was slowly abandoned. People moved across the Schlei inlet, which separates the two peninsulas of Angeln and Schwansen, and founded the town of Schleswig.
Viking Archaeological Site Of Hedeby And The Danevirke Gains UNESCO World Heritage Title
For those who watch History Channel's Vikings, Hedeby is known as a location in Scandinavia that Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) ends up ruling. While this never happened in the Viking sagas that the television series is based on, Hedeby is actually a real location within the Viking world and it has now received a UNESCO World Heritage title.
According to the Smithsonian magazine, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee is currently meeting in Bahrain and have, so far, added 20 new places to their World Heritage list. This list includes "areas of natural or cultural significance."
The Viking trading center of Hedeby and its surrounding wall is one such area that the UNESCO added to their list of significant sites. According to the UNESCO website, the archaeological border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke in what is now Schleswig, northern Germany, on the Jutland Peninsula, "consists of the remains of an emporium – or trading town - containing traces of roads, buildings, cemeteries and a harbor dating back to the 1st and early 2nd millennia CE."
Hedeby was considered unique at the time of its heyday as it was situated between the Frankish Empire of the South and the Danish Kingdom in the North, making it a trading hub "between continental Europe and Scandinavia and between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea." Now, as an archaeological site, the area contains a wealth of material left behind in this trading hub that archaeologists can use to decipher "economic, social and historical developments in Europe during the Viking age."
While Hedeby was a major Viking location, according to the Smithsonian, a Slavic army invaded in 1066 and this led to the slow decline of the town. Eventually, the remaining inhabitants located to the nearby city of Schleswig, a town which still exists today.
While the town may have been abandoned as the Viking age came to a close, archaeologists still have a long way to go to uncover the entire wealth of information preserved in the archaeological finds there. Archaeologists estimate they have only uncovered 5 percent of the Hedeby site. Of these finds, iron, glass, precious stones, and other artifacts can be found at the museum at Hedeby.
According to DW, the Viking site of Hedeby is the "43rd World Heritage List site to be inscribed in Germany." Of these sites, 39 are cultural sites. The remaining three are natural sites.
Other sites that were added to the World Heritage list include the Ancient City of Qalhat in Oman, the Caliphate City of Medina Azahara in Spain, Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region of Japan, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea, and the Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site in Kenya.
It is expected that deliberations on this meeting will conclude on July 4 and the list will be finalized then. However, you can view the full list of nominees via this CNN article.
Hedeby is the Southernmost Nordic town, and played an important role as a key trading center in the viking age. It is at the crossroads of the Slien Fjord and the Baltic Sea to the East, streams that led to the Atlantic running close by to the West and the main land route, the Army Road running along the Jutland high ridge up along the Eastern side of Jutland. Hedeby is also known as Sliesthorp, Sliaswich and æt Hæthum or Haitha Town.
The city area is surrounded by a 1300 meter long city wall in a half circle around the city area. The city wall is in places still 10 meters high, and was directly connected to the wall, Danevirke, which crossed the entire peninsula of Jutland with Hedeby as the Eastern edge.
Today the city wall can be distinguished from the surroundings by the trees that grow on it. The city area is 6 hectares large. Hedeby is known to exist as early as in the 8th century. A written source tells of the arrival of King Godfred to Hedeby in 804 with his army. And in 808 King Godfred closed down a Slavic trading center called Reric and moved all its merchants to Hedeby.
The Eastern side of the city area is an arm of the Slien Fjord. This was one of the biggest ports in the Baltic Sea at the time, and had its own defensive system with a chain fencing off the harbour area from the Fjord. Today an example of the kinds of bridges that the viking ships moored at has been created to illustrate how things looked. The cows in the picture are not a recreation of how things were - Hedeby was so large and specialized a trading and crafts construction center that cows inside the Hedeby city wall would be as unusual then as cows on today's Champs Elysees in Paris would be.
One of the finds made in Hedeby is a large viking ship, which is on display at the Hedeby Museum, along with a model of the original. This is a warship, and probably not the most typical ship type that visited Hedeby, which would see a lot of cargo ships bringing and leaving with different goods, primarily from the Baltic Sea area and Russia.
This is the Southern Gate through the Hedeby city wall, as it looks today. The trees are covering the wall and the gate area and obscuring the lines and contours somewhat. Hedeby was attacked and sacked several times, demonstrating both how rich and important Hedeby was and how centrally located to the main trade routes it was.
Hedeby was built around a small stream that runs down through the area, dividing it into a Northern and a Southern section. The reconstructed houses are located just North of the stream, at its original edge.
The main roads in Hedeby ran diagonally to the stream, in North/South directions. The houses would have their narrow ends pointing toward the main road. The houses on the left are residential homes, while the house on the right was either a large residential house or a hall/gathering place.
Around 1050 Hedeby was sacked again and probably destroyed by the attackers, and it was never rebuilt. Around the same time the town of Schleswig at the Northern edge of the Slien Fjord grew steadily in size and importance. A possible reason could be that the ship traffic increasingly needed a deeper harbour than Hedeby could offer.
Description of Hedeby as written by Al Tarsushi
“Slesvig (Hedeby) is a very large town at the extreme end of the world ocean…. The inhabitants worship Sirius, except for a minority of Christians who have a church of their own there…. He who slaughters a sacrificial animal puts up poles at the door to his courtyard and impales the animal on them, be it a piece of cattle, a ram, billygoat or a pig so that his neighbours will be aware that he is making a sacrifice in honour of his god. The town is poor in goods and riches. People eat mainly fish which exist in abundance. Babies are thrown into the sea for reasons of economy. The right to divorce belongs to the women…. Artificial eye make-up is another peculiarity when they wear it their beauty never disappears, indeed it is enhanced in both men and women. Further: Never did I hear singing fouler than that of these people, it is a rumbling emanating from their throats, similar to that of a dog but even more bestial.”
The BBC has an interesting time travellers guide to Hedeby. It is quite accessible and may be appropriate reading material for some Key Stage Two pupils. You can access it here.
Do you want to find other Primary Sources for use in your lessons, or for research purposes? Visit our Primary Sources page to see which areas we currently have a range of sources for.
Please note this article is published with Brepols Publishers as a Gold Open Access article under a Creative Commons CC 4.0: BY-NC license.
The article is also freely available on the website of Brepols Publishers: https://www.brepolsonline.net/doi/abs/10.1484/J.JUA.5.121528 under this same license.
One crucial problem dealing with the earliest urban development in Scandinavia is not only the emergence of urban settlements, but their discontinuity. By examining the case studies of Birka and Hedeby, this paper does not only deal with the likely causes for the towns’ decline, but also takes a more detailed look into the closer chronological sequence of this very process. While Birka seems to become abandoned around c. AD 975, almost contemporaneous with Kaupang, Hedeby in contrast appears to prevail almost a hundred years longer. The possible reasons for this anachronism will be discussed and a so far unobserved, extensive transformation phase in Hedeby suggested.
For the next 10 years of Hedeby-research a research agenda will be developed within the newly established research cluster “Hedeby/Slesvig, Danevirke and Beyond”, which is structured around three thematic main complexes: I) Production, Distribution and Networks, II) Interaction of Economy and Lordship and III) the Power-Political Framework.
The annual Tværfaglige Vikingesymposium takes this year place at the “Wikinger Museum Haithabu” near Schleswig on the 1st of October, which we plan to be special not only due to the recent World Heritage nomination of the “Archaeological Border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke”. Instead of presenting themselves and their most recent results on Hedeby/Slesvig-research at the Vikingesymposium, the organisers have invited several external specialists to present their personal view on one of the given thematic main complexes in order to test their viability independently by their skilled expert approach. On the Tværfaglige Vikingesymposium each two speakers – based on their personal point of origin in research – are planned to give an individual paper on one and the same thematic complex summarised by two final papers from both an archaeological and a historical point of view.
Discovery of Rare Viking Dragon Pin Solves 130-Year-Old Mystery
More than 130 years ago, a Swedish farmer discovered a black dragon — or, that is, a Viking carving of one that had a pointy horn on its head and a curled mane down its neck. The soft soapstone carving looked like a mold for casting metals, but the farmer never found any of the little dragons spawned by the mold.
But where the farmer flopped, modern scientists triumphed. In 2015, a team of archaeologists in Birka, a Viking archaeological hotspot in Sweden, discovered a Viking-made metal dragon that looks almost exactly like the mold, according to a new study published online today (June 28) in the journal Antiquity.
"Of course, as an archaeologist excavating in Birka, one is aware that you definitely will make thousands of fine finds. This find, however, once identified, blew our minds!" said study senior researcher Sven Kalmring, an archaeologist at the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, Germany, and a guest researcher in the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University. [See Photos of the Newly Discovered Dragon Pin]
The dragonhead is tiny — just about 1.7 by 1.6 inches (4.5 by 4.2 centimeters), or smaller than a deck of cards. But it's very detailed its gaping mouth has pointy teeth and a tongue that almost sticks out of its snout.
This lead dragon wasn't a child's toy. Rather, it served as an ornamental head to an iron dress pin, Kalmring said. The Vikings likely chose lead because it has a low melting point and it's close in color to silver, he noted.
"Other examples of dragonhead dress pins, mostly in bronze, are known from the major centers of the Viking world, for example, from the Viking town of Hedeby in present-day northern Germany," Kalmring told Live Science. Moreover, many dragonhead dress pins have counterparts in Viking ship figureheads, called "drekar" — Old Norse for "dragon ship."
Regarding the newfound Birka dragonhead, it appears that the figurehead of the Viking Ladby ship, which dates to about A.D. 900 and was discovered in Denmark, is the closest in style. Meanwhile, the 0.4 ounces (13.5 grams) dragon pin dates to the second half of the ninth century, or A.D 850 to 900, the researchers said.
Since the pin appears to predate the boat, it's possible that the Ladby's figurehead was modeled after the Birka mold, said Kalmring and study co-researcher Lena Holmquist, an archaeologist in the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University.
Subtle differences indicate that the mold found by the Swedish farmer in 1887 isn't an exact match with the newfound pin, but the discovery of both indicates that the Vikings produced their fair share of molds and pins. However, given that these pins are rare, it's likely that they were reserved for high-status individuals, the researchers said.
But more work is needed to say so for sure. None of these dragon pins has ever been found in a Viking grave, Kalmring said, which would have marked their importance.
Even so, the finding does make one thing clear. "It confirms Birka's prime position among the major Viking-age sites in the trading network around the Baltic," Kalmring said.
Does Vikings' Kattegat Exist? Real World Location Explained
The city of Kattegat is the main setting of Vikings, which hasn't been fully historically accurate. So, is Kattegat a real place? Let's take a look.
Vikings takes place mainly in the city of Kattegat, but is it a real place? Created by Michael Hirst, Vikings debuted on History Channel in 2013 and was originally planned to be a miniseries. As the first season was very well received, there was a change of plans and it was renewed for a second one, allowing viewers to keep exploring the stories of Ragnar, Lagertha, Rollo, Floki, and more.
Vikings initially focused on legendary Norse figure Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his travels and raids alongside his Viking brothers, among those his real brother, Rollo (Clive Standen), and his best friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård). The series gradually shifted its focus to Ragnar’s sons – Bjorn, Ubbe, Hvitserk, Sigurd, and Ivar – and their own journeys, as Ragnar’s days were counted. Ragnar met his fate in season 4, and his sons have since been leading the series, especially Bjorn and Ivar. Vikings is now on its sixth and final season, with fans waiting for the final batch of episodes to be released.
Part 2 of Vikings season 6 doesn’t have a release date yet, but in the meantime, many fans are taking a look back at the series and searching for answers to some of their biggest questions about it. Among those is whether the city of Kattegat is real or not, as it has served as the main setting for the series. Kattegat was once ruled by Ragnar, with Bjorn now on the throne, so it will continue to be an important place until the series ends – but is Kattegat a real place or was it created for the series?
As it turns out, Kattegat does exist but not as the series has presented it. In Vikings, Kattegat is a city located in Norway, but in real-life, Kattegat is a completely different place, but still in the Scandinavian area. Kattegat is actually a sea area located between Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The area is bounded by the Jutlandic peninsula (part of Denmark and Germany) in the west, the Danish Straits islands of Denmark to the south, and the provinces of Västergötland, Scania, Halland, and Bohusländ in Sweden to the east. Kattegat has major ports in it, among those Gothenburg, Aarhus, Aalborg, Halmstad, and Frederikshavn. Because of this, Vikings’ Kattegat was filmed in Lough Tay, County Wicklow, Ireland, which gives the appearance the production was looking for.
Although Vikings takes many elements from Norse mythology and history, it’s not completely accurate, changing many things to better fit the story it wants to tell, but it also takes inspiration from real-life places, such as Kattegat. Given the importance of the city not only in Ragnar and Lagertha’s story but in the series in general, it has a special place in the hearts of Vikings fans, and its fate remains to be seen after that cliffhanger in part 1 of season 6.