We tend to conceive of the Vikings as a nomadic culture, to travel the high seas, attacking villages, and then leaving with the spoils. Yet, more and more evidence is being discovered that fundamentally changes this image of the Norse seafarers. For example, finding fortresses in Denmark suggests that there was much more to the Vikings than many folks have previously appreciated.
Archaeologists have recently published in the journal Antiquity a summary of an impressive fortress constructed in a perfectly circular arrangement. Based on their research, the fortress is believed to have been constructed by the infamous Viking and Danish King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson. This is now the fifth such castle discovered in Denmark since the 1930s. It has caused a shift in the general opinion of the Vikings by showing that during the Middle Ages, they established technologically advanced complex settlements.
The most recent fortress, which has been given the name Borgring, was found on the island of Zealand just south of Copenhagen. The land has been plowed and tilled for centuries, so there is little to see at a ground level other than a few mounds. However, aerial surveys using LIDAR have clearly shown the remains of the ring fortress in remarkable detail. The researchers have been able to unearth a whole host of amazing artifacts by using this as a template. These artifacts reveal just how complicated this structure was and what the culture and society must have been like during this time period.
The LIDAR clearly shows the ancient fortress. Goodchild et al. 2017
The ramparts were constructed from earth and timber and had a diameter of 144 meters. The perfect circular arrangement of the ramparts displays an amazing level of skill, especially considering that it was unnecessary. In addition to finding jewelry and a remarkably well-preserved carpenter’s box complete with planes and chisels, the researchers discovered paved wooden roads and four gates during their study. The fortifications were built sometime between 970 and 980 CE, according to the tree rings in the timbers, which were during the tenure of Harald Bluetooth.
However, the evidence points to the fact that the fortress was destroyed violently. The archaeologists discovered evidence suggesting that the structure may have been the target of an assault, including the fact that two entrances had been significantly damaged by burn. It is not known who was responsible for the destruction of the fortification; however, Harald Bluetooth did not accede to the throne before even gaining the anger of at least some people.
The structure probably contained a significant settlement. Goodchild et al. 2017
Because the fortress is situated close to the cases reported point of Sweden, the researchers believe that an old rivalry with Swedish Vikings may have played a role in its foundation. Not only that, but there are reports that only a few decades later, the Danish and the Swedish battled it out on the icy Baltic Sea that divides the two nations, not too far from the pillaged stronghold.
This is just conjecture right now, but with time and more digs, perhaps we’ll learn more about what happened to this once-impressive fortification.
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