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Long lost Viking gateway found near Schleswig

The Local · 27 Aug 2010, 14:42

Published: 27 Aug 2010 14:42 GMT+02:00

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Records of such a gateway existed, but archaeologists were due Friday to announce they had found the actual site, news magazine Der Spiegel reported. The team described the find as a ''sensation.''

The discovery, near the town of Schleswig in Germany's far north near the Danish border, reinforces the view that the Vikings were more than plunderers and pillagers, and that they also built and traded.

The gate was the only opening in the Danevirke – the 30-kilometre long wall that the feared men of the north built across the Cimbrian peninsula to separate their kingdom from what is now Germany.

The famous Nordic plunderers, who raided cities from Ireland to Spain were also prolific stone builders. The Danevirke is considered the largest archaeological site in northern Europe.

A team of archaeologists have excavated a three-metre thick section of the stone wall from the eighth century in the Haddeby district near Schleswig. Many of the stones are fist-sized but others are veritable boulders weighing 50 kilogrammes or more.

“The Vikings have gathered millions of stones,” archaeologist Astrid Tummuscheit told the magazine.

The scientist said they had found a single, a five-metre-wide door in the wall. According to chronicles, horses and wagons once poured through this gateway. It included a customs house with bawdy taverns and brothels.

For hundreds of years archaeologists had dreamed of finding this door between Denmark and the kingdom of Charlemagne, the Frankish king who built an empire that stretched across much of western and central Europe in the second half of the eighth century.

The existence of the fortifications were vaguely known. But archaeologists were prevented from digging at the site where they believed the gate stood because an old guesthouse, the Café Truberg, stood there.

“The Café Truberg blocked everything,” said state archeological head Claus von Carnap-Bornheim told Der Spiegel.

When the guesthouse went broke, the Danish shipping magnate Arnold Mærsk swooped, buying the decrepit property. The German energy firm EON Hanse paid for the demolition of the guesthouse. Then the archaeologists moved in and quickly discovered the legendary door.

Story continues below…

The Danes are equally excited by the discovery. Queen Margrethe II visited the excavation site along with Prince Frederik.

The Vikings were fighting at the time with neighbouring Slavs and Saxons for supremacy in the region.

“This was the Kosovo of the early Middle Ages,” Carnap-Bornheim told Der Spiegel.

Ultimately the Danes triumphed. Records show that in year 808 a King Göttrik decided “to protect his empire from Saxony with a wall.”

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:19 August 27, 2010 by whatzup
01:44 August 28, 2010 by erinjohn
very cool!!
05:09 August 28, 2010 by wood artist
"The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know."

President Harry Truman

06:43 August 28, 2010 by JAMessersmith
When one considers how tiny Denmark is, it's amazing they were able to hold out against the Holy Roman Empire/Germany and remain independent. As was implied with the "Kosovo of the Middle-Ages" comment, that region was no stranger to conflict, and common logic would suggest some German warlord throughout history, whether it was Charlemagne, Friedrich Barbarossa, or anyone else, would've annexed the country. But they never did.
10:21 August 28, 2010 by Fumio Hamamoto
I am a Japanese, 59 years old. In my youth and Japan, the Vikings had been known as pirates who appeared on the television program from foreign. But now I could review Vikings in those days because Vikings fought with Slavs and Saxons in order to win supremacy and also got the technology of stone walls. Nothing is so undependable as a preconceived idea as to Viking. I have thought of them as only warriors without the technology like that. Japanese Samurais as warriors also fought with neighboring Samurais due to the territory and also they have the technology of castle walls in case of war.
13:33 August 28, 2010 by antrodemus
The vikings' greatest achievements lay not only in navigation and exploration, but also in town building and the establishment of complex trade networks. What the article doesn't make clear is that one of the most important (and best preserved) towns in viking age Scandinavia, Hedeby, was situated near present day Schleswig.

Good introductory reading on the topic can be found in Else Roesdahl's book 'The Vikings'. Paperback editions are inexpensive and readily available.
20:50 August 28, 2010 by wenddiver
Most peoples's knowledge of this area's history has been twisted by nation States that came about centuries later. The Pre-Christain world of Northern Europe was much more complex than we realize. The Saxons expanded into Britain the Wends expanded into Saxony, The Danes were the super-power of their day militarily able to project power over long distances, but unable to defend eastern Denmark from the depredations of the Wends who practically de-populated the place with sea bourne raids (Jamer's gate still stands in Copenhagen from when the Wends sacked the city). Canute sat on an English thrown with a Wendish princess. Men like Harold Hardrate claimed to be king in Norway, while trying to capture the throne of England, based on claims of blood. He could also trade and campaign in the lands of the Wends and the Rus (Ukarine) based on family ties. Hardrade campaigned as far south as Byzantium, obviously his ties to the Slavic Armies were strong. I think the Icelandic Sagas are probably fairly accurate once you sort out the the stuff about Sea Hags and Trolls. I believe It wasn't until the 1970's that the Danish and Swedish Kings dropped the title King of the Wends from their Titles, Kind of amazing when you consider the lands they were claiming were in the middle of Communit East Germany!!.
22:18 August 28, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
Smart old Danes...according to the Speigel article they were protecting baggage trains of loot being trans-shipped [ Maersk's fore-runners? :-) ] from Saxon plundering.

@wenddiver .. as I recall most people with claims inside the Iron Curtain stepped lightly about them in the 1970's...Leonid Brezhnev was one war-like fellow!
17:11 August 29, 2010 by greattoucan
Hedeby was a leading trade center in period in which the wall was built, and for that reason was one of the earliest urban centers in the Scandanavian world. There are English references to the town during the time of King Alfred of England.

At the time the wall was built, the Vikings would have been in the early stages of their reknowned piracies.

@JA Messersmith: At the time of the Vikings, Denmark was far bigger than it is now. It included southern Sweden, and in the 1000's AD, most of England as well. Charlemagne only conquered the Saxons in about 780 A.D., and they provided a strong buffer between Charlemagne and the Danes, who never had a long border with Charlemagne's empire. It could well be surmised that the conquering of the Saxons by Charlemagne provoked the Scandanavians to the piracies which soon followed, even in Charlemagne's reign, and ultimately led to the breakup of the empire in the centuries following his death.

Anyway, my opinion is that we have a World Cultural Heritage site at hand, and I hope the German government and the Danish also take steps to investigate and preserve a valuable and important historical site.
00:00 August 31, 2010 by wenddiver
If that wall had not been there millions of Saxon pesants would have driven their Peasant carts built by the Trabant Company all the way to Copenhagen!
13:31 September 8, 2010 by moistvelvet
"Long lost viking gateway found", judging by the photograph I'm left wondering how on earth could they miss it for so long, it's massive!
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