What did a Viking house look like

Haithabu and Danewerk: In the footsteps of the Vikings

Status: 06/30/2019 1:05 p.m.

Haithabu an der Schlei was the largest trading center in Northern Europe in the 10th century. Vikings lived there as craftsmen and merchants. The Danewerk border wall protected the place.

The former Viking settlement of Haithabu and the Danewerk border wall in Schleswig-Holstein are unique testimonies to the Viking Age and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2018. Haithabu is located at the end of the Schlei, south of the city of Schleswig, and was the largest trading center in Northern Europe in the 10th century. It was destroyed in 1066, the semicircular wall that was supposed to secure the city from the outside can still be seen today.

Protection and control by the Danewerk

The 3.5 kilometer long Waldemars wall from around 1160 stands south of the community of Dannewerk and is well preserved.

The Danewerk is considered the southern protective wall of the Vikings who lived in Denmark and Scandinavia. It is said to have extended from Windeby near Eckernförde via Haithabu to Hollingstedt - a good 30 kilometers. The Danewerk is well preserved in parts and consists of an earth wall, in places combined with stone walls or wooden palisades.

The first parts of the Danewerk were built in the 5th century - and later expanded again and again. The wall also served the Vikings to control trade routes and had only one official passage. It has been a listed building since 1958. In the village of Dannewerk, a museum documents the history of the Danewerk.

Haithabu - the largest trading center in Northern Europe

The Vikings, also known as Northmen, sailed in the 8th century AD with their fast, seaworthy longships to Russia, England, France and even America. They traded, but were also feared as warriors and conquerors. Many Vikings settled in the conquered areas and lived there peacefully as farmers or artisans.

Their most important settlement was in Haithabu on the Schlei - a strategically well-chosen place. The inlet connected Haithabu with the Baltic Sea, the Danewerk and the River Treene led west to the North Sea. In addition, important long-distance trade routes met there. In its heyday in the 10th century, Haithabu and its port were the largest trading centers in Northern Europe. Up to 2,000 people lived there, plus numerous visitors, especially merchants, some of whom had traveled a long way.

The Vikings as craftsmen and traders

The Vikings were skilled craftsmen. The museum in Haithabu shows examples.

The Vikings in Haithabu were traders and artisans, making, among other things, cloth, combs and tools. They also mastered blacksmithing. Finds show that they made jewelry and coveted weapons with the simple means of the time. A Viking sword was one of the most valuable things a man could own. Noble pieces were decorated with silver on the pommel and quillons, the blades hardened.

The pieces of jewelry were varied: in addition to dress pins, amulets in the form of Germanic Thor's hammers and Christian crosses were made. This is an indication that the buyers also came from other cultures and that the pagan Vikings were enterprising and tolerant.

Viking museum and reconstructed settlement

The jewelry with precious stones comes from excavations in Haithabu.

The many finds that archaeologists have discovered around Haithabu so far can be seen in the local Viking Museum. These include runestones, jewelry, tools and a long boat. Some of the houses of the Viking settlement were reconstructed in the museum's outdoor area. They are supposed to show how the Northmen once lived. The historical site in Haithabu covers a total of 26 hectares - only about five percent of this has been excavated so far, and only one percent in the area of ​​the port.

Schleswig follows Haithabu

In 1066 the history of Haithabu ended in disaster. Enemies had already attacked and sacked the city several times - the trading center became increasingly less important. Now Haithabu was burned down by Slavic attackers and had to be completely abandoned. Another settlement, only three kilometers away, took over Haithabu's legacy: Schleswig. The Vikings perished as a people. Their descendants live in Iceland and Greenland, on the Shetland Islands, in Russia, Scandinavia and also in Schleswig-Holstein.

Map: Haithabu and parts of the Danewerk

The Vikings conquer northern Germany

Haithabu, lively gateway to the world of the Middle Ages: The city of the pagan Vikings on the Schlei was the most important settlement in the north from around 770 to 1066. more

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Schleswig-Holstein Magazine | 06/30/2019 | 19:30 o'clock