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Treasure Trove of Ancient Artefacts Discovered In Scandinavia’s First Viking Town

A huge variety of Viking artefacts have been uncovered by archeologists working at the ancient Danish town of Ribe, the first Viking town that was ever established in Scandinavia.

Working as part of the new Northern Emporium Project, archeologists from Aarhus University and the Southwest Jutland Museum have been conducting new research at the site and have uncovered thousands of new artefacts including coins, bones, combs, amulets, beads and even lyres that are complete with their tuning pegs.

The site at Ribe has been well established for some time but lack of funding meant that only small portions of the town have previously been excavated. An injection of funding by the Carlsberg Foundation has now allowed much wider excavations and experts are hoping to learn more about how Ribe was originally created and how it developed over the centuries.

Model of Ribe in the Viking ages, Ribe Viking Museum. Photo: Wolfgang Sauber

The town of Ribe was founded in the first decade of the eighth century and first mentioned in surviving documentation in 854. It flourished during the medieval period and became a centre of trade amongst the Vikings and their trading partners, connecting Scandinavia with Western Europe. In c.860 Archbishop Ansgar of Hamburg-Bremen sought “to bring Christianity to the North” and requested that the first Scandinavian church be built in Ribe. Recent excavations suggest a prominent Christian community lived peacefully alongside the Vikings for some considerable time.

Using 3D laser surveying techniques and scientific analysis of both the soil and discovered DNA, a new picture is developing as to how the town expanded. Archeologists now believe that it wasn’t long after the creation of the isolated Ribe that houses were built and the development of an urban community began, the inhabitants travelling vast distances to trade and network with others.

One of the ancient buildings reconstructed at the Rise Viking Center. Photo: Västgöten

Having asserted ages to the artefacts discovered, experts have determined that Ribe would have been part of the sailing revolution in Viking culture, the period c.800AD that is considered the true beginning of the Viking era.

Prior to the onset of the sailing revolution, bead makers would have had simple and temporary workshops, producing the jewellery for a few weeks at a time. By the height of the Viking era however, production ceased almost entirely and the Vikings favoured trade to import beads from the Middle East. Gems meanwhile were scarce and perhaps unpopular in Ribe, gold meanwhile being highly prized and it is believed that what precious metal did exist in the town in the early period of Ribe would have been looted from Roman graves.

One of the ancient buildings reconstructed at the Rise Viking Center. Photo: Västgöten

Archeologists have so far covered 330 feet of the town and their work is ongoing, they expect the project to continue for several years to come and will report new findings periodically.

Ribe is a popular tourist destination in Denmark and has a wealth of sights and activities for anyone with an interest in the Vikings or history in general, with the famous Viking Center being the highlight.

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Michael East View All

Michael East is a writer with a wide variety of eclectic tastes including politics, history, archaeology, professional wrestling and British science-fiction. A former Students' Union President and newspaper editor, he has studied at a variety of institutions and graduated in both history and politics.

He is interested in truth, justice and the unAmerican way. Named as TIME Person of the Year in 2006 and 2011, he is known variously as a rake, a libertine and as the King in the North... if to nobody else but himself.

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