Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


10.5.15
  Vikings and Before

The second introductory post of my journey to Lübeck and Schleswig: The open air museum in Haithabu near Schleswig - on the peninsula that separates the Baltic Sea from the North Sea - has been on my list for some years. Because Vikings. *grin* Actually, the site is of historical interest beyond some reconstruced houses and shiny finds. King Heinrich the Fowler conquered the town, then in Danish possession, in 934, and his sons kept having trouble with the Danes in the years to come not least because of the importance of Haithabu.

The reconstructed Viking village of Haithabu seen from the wall

Haithabu, also known as Hedeby in ancient sources, was a major trade settlement from the 8th to the 11th century. A new settlement evolved on the other side of the river Schlei (the present day town of Schleswig) after the place was abandonend, therefore the remains of Haithabu have never been built over. Excavations take place since the early 20th century and recently some houses have been reconstructed as open air museum.

Open air musem Haithabu, seen from the entrance

There is an exhibition as well, and more finds are on display in the Archaeological Museum in Gottorf Palace in Schleswig. When I was there, some reenactors showed old arts like basket weaving, naalbinding and brass casting, as well as an archery demonstration. It was a lot of fun and half the people were even dressed in Viking garments. Schleswig is not far from the Danish border; and the Danes seem to be even more Viking crazy than the Germans.

Haithabu, interior of one of the houses

Haithabu's situation on an isthmus on the peninsula between the Baltic and the North Sea, with only 18 miles of land passage between ther rivers Schlei (flowing into the Baltic Sea) and Treene / Eider (entering into the North Sea), was an ideal spot for a trade center. Once the entire walled in semicircle was full of buildings. No wonder the place was contested between the kings of Denmark and Germany in the 10th century.

Danevirke, remains of Waldemar's Wall

The Danevirke was a set of walls across the isthmus. The first ones date to the 8th century or maybe earlier, while the latest addition was erected under Valdemar the Great in the 12th century, to protect the kingdom of the Danes. The interesting feature is that he used a double set of brick walls filled with ashlar. The wall was again used in the German-Danish war in 1864, when additional redoubts were built.

The famous Nydam Ship

We go back in time a bit. The famous Nydam ship dates to 320 AD. It has been discovered in a bog in the 19th century and is the oldest German seagoing ship to be found so far. It is very well preserved - as are other sacrificial finds in the same bog which can be seen in the museum. That one is a place to get lost in if you're interested in things from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages. And photographing was allowed, yay.

Bog body; the 'child of Vindeby' (Museum Schloss Gottorf)

I remember that I was fascinated with the bog bodies when I visited the museum in Schleswig as kid (the Haithabu musem did not exist back then) and they are still pretty cool, though difficult to photograph because the room is so dark.The finds from the bogs of Nydam and Thorsberg date from the first millenium BC to the 3rd and 4th century AD and were discovered in the 19th century.

3rd century AD ornaments (Museum Schloss Gottorf)

A lot of weapons, ornaments, pottery, and whatever found their way into the bogs as sacrificial donations; for which modern archaeologists are grateful. This set of shiny stuff displays some 3rd century AD ornaments, fibulas, armrings, girdles and such. Some of them show a Roman influence on German arts.

Bronze Age swords (and some replica)

This set is older, dating to the Bronze Age. I won't even count the number of pointy things to be seen in the museum; there is an abundance of swords, daggers and spears to arm a king's host. And quite a bit of horse equipment as well. I had a field day in that musem.

Gottorf Palace (Schloss Gottorf)

Here's a photo of Gottorf Palace (Schloss Gottorf), seat of the State Archaeological Museum and the State Art and Culture Museum. The palace dates to the late 17th century and had once been the seat of the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp until it fell into Danish possession in 1713. During WW2 it served as home for refugees; in 1948, the castle came into possession of the government of the county Schleswig-Holstein and was eventually turned into a museum.

The harbour in Flensburg

And because it's such a pretty town, here is a photo of Flensburg at the modern Danish border. It is a Medieaval town, but it never was a member of the Hansa League since it was part of the duchy of Schleswig that was held in vassalty by the King of Denmark. Because of its position, the town has seen quite a bit of warfare over time.
 
Comments:
What a fantastic museum - much better than the Jorvic in York. I have a confession to make. I am watching the series 'Vikings' and enjoying it! (Blush)
 
Yeah, I was a bit disappointed by Jorvik, too. I can see the reason they had to put it underground, but they should have made the place more interactive than just a train ride like Disney.

Pssst, nothing wrong with watching Vikings, she whispers conspiratorely. :-)
 
I love reconstructions. And display cases full of objects to ponder. You go to all the neatest places!
 
'Pssst, nothing wrong with watching Vikings, she whispers conspiratorely. :-)'

Phew! What a relief:)
 
Post a Comment

<< Home


The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK and other places, with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


e-mail

Twitter