The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


22 Sep 2015
  More Mediaeval Brick Buildings

I'm back from my second Hanseatic League tour (some photos of the first one can be found here), with some 2,000 photos. The weather was a bit on the dreary side some days, but at least the rain poured down mostly during the night or when I could stay under cover.

Ratzeburg Cathedral, seen from the lake

First we get a very beautiful cathedral in Ratzeburg, a small town near Lübeck. The cathedral was founded by Heinrich the Lion and survives as Romanesque building, but it is constructed of bricks like the great Gothic cathedrals in northern Germany. In an area lacking stone quarries but rich in loam, bricks were the material more easily obtained.

Ratzeburg Cathedral, interior with view to the choir

I came a bit early and there was still Sunday service going on, with an additional organ concert. It was totally worth the wait until I could walk around with my camera.

St. Nicolai Church in Lüneburg, interior

We can compare the sturdy Romanesque columns with the slender pillars of a Gothic church with its soaring architecture that reaches towards Heaven. The example shown is my favourite of the churches in Lüneburg, St. Nicolai.

The cathedral in Schwerin; flying buttresses

Another typical feature of Gothic churches are the flying buttresses that support the high naves. The use of bricks makes them look less fragile and elegant than the ones built of sandstone; they give the brick architecture a more solid appearance even when it tries to imitate the flamboyant style.

Lübeck, Hospital of the Holy Spirit

The Hospital of the Holy Spirit in Lübeck had been scaffolded in when I went there in spring, but now the scaffolding has come off and the facade shines in new splendour. The hospital was commissioned by rich merchants in the 1260ies and provided housing for the poor until 1970. The foundation of the hospital still cares for old people.

Stralsund, the town hall

Brick architecture developed into an art form, with glazed bricks in black and white and sometimes bricks in other forms than the common rectangular ones, used as decorative elements. The town hall in Stralsund is a fine example.

Lüneburg, gabled houses

Rich citizens wanted to show their money by building representative houses, the so-called Dielenhäuser which held the office, storage space, and the living quarters in the back. Decorated gables became a common feature, and in the northern Hansa towns they are often created of bricks.

Stralsund, remains of the town walls

The towns of the Hanseatic League all had town walls in the Middle Ages, but often those were dismantled later to make room for more houses. Some, like Stralsund, retain at least parts of those fortifications.

Schwerin, the neo-Romanesque palace

The palace in Schwerin is not Mediaeval, but neo-Romanesque. But it is so over top with its turrets and oriels and gilded decorations that it's fun. *grin* Some rooms are a museum, the rest is taken up by the county government of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

More fun stuff I've seen is here.
 


  Nature, some Very Old Tombs, and a Slavic Ringwall

The Baltic Sea coast and the landscape further inland are beautiful in a way different from the mountains of the Harz and Meissner or along the Weser; places I've frequently blogged about. But I love the northern part of Germany and the sea very much.

Hiddensee island, the coast of the Baltic Sea

Offshore of Stralsund are two islands, Rügen and Hiddensee. Fortunately, one day turned out to be sunny, and I decided to take a ship over to Hiddensee and do some hiking in the dunes, juniper heath and beech forests of this lovely island.

Hiddensee, the lagoon side seen from the lighthouse

There are no cars on Hiddensee (except for an ambulance and a small school bus) so you have to use your feet, a bicycle, or a horse coach to get around. I'd read about Hiddensee in a children's book many years ago and was devastated when my parents told me it was in the GDR and we could not go there. Well, there's no longer a GDR and now I could go there.

Riparian forest at the river Wakenitz

The Wakenitz is a river which springs from the Ratzeburg Lake and confluences into the Trave near Lübeck. The river had been the border between West-and East-Germany and therefore remained a wilderness with riparian forests framing its shores. There's a boat tour from the Ratzeburg Lake to Lübeck which turned out to be one of the most beautiful ones I ever did.

The bay of Wismar, seen from the cog Wissemara

Another fun ship tour I did was an afternoon out at sea on the reconstruced cog Wissemara. It is modeled after a wreck dating to ~1350 which had been found near the Poel peninsula in 1999. When I was in Wismar in 2004, I came across the construction site of the cog, so being able to sail with her now was a special experience.

One of several Neolithic burials near Grevesmühlen

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is rich in tombs from the Neolithic Funnelbeaker culture (3,500 - 3,200 BC). We got the simple dolmen type, the great dolmen, the passage grave, and the long barrow. The boulders used to erect them are glacial erratics. There are several burial sites in the Everstorf Forest near Grevesmühlen.

The dolmen called Devil's Oven

Those giant stone structures led to local legends. The dolmen above is called Devil's Oven and the matching long barrow stone setting is the devil's bed. Often, the extended dolmen are refered to as giant's tombs with the usual legend about how someone tricked the giant and killed him.

Open air museum Gross-Raden, the gate of the settlement

Another interesting place was the open air museum in Gross-Raden, a reconstructed Slavic settlement with ringwall castle from the 10th century, which has been built on the original site. Excavations had taken place 1973-80 and the reconstruction started a few years later; the museum opened in 1987.

Gross-Raden, the ringwall fortress

Like in Haithabu, not all the houses have been reoconstructed, but Gross-Raden has more buildings, including a temple. The most interesting feature is the ringwall fortress - an earthen rampart crowned by a timber palisade - with its impressive tunnel door.

Humboldt penguin in the Ozeaneum Stralsund

The Ozeaneum in Stralsund shows the underwater world of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea in a series of aquariums and other displays. It was an interesting way to spend a rainy evening. The Humboldt penguins don't belong in the north, of course, but they're a cute addition.

Another view of the bay of Wismar seen from the cog

Finally another shot taken from the stern of the cog. The sun had decided to come out after a very wet morning and give me some nice blue water and sky.
 


12 Sep 2015
  Hunting more Hanseatic League

I'll be off again to find more Hanseatic League related things, and some more brick cathedrals and other buildings in Stralsund, Lüneburg, and Lübeck once more, where the new Hansa Museum has now opened.

Lübeck, houses at the Trave, with a sailing ship in the foreground

Also on the intinerary is Schwerin and probably another open air museum or two. Let's hope the weather holds; rain makes for dreary photos like the ones here (just well it was the only bad day during my spring tour).

Lübeck's old town, seen from the outer harbour

I'll be back in about ten days, hopefully with new photo booty.

You can check the map linked in the post below to find the places.
 


6 Sep 2015
  Surviving as Sacrifice - The Nydam Ship

The peninsula (1) between Baltic and North Sea is a typical terminal moraine landscape which developed after the last Ice Age (~ 11,700 BC). Fertile marshlands - albeit prone to flooding - in the west are followed by the sandy geest formation in the middle, and the uplands to the east. Those are a landscape of low hills and lakes, bays and firths, and bogs. The land had been settled since the Neolithic Age, but it would be the people from the Iron Age who left behind the most interesting remains in form of bog sacrifices. Among those is the famous Nydam Ship.

The Nydam Ship

The Nydam Ship - a rowing boat without additional sail - dates to AD 320. She is made of oak timber, 23.7 metres long and 3.5 metres wide midships; with space for 32 men to row her (2).

It is by ships like this the Angles and Jutes came to England. Imagine a fleet of those, some even larger, arriving at the shore close to your village, the crews brandishing the spears and swords also found in the bog. In AD 320 you could at least hope the local Roman garrison was on alert, but a hundred years later you might wonder if the Picts were really that bad. *wink*

The Nydam Ship from a different angle

The Danish archaelogist Conrad Engelhardt discovered the Nydam Ship in a bog near Sønderborg in Denmark (3) in 1863. It was one of several ships that had been deposited in a lake between ~ AD 200-450. Another oak ship found at the site had been cut to pieces, but this one remained complete. A third find consisted of a complete ship made of pine, but it was lost during the Schleswig War in 1864. Parts of another, even larger oak ship have been discovered in 2011, but there are currently no plans to salvage it (4). The ships have been buried with lots of weapons and arms in what had then been a shallow lake. The lake silted over and the developing peat bog offered ideal conditions for the preservation of both wood and metal.

Seen from the 'bow'

When the ship was salvaged, some parts were missing or in such a bad shape that they had to be replaced with new ones when the ship was salvaged and restored. But the hull of the Nydam ship survived pretty much intact. It was constructed in clinker technique with overlapping planks, or strakes, above the keel. They were fixed by iron rivets (5). The planks had clefts left standing when they were cut, to which the frames that were lashed. The keel (14.30 metres long and 57 cm wide midships to 20 cm at the ends) was made from one piece of oak, but the strakes were scarved and consisted of more than one plank. The equally shaped bow and stern posts were interlocked with the keel. Caulking was done by wool soaked in sheep's tallow and birchwood pitch.

View from the side
(There is no distinction between starbord and port, because the symmetrical shape of the ship
does not have a clearly defined stern and bow)

The planks have shrunk a bit (from 56 cm to ~ 45 cm) since the boat came in contact with dry air. Its shape is not entirely correct as measurements undertaken in 1995 show: the prow should be higher, the draught deeper and the inside more V-shaped, but due to the altered condition of the wood, the ship cannot be taken apart and reassembled in its correct shape.

View to the inside

Only some bits of the frames - originally single pieces of oak each - survived, though we know by the clefts that they were set p about one metre apart. In the middle of the ship, each plank had two clefts, as does the keel; towards bow and stern the amount of clefts decreases.

It is assumed that the ship was weighted by ballast stones. Recently, parts of a deck, a layer of planks and wickerwork, resting on transverse sticks, have been excavated. A deck between the ribs and the rowing benches would have been necessary for the rowers to put their full power to the oars. The rowing benches are reconstructed as well; they were held by vertical wooden supports and about 30 cm wide (smaller in the middle). The ship would have required 15 oarsmen on each side.

Rowlocks fixed to the gunwale

The gunwale on the 'port' side and the rowlocks also survive mostly in fragments. The rowlocks are interesting because they were crafted separately and latched to the gunwale. The rowlocks were made of forked branches from alder and birch, woods that are soft enough to counter the pressure from the hard ashen oars, and they could be easily replaced in case of wear. The second, chopped up oak boat found in the Nydam bog had its rowlocks cut into the oaken gunwale.

Engelhardt only discovered fragments of oars, but a dig in the 1990ies recovered about 20 oars in a pretty good condition. Some of them are assumed to have belonged to the Nydam Ship. They were made from radially split stem wood of the ash, about 3 metres long and with slim blades. Their shape and the short horizontal distance between rowlocks and thwart points at a rowing technique with short, quick strokes; different from later Viking ships.

Two restored original rowlocks on display in the museum

The side oar attached to the ship is a copy, but the original blade survived albeit in bad condition. It is 55 cm wide with a sharp aft edge and a thicker, rounded fore edge.

Since both the steering oar and the rowlocks are only attached by ropes, they could be shifted to change the direction of the ship with its symmetrical bow/stern, though we don't know if that was actually done (fe. on a river too small to turn the ship).

Remains of oars and frames discovered in 1863

You may have noted the carved heads on the photos; their light coloured wood sticks out in contrast to the dark boat. The bearded, cap wearing heads also have been discovered during the 1990ies dig. They rested on posts and were likely attached to the gunwale the way they are displayed today. Their function is not entirely clear.

The finds also included several hand bailers. The best preseved original is currently shown in Copenhagen. Remains of rope have been found as well. Parts of an iron anchor discovered by Engelhardt are lost today, but some drawings of the finds exist.

Reconstructed hand bailer

Whoever built the Nydam Ship had taken a close look to Roman ships from the time. Contact was likely established at the Dutch coast which was then part of the Roman province of Germania inferior, or in Britain. The clinker technique and the caulking with textiles were used by the Romans, as well as the frames to strengthen the hull, and the scarfing of bow and stern to the keel. The anchor fragments show Roman influence as well. I wonder why the people who built the Nydam Ship did not also copy the concept of having a sail in addition to the oars (6).

View to the inside with rowing benches

The Nydam Ship was built ~ AD 320 according to dendrochronological dating, and deposited in the bog in ~ AD 350. But after her discovery in 1863, her journey was not at an end, due to the political situation. Engelhardt prepared the ship and other finds for an exhibition in Flensburg, but the Schleswig War between Denmark and Prussia in 1864 forced him to store the ship in an attic. After the war, the town of Flensburg and Engelhardt's collection were given to Prussia. The ship was moved to Kiel where it again languished in an attic. It took until 1925 to present the ship and the other finds in the Museum vaterländischer Alterthümer in Kiel. During WW2 the Nydam Ship was removed to a lake near Mölln (south of Lübeck) where it was hidden on a barge. After the war, Denmark claimed the ship and the other Nydam finds since the bog lies on Danish territory, but the Allies allowed it to remain in Germany. The ship was moved to Schleswig where it is exhibited since 1947. It got a new hall in 2013 (7)

Another view from the side

A new excavation campaign was launched by the Danish National Museum (Institute of Maritime Archaeology) from 1989 to 1997 in order to look for remains missed by Engelhardt and new finds. The campaign was pretty successful and Copenhagen got its share of interesting things from the bog. But the main exhibition is still the one in the State Archaeological Museum in Gottorf Palace in Schleswig. Including lots of weapons I'm going to present in a future post.

View from the bow with the steering oar

Footnotes
1) You can find Hamburg easily. North from there right into the peninusla, you will come across Schleswig and Flensburg (and, slightly east of Flensburg, Sønderburg with the Nydam Bog). North-east of Hamburg you'll touch Lübeck and if you go east from there along the coast, you'll come across Wismar all the way to Stralsund, the great towns of the Hansa League. South of Lübeck is Lüneburg which I've mentioned several times as possession of the Welfen dukes of Braunschweig.
2) I've found a crew of 45 mentioned on the internet, but I rather rely on the book by Abegg-Wigg.
3) Today's borders. The Schleswig peninsula was contested between Germany and Denmark for centuries, the frontiers moving to and fro with several wars.
4) The ship is larger and older than the Nydam Ship. Modern Archaeology doesn't always need to dig big holes and drag everything out to gain information, and therefore the ship will remain as long as the bog is the best way to preserve it.
5) The rivets have been replaced with new ones, but in case of the bog conserved Nydam Ship iron doesn not pose the same danger to the timber as in the salt water conserved Vasa.
6) It would be interesting to compare the Nydam Ship with the remains of the older one still in the bog and check that one for Roman influences, or lack thereof.
7) The Nydam Ship was lent to Copenhagen in 2003/04.

Literature
Angelika Abegg-Wigg: Das Nydamboot - versenkt, entdeckt, erforscht. Schleswig, 2014
Michael Gebühr: Nydam und Thorsberg, Opferplätze der Eisenzeit. Schleswig, 2000

 




The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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Location: Goettingen, 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 still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Forts and Fortifications
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles

Life and Religion

Religion
The Mithras Cult
Isis Worship
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms

Public Life
Roman Transport - Barges
Roman Transport - Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots

Miscellaneous Essays

The Legend of Alaric's Burial


Germania

Wars and Frontiers

Maps
Romans in Germania

Traces of the Pre-Varus Conquest
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

Along the Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg


Gallia Belgica

The Batavians

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction


Britannia

Roman Frontiers in Britain

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend


Mediaeval History

General Essays

Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
Carved Monsters
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Medieaval Craftmanship
Goldsmithery
Medical Instruments

Mediaeval Warfare

Mediaeval Weapons
Swords
Trebuchets

Castles and Fortifications
Dungeons and Oubliettes

Essays about Specific Topics

Feudalism

The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
Feudalism in the 10th Century

Privileges and Special Relationships
The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

The Hanseatic League

The History of the Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings

Hanesatic Architecture
Examples of Brick Architecture

Goods and Trade
Stockfish Trade

The Order of the Teutonic Knights

Wars and Battles
The Conquest of Danzig
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Vikings

Viking Ships
The Nydam Ship


Germany

Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors

Geneaologies
Anglo-German Marriage Connections
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors

Kings and Emperors

The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

House Welf and House Staufen
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

Princes and Lords

Princes
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen
The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto of Northeim
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

Counts and Local Lords
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Famous Feuds

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War - Introduction
The Star Wars


England

Kings of England

King Henry IV
King Henry's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Fiefs - The Honour of Richmond
The Dukes of Brittany and the Honour of Richmond
The Earldom of Richmond and the Duchy of Brittany

Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle
The Early Stewart Kings

Scottish Nobles and their Quarrels

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Rebels

A History of Rebellion
From Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

A Time of Feuds

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Towns of the Hanseatic League

Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas


Poland

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union


Bohemia
(Including Silesia and Moravia)

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
(to come)


Other Times

Prehistoric Times

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Orkney

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Scandinavia

Gotland
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

Biographies

European Nobility
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History in Literature

Biographies of German Poets and Writers
Theodor Fontane

Historical Ballads by Theodor Fontane
(Translated by me)
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan

History in Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Not so Serious History

Romans
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Mediaeval Times
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Other
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg


Geology

Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

The Harz
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite


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