We prefer to conceive of Vikings as a fleeting society that sailed the high seas, pillaged communities, and then fled with the loot. Yet new evidence is being unearthed that radically alters this image of the Norse mariners, with fortifications uncovered in Denmark indicating that the Vikings were significantly more than people previously believed.
Archaeologists have detailed an outstanding castle in the journal Antiquity that was erected in a completely circular configuration and dated to the notorious Viking and Danish King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormsson. This is the sixth such castle unearthed in Denmark since the 1930s, and it has changed public perception of the Vikings by demonstrating that they established large, technologically advanced towns during the Middle Ages.
This most recent fortification, known as Borgring, was discovered on the island of Zealand, just south of Copenhagen. While there isn’t much to see on the ground other for a few mounds since the soil has been plowed and tilled for ages, aerial studies using LIDAR have revealed the ring fortification in astonishing detail. Using this as a blueprint, the researchers were able to unearth a plethora of fascinating artifacts that revealed just how complicated this building was, as well as what the culture and civilization must have been like at the time.
The flawless circular layout of the walls, made from earth and timber and measuring 144 meters in diameter, demonstrates extraordinary expertise, especially given that it was not necessarily essential. The archaeologists discovered four gates, paved wooden paths, jewelry, and a remarkably well-preserved carpenter’s box replete with planes and chisels. The fortifications were constructed between 970 and 980 CE, under the reign of Harald Bluetooth.
However, the evidence implies that the castle was destroyed brutally. The archaeologists discovered evidence that the building had been assaulted, with two of the gates severely charred. Whoever was responsible for the fortification’s destruction is unknown, although Harald Bluetooth did not rise to the throne without creating at least some enemies.
Because the fortification is so near to Sweden’s southern edge, the researchers believe a historical rivalry with Swedish Vikings may have had a role. Not only that, but there are claims that the Danish and Swedish fought on the freezing Baltic Sea that separates the two countries, not distant from the pillaged fortress.
This is just supposition at the moment, but perhaps with time and additional digs, more about the fate of this once-impressive stronghold might be learned.