Vikings 800-1050 AD
In 793, Danish Vikings attacked a monastery in Lindisfarne in northeastern England. Hence, a period began, which in Swedish history is commonly referred to as the Viking Age.
The word “Viking” travels the world with promise of history, mythology and excitement! In Sweden’s southernmost town – Trelleborg – you can still follow in the footprints of the Vikings. In the city, you find a reconstructed ring fort from the Viking Age where you can meet a Viking with strange marks on his front teeth and in the countryside, there are rune stones bearing witness to how our ancestors lived more than 1,000 years ago!
In the late 1980s, a sensational discovery was made in the town of Trelleborg on the south coast of Sweden: the remains of a Viking Age circular fort. When investigated this archaeological find soon showed such marked similarities to the Danish circular forts of the late 10th century that it had to be one of their kind: a “trelleborg”, so named after one of the previously excavated Danish forts, Trelleborg near Slagelse in Zealand. This very distinctive type of fortified compound is associated with the unification and defense of the Danish kingdom. Wood finds, dated by dendrochronology, place these forts around AD 980, in the reign of the Viking king Harald Bluetooth.
King Harald Bluetooth
Harald Gormsson was the son of Gorm the Old and Thyra Dannebod. His father was the first known king of Denmark and Harald succeeded him at his death in 958. Harold ruled the Danish kingdom, including the south of Sweden, until 986. The king’s politics and warfare made the area around the Baltic Sea into an important center of power, trade, seafaring and religion in the Viking world. On a rune stone in Jellinge in Denmark, you can read that Harald Bluetooth united the Danes and converted them to Christianity.
Not only did Harald Bluetooth Christianize Denmark, he also started to introduce a tax system in his kingdom. To do so, he needed soldiers and administrative staff, as well as easily defended places where the taxes could be collected, while the king lived his life in Danish Jellinge. So far, eight “trelleborgar” have been found in Denmark and the south of Sweden. They were all built in strategically important coastal areas. It is from this perspective that we must look at the expansion of “trelleborgar” under the regime of Harald Bluetooth.
Watch our short movie from Trelleborgen here.
Archaeologists have confirmed that the fort in Trelleborg was approximately 140 meters in diameter, in other words a ring fort. In the Viking Age, it was connected to the sea via a navigable stream and intersected by four well-travelled roads. One of the roads, ’Bryggaregatan’ which extends north out of Trelleborg, runs in the same direction today as it did in the Viking Age!
The name of the city Trelleborg was a mystery for many years. When the ring fort was discovered the mystery was solved: in Denmark ring forts like this are called ’trelleborgar’. The word ’trelle’ is used to describe the sloping head of a split log which supported the palisades.
In 1995, the reconstruction of Trelleborgen was inaugurated. The wooden construction with palisades, trelles, crenellations and gateway is quite imposing and was built based on the archaeological discovery, handicraft traditions and well-founded estimations. A quarter of the fort has been reconstructed and is now an outdoor museum that also contains a Viking exhibition, café and shop as well as a Viking farm with a longhouse, pit houses and a garden.
“Eye to Eye” is a unique exhibition at Trelleborg Museum which takes you on a trip starting in the Viking Age and backwards. Here you can see scalable reconstructed models of the trade traveler Viking and “The Queen from Vemmerlöv.” Who was the man you are eye to eye with? A brave merchant who had his teeth as a business card. He is the world’s most famous Trelleborg citizen, mentioned in books and magazines throughout the globe. The 7000-year-old graves of Skateholm give a unique testimony of people like you and me, with the same feelings but with completely different abilities.