Exciting Vikings in the city centre of Trelleborg
The Viking fortress Trelleborgen
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. The word ’trelle’ is used to describe the sloping head of a split log which supported the palisades.
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.
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. Archaeologists have confirmed that the fort in Trelleborg was approximately 140 meters in diameter. 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!
A quarter of the fort has been recreated and is now an outdoor museum that also contains a Viking exhibition, café and shop. In the area you will also find a reconstructed Viking farm with a longhouse, pit houses with a blacksmith, a garden and a medieval house.
The guided tour takes you back a thousand years in time with exciting stories about everything from Viking battles to everyday life. In summer, Trelleborgen offers activities for both young and old – fairy tales, runic writing, Viking games, blacksmithing, crafts, cooking, archery, etc. Every year on the second weekend in July, Trelleborgen is filled with visiting Vikings. Then there is the market, the Viking wedding and the “Battle of Trelleborg”.
Here you will find Trelleborgen
The Viking from Vannhög
A man that lived to see the impressive Viking fort in its heyday is the Viking from Vannhög – a small village just north of Trelleborg. In the 1990s, archaeologists found a grave containing the remnants of a man who was about 40-50 years old when he died, about 180 centimeters tall, who had damage to the knuckles – and distinct scratches on his front teeth. Findings also indicated that the man was not born in Trelleborg but moved here during his lifetime and markings like the ones on his teeth have been found in about 70 graves in Gotland. Nobody knows exactly what the teeth marks stands for. Is it a significant mark for a group of traders, mighty warriors or just regular men who wanted to strike fear into their enemies?
In 2014, the sculptor and archaeologist Oscar D. Nilsson made a model of the Viking from Vannhög. The scale-reconstructed model now opens the “Eye to Eye” exhibition (Öga mot öga) at Trelleborg Museum, which begins during the Viking era and takes you on a journey 7 000 years back in time.
The Rune stone in Tullstorp
20 kilometers east of Trelleborg, in the memorial grove at Tulls- torp cemetery stands one of Scandinavia’s most beautiful rune stones. Just like Trelleborgen and the Viking from Vannhög it dates back to AD 980 and the reign of King Harald Bluetooth.
The runes in the stone say, ”Klibir and Åsa erected this stone after Ulf ”. There are also pictures of a stately animal and a ship. The runes and pictures tell us that in the 980s, there was a woman and a man in Tullstorp who left a memorial to another man. They chose to decorate the stone with images that, according to archaeologists, indicate connections with the Eastern Emperor.
Perhaps these people belonged to a group sent by Harald Bluetooth to control his conquered lands. A group that might also have included the Viking from Vannhög? Perhaps Ulf was a warrior who had served as a bodyguard of the emperor of Constantinople – the place the Vikings called Miklagård?
King Harald Bluetooth
Harald Gormsson was the son of Gorm the Old and Thyra Danne- bod. 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.
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.