Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Danish Viking grave reveals archaeological mysteries

New excavations in Scandinavia’s first city, Ribe, suggests rapid change at the end of the 9th century.

An excavation of burial grounds in Scandinavia’s first city, the Viking town of Ribe in Denmark, raises more questions than it answers. Why did the town suddenly start to build on top of the graveyard, and was it related to the fall of the Danish monarchy? 
(Photo: Museum of Southwest Jutland)

From the beginning of the 8th century up until the end of the 9th century, Viking graves in the town of Ribe in Denmark were largely reserved for the most holy of citizens. Ribe is considered the first city in Scandinavia and it developed into an important trade city. Graves were afforded a special place in the city--and left undisturbed as the town expanded around them.
But by the end of the 9th century something changed.
“While the marketplace expanded, they suddenly started to build on top of these graves. In some cases they built almost ostentatiously right on top of a grave, which was probably visible and marked,” says archaeologist and excavation leader Søren Sindbæk from the University of Aarhus, Denmark.
“Previously, people thought that Ribe had stopped developing as a city by the 900s, but the results of our grave excavations now suggest that this could be completely wrong. I think something dramatic happened,” says Sindbæk.
The excavations suggest that simultaneous with the construction above the graves, someone also built a fortress and a 700 metres long and 20 metres wide moat around the city.
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