Friday 19 May 2023

A Centuries-Old Mystery: Did This Elusive Viking City Exist?

A recreated “Slavs and Viking” settlement, with medieval craft demonstrations, re-enactments and guided tours in Wolin, Poland.Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Was a “medieval New York” called Jomsborg a literary fantasy or a historical reality? New archaeological discoveries may provide a clue.

After the local government decided to build an observation tower atop a sandy hill on Wolin, an island in the Baltic Sea, a Polish archaeologist was called in to check the site before construction and look for buried artifacts from the spot’s macabre past.

Hangmen’s Hill, a public park, had in earlier times been an execution ground, a cemetery and, some believe, a place for human sacrifices — so who knew what grisly discoveries were in store?

But what the archaeologist, Wojciech Filipowiak, found when he started digging caused more excitement than distaste: charcoaled wood indicating the remains of a 10th-century stronghold that could help solve one of the great riddles of the Viking Age.

Was a fearsome fortress mentioned in ancient texts a literary fantasy or a historical reality?

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