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Circular viking fortresses
Circular viking fortresses

Danish archaeologists have discovered the fifth ring-shaped fortress of the Vikings during the reign of the famous Harald I Blue-tooth. Scientists talk about why these findings literally turned the whole idea of ​​the Vikings upside down.

When in the 1930s archaeologists discovered four ancient ring-shaped fortresses in Denmark, this in many ways turned the idea of ​​scientists about the Vikings and their life. Medieval warriors turned out to be not just marauder-raiders, but a complex, technologically advanced society for their time, otherwise such fortifications simply cannot be erected. Recently, Danish archaeologists have found another, fifth fortress, which for the first time in 60 years has provided historians with an excellent opportunity to study the past even better.

The new fortress, Borgring, was found using the LIDAR laser scanning technique, which resulted in a high-resolution 3D digital map of the area. The fortress is located on the island of Zealand, south of Copenhagen. The building itself is a perfect circle with a diameter of 144 meters. The fortress has 4 main entrances, and the outer rampart was paved with timber and covered with earth. Analysis of wood samples suggests that Borging was built around 970-980.

In fact, archaeologists found the fortress back in 2014, but only now have they published their first detailed report on the study of the ancient structure. Science interviewed the study's lead author, Søren Michael Sindberk, an archaeologist at the University of Aarhus in Denmark:

How was the fortress found?

Almost a detective story is connected with this. Studying the ring fortresses, at some point I came to the conclusion that their location does not make any sense: where, according to the logic, the next fortification should have been located, there was a gaping void - this does not happen! As a result, I set off in search of landscape features that might suggest where to look for the fortress.

There are very few places left in Denmark where such structures can be found - access to water is important here, as well as the convenient location of land routes. Moreover, with the help of LIDAR, Denmark once made a high-quality volumetric map not of any particular region of its own, but of the entire state as a whole - this greatly simplified the search.

How long has the fortress been hidden underground?

The agricultural activities around her have had a huge impact. For centuries, medieval peasants plowed and leveled the land, so that by our arrival half-meter mounds remained from the ramparts, barely noticeable in the general landscape. It would be difficult to convince any sane person that ancient fortifications are hidden under his feet - then LIDAR dotted the i's.

Why did the Vikings build ring-shaped fortresses?

The ring is the perfect shape for a fortress. It covers the largest area and is devoid of corners, the most vulnerable points of any fortification. There is no tactical sense in giving the fortress walls the shape of a completely ideal circle, but, apparently, Harald I Gormsson, nicknamed "Bluetooth" (the one after whom the Bluetooth technology was named) had his own architectural preferences: most of the fortresses, built during his reign, have a perfectly round shape.

A master was clearly involved in the construction, for whom not only prestige was important, but also defensive qualities and the ability of fortresses to quickly communicate with each other in the event of a threat from outside.

Did the Vikings invent ring fortresses?

Most likely - no, they learned about such an engineering novelty during the raids on England.As a defense against the notorious Vikings, a network of fortifications was erected there 100 years before the construction of the fortress we found. She played her role so well that the invaders could not gain a foothold on the ground and returned to their homeland - for the Anglo-Saxon kings it was a great victory. It is not surprising that at some point the Vikings decided to copy such a successful strategy.

What was life in a fortress like?

Most of the time, oddly enough, she was pretty peaceful. Yes, the fortress was erected as a defensive structure, but it was more of a preventive measure, so that the enemies did not even think about raids on Viking settlements. From previous excavations, we clearly understood that not only soldiers lived in the fortress. Outside it, we found burials of women and even children: presumably, the king with his family and his retinue, also with their families, could live in the fortress.

What new scientists have learned about this fortress?

The biggest surprise for us was that, unlike other fortresses, which were abandoned already about two decades after construction, several generations of residents lived in this one. We found a silver bracelet that is closely related to other silver jewelry - rings, pendants and necklaces - found in the territory of the already excavated fortresses. Apparently, “our” fortress was attacked in the past: traces of burns are visible on the gate. We also found a carpenter's workshop, abandoned during a fire: it contains nails, chisels, tongs and fragments of other tools.

Who attacked the fortress and why?

Unfortunately no. It is logical to assume that these were the enemies of Harald Bluetooth! Since the fortress is located where the Danish lands are washed by the Baltic Sea, the most likely enemy will be all the same Vikings - though Swedish. Indeed, historical evidence of major battles between Danes and Swedes in approximately this area has come down to us.

Why are these buildings so important?

The ring fortresses have been the biggest mystery to Viking archaeologists since the 1930s. People simply could not believe that the Vikings could build something like this in their own country! After all, they were considered pirates, wild sea raiders, so at first everyone thought that fortresses were built here by foreign conquerors.

But over time, information became more and more, and we realized that the construction was initiated by the Danish king himself - and this led to a fundamental reassessment of everything we knew about the Vikings. Of course, they were tough warriors - but warriors from a very organized and highly cultured society.

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