Between Vikings and the Hanse

Continuity and development of the central distribution centre Haithabu/Schleswig during the 11th century

Ralf Bleile / Ulrich Müller

The Archaeological State Museum in Schleswig houses the remains of two historical sites, with European significance, in close proximity to one another at the end of the Schlei: Haithabu, which existed from the 8th to the middle of the 11th century and Schleswig whose progression began in the second half of the 11th century. They were the central communication and transhipment junctions of Northern Europe in the Early or High Middle Ages and were the largest harbours of their respective times. The demonstrated significance, encompassing Northern Europe, of the inner Schlei as a gateway between the North and Baltic Sea, as a transhipment port between Eastern and Western Europe has outlasted the end of the Viking Age in the middle of the 11th century and the resulting disruptions of the political landscape as well as economic structures and infrastructures. The investigation into the transition from Haithabu to Schleswig, which occurred for some unknown reason during the second half of the 11th century, is consequently ideal for blurring the boundary between the Viking and Middle Ages in archaeological and historical research.

In the archive and magazine of the archaeological state museum in Schleswig there are four collections of documents and finds of both sites, which can illuminate that crucial phase between the end of the Viking Age and the beginning of Friesian dominated trade. They are comprised of excavation documentation of „Plessenstraße“ and „Hafenstraße“ as well as the find complex of the excavation “Hafengang” in Schleswig (following collection „Schleswig – Plessenstraße und Hafenstraße“, collection „Schleswig – Hafengang“) and the excavation documentation and archaeological materials of the more recent excavations as well as the archaeological materials from the detector surveys in Haithabu (following collection „Haithabu – Grubenhäuser“, collection „Haithabu – Detektorbegehungen“).

Based on this extensive source material, the developments at the inner end of the Schlei during the 11th century, especially the processes which caused the abandonment of Haithabu and the foundation of Schleswig, can be reassessed. The joint processing of these collections including archaeometallurgical and chemical analysis is the key to understanding Northern European communication and distribution networks on the eve of the Hanse and contributes to the history of Northern Europe.

The project is funded by the VW foundation, funding-format “Forschung in Museen”. Collaborators are Dr. Volker Hilberg, Felix Rösch M.A. and Michaela Schimmer M.A

Further information can be found on the projects homepage: www.haithabu-schleswig.de