Archaeologists discover gateway to the Viking Empire in Germany

Last Updated: Sat, Aug 28, 2010 11:00 hrs

Archaeologists have found a gateway to the Viking Empire, which they believe was built to protect an important trading route.

"Like wild hornets," reads an ancient description; the Vikings would plunder monasteries and entire cities from Ireland to Spain. The fact that the Vikings, who have since found their place as droll comic book characters, were also avid masons is slightly less well known.

The structure is a three-meter-thick (10 feet) wall from the 8th century near Hedeby (known as Haithabu in German) and constructed completely out of stone.

"The Vikings collected millions of rocks," Spiegel Online quoted archeologist Astrid Tummuscheit, who works for the state archeology office of Schleswig-Holstein, as saying.

Tummuscheit's team have also discovered the only gate leading through the Danevirke, a five-meter (16 feet) wide portal. According to old writings, "horsemen and carts" used to stream through the gate, called "Wiglesdor." Next to it was a customs station and an inn that included a bordello.

It was initially blocked by an old roadhouse called Caf‚ Truberg, but when the caf‚ went broke, it threw the way open for diggers.

In the case of the Danevirke, the builders themselves were the ones known for their pillaging ways. In the 8th century, Denmark had neither cobblestone roads nor houses made of stone. The pagan king was guarded by fanatic warriors wearing animal costumes-so-called "berserkers."

In order for goods from the east to be shipped to the west, they had to cross the narrow strip of land at the base of present-day Denmark. When the traders got to Hedeby, their wares were offloaded and carted overland to the Treene River, 18 kilometers away. Only there could the goods be reloaded onto boats and sailed into the North Sea.

For the duration of this short overland trek, the goods were open to attack from the mainland. In order to protect this important trade artery, archeologists now believe, a bulwark of earth, stone and bricks was constructed. The Danevirke, in other words, was little more than a protective shield for commerce. (ANI)

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