If you want to know anything about the Viking Age, Ribe, in west Denmark, is the place to go.
Archaeologists from Aarhus University and Southwest Jutland Museums (Denmark) have been excavating the Viking city as part of the Northern Emporium Project in minute detail, ScienceNordic.
They have dug down to three metres, where they found traces of the first cities of the Nordic region.
Thousands of items discovered beneath the streets of Ribe
Deep beneath street level are thousands of Viking finds. They have discovered everything from beads, amulets, coins, and lost combs, to dog excrement and gnawed bones.
They have also been surprised on several occasions, such as when they discovered a piece of a lyre (a harp-like stringed instrument), complete with tuning pegs. This discovery alone gives the Viking trading city of Ribe a whole new soundtrack.
Another extraordinary find is the discovery of runic inscriptions.
“High-definition”-archaeology reveals new information
Interesting as this is, they have been looking for something completely different. What makes Ribe special is that this is where a city emerged. The people who lived here weren’t primarily farmers for household purposes but were craftsmen, seafarers, tradesmen, innkeepers, and maybe even lyrists.
They have known about the existence of the early period of Ribe for many years but excavating the deep layers to study this early period is expensive and time-consuming. Earlier excavations have therefore focused on smaller areas. However, two years ago the Carlsberg Foundation joined the excavation with the funding that made it possible to start a new and bigger excavation.
Meanwhile new methods of archaeology, including 3D laser surveying, DNA research, and soil chemistry, allow us to tease out new information from the site.
These ‘high-definition’ methods were developed by the Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) funded by the Danish National Research Foundation.