Past civilizations are fascinating, knowing how our ancient ancestors lived, what innovations they developed and how history played out to lead to us reading this article is mind-blowing. The Vikings are one of these past influential societies that were around in the Middle Ages and were known for their seafaring activities to trade, raid, and colonize wide areas of Europe.
Archaeologists at Stockholm University have recently uncovered a medieval gold mine, locating a unique Viking Age shipyard at Birka on Björkö in Lake Mälaren. This discovery at the Viking lake town has helped contribute to theories about this society’s way of life and maritime activities.
A new perspective on Medieval shipping
The incredible site consisted of a stone-lined shore depression and a wooden boat dock at the bottom. “A site like this has never been found before, it is the first of its kind, but the finds convincingly show that it was a shipyard”, says Sven Isaksson who co-led the investigations. “The finds of artifacts from the area show with great clarity that this is where people have served their ships.”
It has long been known that ships and shipping were key characteristics of the Viking Age in the Nordic countries, utilized for both trade, warfare, and exchange of ideas. Previously, the understanding of Birka’s shipping activity has been based around another nearby region known as the Black Earth harbor area in Kugghamn, located outside of Birka’s town walls or rampart. Finding this previously undiscovered shipping dock inside the rampart means the relationship between these two areas may be different than researchers thought.
“By investigating various maritime elements in connection with a possible house site in Kugghamn, we are now trying to get an overall view of a very exciting and previously archaeologically completely unexplored environment”, explains co-author Sven Kalmring.
Exciting knowledge is yet to come
These findings help piece together a more comprehensive picture of how the maritime Viking landscape would have been organized. Archaeologists are reportedly excited to see what else this hidden gold mine can uncover about the Viking era, specifically focussing on who could dock there.
“Could anyone land anywhere, or did it matter if it was inside or outside the town rampart? There is much to ponder here. But for us, the investigation doesn’t end with the fieldwork, we continue in the lab. By using analytical laboratory techniques, we get more information out of the fragmentary source material than is otherwise possible”, added Isaksson.
Source study: Arkeologiska forskningslaboratoriet – A Viking-era shipyard at Kugghamn