In what may be one of the biggest digs of the 21st century, a team of Danish archeologists believe they have uncovered a once thriving center of Viking activity, Sliasthorp, the fabled military base occupied by the earliest Scandinavian kings.
Since excavations began in 2010, roughly 200 buildings, along with weapons, precious jewelry, glass beads, and silver coins have been unearthed at Füsing, near the Danish border, National Geographic reports, findings that they say offer valuable insights into the military organization and town planning of what is thought to be the earliest Viking settlement in the historical record.
“Our studies have given us a completely new view on the anatomy of the very earliest cities. It differs greatly from what we see in the Middle Ages and today," said Andres Dobat, a lecturer in prehistoric archaeology at Aarhus University, in an interview with Science Nordic.
Dobat, who is heading up the archeological dig, explained that the location of Sliasthorp was unknown until now. What was known is that it was used as a base by the Viking king Gøtrik, also known as Godfred or Gudfred.
From the town, Viking kings or their chieftains would have controlled trade and access to the region, the study team suggests.
According to Wired magazine, Dobat believes that the site may even have served as the birthplace of the modern economy.
"We have actually found the origins of what we today call Hamburg," he said. "When the Vikings built this town and Hedeby, they were a precursor of Schleswig, which in the early Middle Ages was the great trading city in the region. Schleswig, in turn, was the precursor of Lübeck, which today has given way to Hamburg. We're digging at the roots of world economy."
Hedeby, a much larger city approximately 2.5 miles away, functioned as an international port and trading center during Viking times. "We have the international traders and craftsmen at one place, and the Scandinavian elite a few kilometers away," Dobat told ScienceNordic.
Dobat first came across the site using a metal detector in 2003, according to Wired. And while the findings are promising, Mads Dengsø Jessen, of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen cautions that a positive ID still needs to be made. It's "the best candidate we have for now," he told National Geographic.