Kaupang in Skiringssal: Excavation and Surveys at Kaupang and Huseby, 1998-2003. Background and Results

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Dagfinn Skre
Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, 2007 - History - 502 pages
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In this, the first of six volumes, the main results of the excavations that the University of Oslo carried out at Kaupang from 1998 to 2003 are presented. A completely new picture is put forward of the port that Ottar visited in c.890. It is now clear that Kaupang was one of the four Scandinavian towns that were founded around the year 800. Kaupang is connected to the power centre of Skiringssal, to the Ynglings - the legendary Norwegian royal lineage, and to the King of the Danes - the dominant political actor in south-west Scandinavia. In nine of the book's 20 chapters, the excavations' finds, analyses and results are presented. Kaupang is shown to have had several of the same features revealed in Birka, Hedeby and Ribe - i.e., a compact permanent settlement, divided into small plots, each with a dwelling. The town could have had 400-800 inhabitants. Substantial traces of trade and craftwork are proof of the main areas of occupation. Advanced geo- and environmental-archaeological analyses have played a large role in interpreting the finds. In three chapters, 200 years of research on Kaupang and Skiringssal are summarised, while in the remaining eight chapters an endeavour is made to re-establish the holistic approach to Skiringssal that dominated research during the first 100 years. Documentary sources indicate that Skiringssal was an important royal seat in the 700s and 800s. In this volume, these sources are put together with the archaeological and toponymical sources which, united, show a centre of power with a clear likeness to similar places in Denmark and Sweden. A hall or sal building, presumably the Skirings-sall itself, was excavated at Huseby, near Kaupang. Nearby, a thing site is situated by a holy lake. In this, the Yngling kings' centre of power, to which many people came to attend thing meetings and sacrificial feasts, the town Kaupang was founded.

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Dagfinn Skre
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