Things from the Town. Artefacts and Inhabitants in Viking-age Kaupang
Gjøstein Resi, Heid
KeywordsVDP::Nordisk arkeologi: 091
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AbstractThe third volume covering the excavations of 1998–2003 in the Viking-period town of Kaupang examines a range of artefacts and discusses the inhabitants of the town: their origins, activities and trading connexions. Certain key threads from both this and the two previous volumes in the series are drawn together. The main categories of artefact are metal jewellery and ornaments, gemstones, vessel glass, pottery, finds of soapstone, whetstones and textile-production equipment. The artefacts are described and dated, and in some cases their areas of origin are discussed. An exceptional wealth and diversity of artefacts distinguishes sites such as Kaupang from all other types of site in the Viking world. This reflects the fact that a large population of some 400–600 people, engaged in a comprehensive range of production and trade, lived closely together in the town c. ad 800–930. The finds and structural remains make it possible to identify the activities that took place within the six buildings excavated. The earliest buildings were in use only periodically, but those erected in the 820s were occupied permanently. The earlier structures were used for limited periods by a variety of craftsmen, but those in permanent occupation were primarily houses and only secondarily workshops. Throughout the life of the town, trade links with southern Scandinavia, the Baltic and the Irish Sea appear to have been strong. In the earliest phases of the town there was considerable trade with the Frisian zone, probably with Dorestad, but this link faded in the second half of the 9th century, probably because Dorestad had been abandoned. Kaupang seems to have been supplied with goods from the interior of eastern Norway, while goods from the western coastland of Norway are all but absent. Finds of personal equipment show that many of the inhabitants were from southern and western Scandinavia. One house can be identified as that of a Frisian household engaged in trade. There were also Slavs in Kaupang, although it is not clear if they too were long-term residents. Kaupang was located in a border zone between southern and northern Scandinavia as well as between the East and the West. The trading potential of such border zones is probably why Kaupang, unlike Ribe, survived the demise of the Frisian trade in the mid-late 9th century.