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History

Haithabu: Viking trade centre

Haithabu is located outside Schleswig’s city gates. During the Viking period from the 9th to the 11th century, the Early Middle Ages town belonged to the most significant trade centres in North Europe. As the Arab chronographer Ibrahim ibn Ahmed At-Tartûschi noted around 965 in his travel report about Haithabu, “Haithabu is a very large town at the outermost end of the ocean”.

Probably founded by Frisian merchants during the 8th century at the inner end of the almost 40 kilometre-long Baltic Sea estuary Schlei, the Danish king personally assumed control of the location, which rapidly developed to become one of the most important sea trading venues and one of North Europe’s first cities.

People from all over the world came together in Haithabu. 

The most important long-distance trade routes crossed in Haithabu and brought people and merchandise together from all over the world. To protect the city, fortified semi-circular ramparts were erected. To the west, the Danewerk defence system adjoins this.

For almost three hundred years, Haithabu held the key position for merchandise handling between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. When it boils down to it, only a mere 18 kilometres’ land route needed to be mastered to reach the North Sea via the Treene and Eider. With the end of the Viking Age around the middle of the 11th century, its functions were transferred to Schleswig, located on the north bank of the Schlei.

Since the end of the 19th century, archaeologists have discovered several significant findings in the expansive area belonging to the former port settlement and the cemeteries, bearing witness to the past splendour of this southernmost settlement location of the Vikings.

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