Oldest Danish town possibly older

New research points to earlier urbanisation

December 15th, 2014 5:05 pm| by admin

If you thought Ribe was the oldest town in Denmark, you're still right, but now a new study from Aarhus University shows the town may be almost 100 years older than originally thought.

Archaeologists previously believed that Ribe was established in the late 700s, but new research points to its establishment being in the earlier part of the same century, reports Videnskab.

Ribe, in southwest Jutland, is not only Denmark's oldest town, but is Scandinavia's oldest town as well.

”Ribe is the place urbanisation started in Scandinavia,” Sarah Croix, the study's author, told Videnskab. ”If Ribe began as a city in the early 700s, then it was long before the Vikings and thus casts new light on our understanding of this period.”

Excavating history
Ribe's location on Jutland's west coast meant it was perfectly positioned as a commercial area for trade and for boats to berth. Croix argues, however, that it was more than just a short-term, seasonal stop for seafarers. Her research points to more permanent habitation.

Croix's research is based on archaeological data from an excavation undertaken between 1985 and 1986 by Stig Jensen, an archaeologist who died before the results were analysed. The data remained untouched until Croix dug it up.

Croix bases her findings on evidence of particular tools, such as millstones used to grind grain that show wear and tear in line with daily household use, and the excavation of part of a house.

”Sarah made a new assessment of the housing assembly and shows it is more solidly built than previously thought,” Dagfinn Skre, a professor at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, told Videnskab. ”It is important for it to be for permanent living.”

Digging some more
The excavation done in the 1980s of St Nicholas Street will not be enough to convince the archaeological community of Ribe's new founding date.

Croix would have liked the original excavation to have been of the whole house to find evidence of a fireplace – a strong indicator of it being a more permanent living space.

Croix has been scouring the city to find evidence of other similar houses and believes she has found signs that the house on St Nicholas Street is not one-of-a-kind.