Truso, situated on Lake Drużno, was an Old Prussian (Pomesanian) town near the Baltic Sea just east of the Vistula River. It was one of the trading posts on the Amber Road, and is thought to be the antecedent of the city of Elbląg (Elbing). In the words of Marija Gimbutas, “the name of the town is the earliest known historically in the Baltic Sea area”.The main export goods of Truso were amber, furs, and slaves, while blacksmithing and amber working were the major industries. The beginnings of the town can be dated back to approximately the end of the 8th century, while in the second half of the 10th century, the town declined and was eclipsed as a trade center by nearby Gdańsk.

Truso was situated in a central location upon the Eastern European trade routes, which led from Birka in the north to the island of Gotland and to Visby in the Baltic Sea and later included the Hanseatic city of Elbląg. From there, traders continued further south to Carnuntum in the Alps. This was called the Amber Road. The ancient amber roads led further south-west and south-east to the Black Sea and eventually to Asia. “For East Prussia, Truso played the same role as Haithabu (Slesvig) or Hedeby for north-western Germany or Slavic Vineta for Pomerania”, Gimbutas has observed.

East-west trade route went from Truso and Wiskiauten (a rival centre in Prussia which sprang up at the south-western corner of the Courish Lagoon), along the Baltic Sea to Jutland, and from there up the Slien inlet to Haithabu/Hedeby, a large trading center in Jutland. Hedeby, which lay near the modern city of Schleswig in Schleswig-Holstein, was pretty centrally located and could be reached from all four directions over land as well as from the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Baltic Sea.

Around the year 890, Wulfstan of Hedeby (by his own account) undertook a seven-days boat journey from Hedeby to Truso at the behest of king Alfred the Great. One possible reason for this expedition was because Alfred needed aid in his defense against the Danes or Vikings, who had taken over most of England. The reasons for this journey are fundamentally unclear, since Truso was at the time little more than a trading center, and Alfred the Great, the West Saxon ruler, already kept in close contact with the continental Saxons and the Franks.

German archaeological finds in 1897 and excavations started in the 1920s had located Truso around Janów Pomorski, Poland, in the south-eastern suburb of Elbląg. These artifacts, dating from the 7th to 12th century, were put into the Elbing Museum and are now on exhibition at the Elbląg Museum. In the 1980s, the Polish archaeologist Marek F. Jagodziński resumed excavations and cleared a c. 20 hectare site, which was burnt down around the year 1000, whereupon the inhabitants found it prudent to disperse.

Who was Wulfstan:


Wessex coins in Truso:

Navigation instruments found in Truso:
The Voyage of Wulfstan to Estland

Important: The “Estonians” in the text below are in fact Pruthenians, and Estland is not Estonia – it’s Prussia.


Wulfstan sæde þæt he gefore of Hæðum; þæt he wære on Truso on syfan dagum and nihtum; þæt þæt scip wæs ealne weg yrnende under segle. Weonoðland him wæs on steorbord, and on bæcbord him wæs Langaland, and Læland, and Falster, and Sconeg; and þas land eall hyrað to Denemearcan. “And þonne Burgendaland wæs us on bæcbord, and þa habbað him sylf cyning. Þonne æfter Burgendalande wæron us þas land, þa synd hatene ærest Blecingaeg, and Meore, and Eowland, and Gotland on bæcbord; and þas land hyrað to Sweon. And Weonodland wæs us ealne weg on steorbord oð Wislemuðan.”

Seo Wisle is swyðe mycel ea, and hio tolið Witland and Weonodland; and þæt Witland belimpeð to Estum; and seo Wisle lið ut of Weonodlande, and lið in Estmere; and se Estmere is huru fiftene mila brad.

Þonne cymeð Ilfing eastan in Estmere of ðæm mere ðe Truso standeð in staðe, and cumað ut samod in Estmere, Ilfing eastan of Estlande, and Wisle suðan of Winodlande, and þonne benimð Wisle Ilfing hire naman, and ligeð of þæm mere west and norð on sæ; for ðy hit man hæt Wislemuða.

Þæt Estland is swyðe mycel, and þær bið swyðe manig burh, and on ælcere byrig bið cynincg. And þær bið swyðe mycel hunig and fiscað; and se cyning and þa ricostan men drincað myran meolc, and þa unspedigan and þa þeowan drincað medo. Þær bið swyðe mycel gewinn betweonan him. And ne bið ðær nænig ealo gebrowen mid Estum, ac þær bið medo genoh.

And þær is mid Estum ðeaw, þonne þær bið man dead, þæt he lið inne unforbærned mid his magum and freondum monað, ge hwilum twegen; and þa kyningas, and þa oðre heahðungene men, swa micle lencg swa hi maran speda habbað, hwilum healf gear þæt hi beoð unforbærned, and licgað bufan eorðan on hyra husum.

And ealle þa hwile þe þæt lic bið inne, þær sceal beon gedrync and plega, oð ðone dæg þe hi hine forbærnað.

Þonne þy ylcan dæg þe hi hine to þæm ade beran wyllað, þonne todælað hi his feoh, þæt þær to lafe bið æfter þæm gedrynce and þæm plegan, on fif oððe syx, hwylum on ma, swa swa þæs feos andefn bið. Alecgað hit ðonne forhwæga on anre mile þone mæstan dæl fram þæm tune, þonne oðerne, ðonne þæne þriddan, oþþe hyt eall aled bið on þære anre mile; and sceall beon se læsta dæl nyhst þæm tune ðe se deada man on lið.

Ðonne sceolon beon gesamnode ealle ða menn ðe swyftoste hors habbað on þæm lande, forhwæga on fif milum oððe on syx milum fram þæm feo. Þonne ærnað hy ealle toweard þæm feo; ðonne cymeð se man se þæt swiftoste hors hafað to þæm ærestan dæle and to þæm mæstan, and swa ælc æfter oðrum, oþ hit bið eall genumen; and se nimð þone læstan dæl se nyhst þæm tune þæt feoh geærneð.

And þonne rideð ælc hys weges mid ðan feo, and hyt motan habban eall; and for ðy þær beoð þa swiftan hors ungefoge dyre.

And þonne hys gestreon beoð þus eall aspended, þonne byrð man hine ut, and forbærneð mid his wæpnum and hrægle. And swiðost ealle hys speda hy forspendað mid þan langan legere þæs deadan mannes inne, and þæs þe hy be þæm wegum alecgað, þe ða fremdan to ærnað, and nimað.

And þæt is mid Estum þeaw þæt þær sceal ælces geðeodes man beon forbærned; and gyf þar man an ban findeð unforbærned, hi hit sceolan miclum gebetan.

And þær is mid Estum an mægð þæt hi magon cyle gewyrcan; and þy þær licgað þa deadan men swa lange and ne fuliað, þæt hy wyrcað þone cyle hine on. And þeah man asette twegen fætels full ealað oððe wæteres, hy gedoð þæt oþer bið oferfroren, sam hit sy sumor sam winter.

Wulfstan told he journeyed from Hedeby to Trusö in seven nights and days, with his ship all the while under full sail. Wendland was to his starboard, and Langeland to his larboard together with Lolland, Falster, and Skåne. All this land is under the Danes’ command. Sometime thereafter Bornholm, which is an independent dominion with its own king, stood to the larboard. Pursuing Bornholm came the lands that have been called since the elderdays Blekinge, Möre, Öland, and Gotland. These are ruled by the Swedes [and Goths]. They remained to the larboard, and Wendland stood to the starboard ever until the mouth of Vistula. Nigh the large river of Vistula are situated Witland and Wendland. The previous belongs to the people of Esthland. Vistula runs out of Wendland and into a lake about fifteen miles wide, named Estmere (Vistula Lagoon). Then Elbing, east of Vistula, flows into Estmere, on the banks of which stands Trusö. Together the rivers reach Estmere, Elbing from the east out of Esthland, and Vistula from the south out of Wendland. Thereupon Vistula strips Elbing of its name, as it on the western end of the lake takes a northbound course and flows into the sea. Thereby the delta is called Vistula-mouth.

Many fortified towns lie in the far-reaching Esthland, and every fort has its own [low] king. The land is most affluent in honey and fish. The king and the wealthiest folk enjoy mare’s milk, whereas the poor and the slaves drink mead. No ale is brewed there, as the freely flowing mead satisfies everyone. There is however a great deal of strife in-between the tribes.

According to an Estonian custom, a man that has passed away must lay unburned amidst his kinsfolk and friends for a full month or sometimes two. The kings and high-ranking men may rest longer in such waiting, sometimes for half a year, unburned and aboveground inside their houses. The greater the wealth, the longer the funeral wake. And while the corpse lies inside, there shall be drinking and feasting until the cremation day, all this being funded from the dead man’s property. Finally, on the day when the dead is brought to the pyre, the remaining belongings are divided into five or six heaps, sometimes more, depending on their amount and value. These piles are then deposited within a mile from the dead man’s village. The largest portion is placed down first, farthest to the settlement, then the second and third, until everything is contained within that mile and the smallest pile stands nearest to the village.

Thereafter the owners of the fastest horses around the countryside shall gather within five or six miles from the heaps, towards which they then race. The flightiest reaches the first and largest portion, and so one after the other, until everything is taken. The man who arrives at the outskirts of the village first acquires the smallest pile. Thereafter the winners can keep the property and go separate ways. For this reason speedy horses are of great value there. And, after all the dead man’s wealth is thus spent in these rites, he is carried out of the house and laid onto a pyre with his garments and weapons. Not much however will be left, as the property is mostly consumed during the feasting and racing.

Custom also dictates that every dead body of any tribe or family must be burned. If a person comes across even a single, unburned bone, he is heavily fined. The Estonians furthermore possess the magic-power of summoning the cold. Therefore their bodies do not decay even when they remain so long aboveground, as they put the spell of coldness upon them. And if two dishes are poured full of either ale or water, they can make both freeze over, regardless of whether it be summer or winter.