Hedeby/Haithabu

Recently Una’s father and mother went on a journey along the Baltic shoreline, as true Normans would. They brought a lot of interesting loot, starting with books and brochures and ending with photo documentation of museums. I wanted to present what they brought.

Haithabu/Hedeby (Heiðabýr – “the hearthland yard”) was the biggest and the most important Norman harbour and probably the largest Norse town between 800 A.D. and 1066 A.D. – connecting routes to Brittain, Norway and to the east – Truso.  It’s located on Jutland peninsula. Hedeby was first mentioned in the Frankish chronicles of Einhard (804) who was in the service of Charlemagne. The town was built around 770. In 808 the Danish king Godfred (Godofredus) destroyed a competing Slav trade centre named Reric, and it is recorded in the Frankish chronicles that he moved the merchants from there to Hedeby. The town minted its own coins  around 825 A.D. According to Adam of Bremen, a 11th century chronicle writer, Haithabu ships were sent to Slavic lands, Sweden, Samland and Greece.

Haithabu

Haithabu

The town was described by visitors from England (Wulfstan – 9th century, he sailed from Hedeby to Truso) and the Mediterranean (Al-Tartushi – 10th century). The townbecame the seat of a bishop in 948 A.D. and belonged to the Archbishopric of Hamburg and Bremen.
During end of 9th and at the beginning of the 10th century the town was ruled by members of the Olof the Brash dynasty – this information is stored on 3 runestones, one of them the most important known as the Erikstenen was found in Hedeby; the other two were found in other locations in Denmark.
Life was short and crowded in Hedeby. The small houses were clustered tightly together in a grid, with the east-west streets leading down to jetties in the harbour. People rarely lived beyond 30 or 40, and archaeological research shows that their later years were often painful due to crippling diseases such as tuberculosis. Yet make-up for men and rights for women provide surprises to the modern understanding.Ibrahim ibn Yaqub al-Tartushi, a late 10th-century traveller from al-Andalus, provides one of the most colourful and often quoted descriptions of life in Hedeby. Al-Tartushi was from Cordoba in Spain, which had a significantly more wealthy and comfortable lifestyle than Hedeby. While Hedeby may have been significant by Scandinavian standards,  Al-Tartushi was unimpressed:
    “Slesvig (Hedeby) is a very large town at the extreme end of the world ocean…. The inhabitants worship Sirius, except for a minority of Christians who have a church of their own there…. He who slaughters a sacrificial animal puts up poles at the door to his courtyard and impales the animal on them, be it a piece of cattle, a ram, billygoat or a pig sothat his neighbors will be aware that he is making a sacrifice in honor of his god. The town is poor in goods and riches. People eat mainly fish which exist in abundance. Babies are thrown into the sea for reasons of economy. The right to divorce belongs to the women…. Artificial eye make-up is another peculiarity; when they wear it their beauty never disappears, indeed it is enhanced in both men and women. Further: Never did I hear singing fouler than that of these people, it is a rumbling emanating from their throats, similar to that of a dog but even more bestial.”
The golden age for the town ends in 1050. The town was burned by Harald Hadrada during the war with king Sweyn. Then, in 1066, the town was sacked by Slavs, which made denizens of Haithabu to move and found the town of Schleswig.
Longboat in Haithabu

Longboat in Haithabu

Runestone

Runestone

A sword, Museum of Haithabu

A sword, Museum of Haithabu

A sword, Museum of Haithabu

A sword, Museum of Haithabu

A sword, Museum of Haithabu

A sword, Museum of Haithabu

A hook and an axe head.

A hook and an axe head.

A spearhead. Museum of Haithabu

A spearhead. Museum of Haithabu

Haithabu jewellery

Haithabu jewellery

Haithabu jewellery

Haithabu jewellery

Sources: Wikipedia, own sources
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