Hedeby is the Southernmost Nordic town, and played an important role as a key trading center in the viking age. It is at the crossroads of the Slien Fjord and the Baltic Sea to the East, streams that led to the Atlantic running close by to the West and the main land route, the Army Road running along the Jutland high ridge up along the Eastern side of Jutland. Hedeby is also known as Sliesthorp, Sliaswich and æt Hæthum or Haitha Town.

A wide view over the Hedeby area today, South towards North

The city area is surrounded by a 1300 meter long city wall in a half circle around the city area. The city wall is in places still 10 meters high, and was directly connected to the wall, Danevirke, which crossed the entire peninsula of Jutland with Hedeby as the Eastern edge.

The city wall of Hedeby from the South Eastern edge

Today the city wall can be distinguished from the surroundings by the trees that grow on it. The city area is 6 hectares large. Hedeby is known to exist as early as in the 8th century. A written source tells of the arrival of King Godfred to Hedeby in 804 with his army. And in 808 King Godfred closed down a Slavic trading center called Reric and moved all its merchants to Hedeby.

The waters edge of Hedeby, once the busy harbour

The Eastern side of the city area is an arm of the Slien Fjord. This was one of the biggest ports in the Baltic Sea at the time, and had its own defensive system with a chain fencing off the harbour area from the Fjord. Today an example of the kinds of bridges that the viking ships moored at has been created to illustrate how things looked. The cows in the picture are not a recreation of how things were - Hedeby was so large and specialized a trading and crafts construction center that cows inside the Hedeby city wall would be as unusual then as cows on today's Champs Elysees in Paris would be.

A model of the vikingship excavated from Hedeby Harbour

One of the finds made in Hedeby is a large viking ship, which is on display at the Hedeby Museum, along with a model of the original. This is a warship, and probably not the most typical ship type that visited Hedeby, which would see a lot of cargo ships bringing and leaving with different goods, primarily from the Baltic Sea area and Russia.

The Southern gate through the Hedeby city wall

This is the Southern Gate through the Hedeby city wall, as it looks today. The trees are covering the wall and the gate area and obscuring the lines and contours somewhat. Hedeby was attacked and sacked several times, demonstrating both how rich and important Hedeby was and how centrally located to the main trade routes it was.

A view of Hedeby from the Northern city wall

Hedeby was built around a small stream that runs down through the area, dividing it into a Northern and a Southern section. The reconstructed houses are located just North of the stream, at its original edge.

Several of the types of houses found in Hedeby have been reconstructed

The main roads in Hedeby ran diagonally to the stream, in North/South directions. The houses would have their narrow ends pointing toward the main road. The houses on the left are residential homes, while the house on the right was either a large residential house or a hall/gathering place.

The successor to Hedeby when Hedeby was sacked in 1050 - Schleswig

Around 1050 Hedeby was sacked again and probably destroyed by the attackers, and it was never rebuilt. Around the same time the town of Schleswig at the Northern edge of the Slien Fjord grew steadily in size and importance. A possible reason could be that the ship traffic increasingly needed a deeper harbour than Hedeby could offer.


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