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Metalworking in early Viking Age Denmark

The visitor who walks through Ribe today will smile at the quaint half-timbered houses from the sixteenth century. Ribe has, however, a much longer history that goes back to the early Viking Age. In the seventh century, Ribe starts out as a seasonal marketplace on a sandbank north of the river, here Scandinavians and Frisians come to trade. The marketplace then grows into a bustling trading town during the early Viking Age and its importance probably diminishes in the course of the tenth and eleventh century (see The Viking World, Claus Feveile, pp. 128).

From the mid-twentieth century onwards, archaeologists uncover a wealth of objects in and around Ribe. A new study examines over 1,000 of these items, specifically metal objects ranging from jewellery to tools from the eighth and ninth century. The results are very valuable. They show the rate at which innovations take place in metalworking in the early Viking Age. For example, how lead brass alloy is replaced with zinc brass that has a more consistent output of the high-quality metal. And how tools also such a clay moulds are improved to withstand higher temperatures.

Above, I briefly summarise the article on Heritage Daily, the original scientific article is behind the paywall on Springer Link: V. Orfanou, T. Birch, S.M. Sindbæk et al., ‘On diverse arts: crucible metallurgy and the polymetallic cycle at Scandinavia’s earliest Viking town, Ribe (8th–9th c. CE), Denmark,’ in: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Volume 13.81 (2021).

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