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Ribe Rosenallé Excavation Project: The 2015 Campaign

Ribe at the Danish Wadden Sea is one of the most important archaeological sources for European history between the Migration period and medieval times. As one of a small group of emporia, which emerged from the end of the 600s around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Ribe was a hub for maritime networks, through which the exchange of goods and cultural interactions connected the world in new ways from Northern Norway to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. As the earliest city in the North, Ribe gathered and catalysed a world in change at the threshold of the maritime expansion of the Viking Age.

The archeological remains from the earliest Ribe comprise burials and fortification structures, buildings, workshops and roads, spread out across a large area. As a source of Northern Europe’s urbanisation and early market exchange during the period c. 700- 850 CE, Ribe’s archaeology is outstanding. Whereas the remains from other North-Sea emporia have been largely destroyed, the archaeology of early Ribe is, in places, exceptionally wellpreserved in thick cultural layers, with a large material of artefacts, traces of crafts and other remains. In present-day Denmark, Ribe is indisputably the most abundant archaeological source for the hundred years leading up to the Viking Age. Its intact and detailed stratigraphy also makes Ribe a significant reference point for archaeological chronology and knowledge about finds in Northern Europe in the 700s. The remains, however, have mostly been subject to small-scale or methodologically inadequate excavation.

In May and June 2015, the Ribe Rosenallé Excavation Project continued fieldwork initiated in 2014 at a site along the perimeter for the Viking-age town. The excavation’s target is a rare, undisturbed and accessible area, which allows the first large-scale open-area excavation of the early urban centre. The area comprises traces of Ribe’s earliest defences together with a central part of the town’s pagan cemetery and remains of buildings from several episodes of settlement in the period 700-1200 CE. Together with excavations previously conducted by the Museum of Southwest Jutland outside the defences, the excavations aim to uncover a continuous sample of the urban topography, reaching over 250 m from the outer reaches of the town to the centre. This enables a new and dynamic view of the urban development, revealing previously unknown and sometimes profound changes in the history of the town. Among the highlights of the 2015 campagin was the discovery of several furnished graves, among them a cremation grave with a unique, and completely intact, imported French wine pitcher.

The excavations are directed by Søren M. Sindbæk in collaboration with Morten Søvsø, head of archaeology at the Museum of Southwest Jutland, and Dr. Sarah Croix, project researcher at Aarhus University. They are organised in collaboration with the Museum of Southwest Jutland and the Department of Culture and Society at Aarhus University as training excavations for archaeology students. A number of UrbNet staff participate actively in the fieldwork and related analyses. The results are due to be published as a monograph by Aarhus University Press. Analytical results of materials from the 2015 are forthcoming, and several journal papers are prepared for publication. A comprehensive monograph of the pagan cemetery is being prepared by Dr. Sarah Croix, funded by a special grant from the Danish Ministry of Culture.

The team of the 2015 field work consisted of directors Søren M. Sindbæk (Aarhus University), Morten Søvsø (Museum of Southwest Jutland) and Sarah Croix (Aarhus University), Troels Bo Jensen, Michael Alrø Jensen, Maria Knudsen and Sarah Qvistgaard (Museum of Southwest Jutland) and Victor Palsted Bizoev, Pia Berg Christensen, Eirik Randrup Christensen, Mira Vetterslev Dønstrup, Marian Frandsen, Nikoline Gilså, Steffen Hansen, Lasse Skjerninge Hermansen, Anders Dam Hove, Serena Marina Siff Jepsen, Henriette Lise-Lotte Kammann, Adisa Kicin, Anna Hennebjerg Lunde, Cathrine Frederiksen Madsen, Matias Sebastian Møller, Kathrine Knudsen Møller, Maiken Pehrson Nielsen, Rick William Nielsen, Nikolaj Grønbæk Olesen, Ann Lisa Pedersen, Isabella Birk Uhrskov, Hanna Antonie Wigen (students).

PI: Professor MSO Søren M. Sindbæk