Note: Gunnar Heinsohn is a premier scholar who has
striven for chronology to overcome the influence Biblical fundamentalism,
mainstream dogma, and Velikovsky's revisions by--in his own words--letting the
archaeological strata be his Occam's Razor.
Chronology Reconstruction Discussion Issues
University of Breman
How did so many 1st-3rd century Roman elements make it into the
8th-10th century Viking age?
Before and after the 1st millennium CE, Viking
territory in Scandinavia develops in tandem with the rest of the world.
Yet, within that millennium, Viking culture falls behind abysmally by
some 700 years until it begins to catch up in the 8th c. CE.
At that point it is the famous Viking longship, with its oars and
square sail, suitable for ocean voyage and river warfare alike, that
made these Norsemen such a swift and effective power. Just as these
daring seafarers shocked the rest of Europe in the 8th-10th c., they
still surprise modern maritime historians today. Why did it take 700
years for these raiders of the 1st millennium CE to finally build ports
and use sails? After all, the oared longboat with a square sail had been
used in Europe since Greece’s Archaic Period in the 6th c. BCE.
Therefore, the 1-700 CE period, during which Norsemen never mastered the
art of sailing, is not only the most bewildering epoch of the histories
of Denmark, Sweden and Norway but also of shipping in general:
"Despite the widespread use of sail in Gaul
and Britain in Roman times [1st c.], there is little evidence that
Scandinavians adopted this technology before the Viking Age [8th c.]. We
find the earliest confirmation in the Baltic, where Gotlandic picture
stones from the eighth century change from showing rowing vessels to
showing ships with sails. From around AD 800 depictions of sailing ships
appear on Viking coins, runic stones, graffiti, but the Oseberg ship
from AD 820 is the oldest find of a sailing vessel in / Scandinavia.
Some written evidence points to the continuous use of sail in the
Southern North Sea and the Channel from Roman times on. That it
seemingly was not adopted in Scandinavia is puzzling" (Bill 2012,
In actual fact the Northerners’ enigmatic dislike of sailing is more
than just puzzling. It appears to turn Julius Caesar (100 – 44 BCE) into
a fantasist, or even a liar, because he, as early as the 1st c. BCE,
gives a description of ships and sails of the Veneti
– with brethren sail in the Baltic Sea bordering Southern
Scandinavia – that fit Viking sailing ships of the 8th c. CE quite
"The ships were built wholly of oak. […]
The benches which were made of planks a foot in breadth, were fastened
by iron spikes of the thickness of a man’s
Fig. 1. Late Bronze Age (up to 500
BCE) boat from Skane that appears to carry mast and sails.
thumb; […] for sails they used skins and thin dressed
leather" (De Bello Gallico, III, 13).
Historically, Nordic people were famous for a large variety of
sophisticated boat types long before the Romans approached their realm.
Scandinavia’s countless rock carvings depicting ships, as well as the
burial mounds known as "stone ships" show an obsession with shipping
that is hardly known anywhere else in the pre-Christian period. The
disappearance of these ocean-centered arts in the early 1st c. CE remains
no less a mystery of European history than its sudden rebirth 700 years
later. When Imperial Rome turned Europe into a culturally integrated
sphere, Scandinavia apparently shut down – or was reduced to burials and
small hamlets. Yet, up to the time of the Roman Republic, many items
made of imported European bronze and gold are preserved.
Since there are Late Bronze age Scandinavian boats on rock carvings
(up to 500 BCE) that may even show sails (Fig. 1)
Caesar’s statement should not actually have come as a
surprise. However, such interpretations are controversial because the
carved square objects are not set close enough to the center of the
ship’s hull and, therefore, may represent huts or tents. On the other
hand, sails on late Bronze Age Greek ships of similar shape and size are
confirmed beyond doubt (Fig. 2; Fig. 3).
Fig. 2. Late Bronze Age Greek
Penteconter with square sail and ram hull (dated 6th c. BCE). The
long (28-33 m) and sharp-keeled Greek ships (c. 4 m wide) were used for
trade and warfare. They were rowed by up to fifty (pente)
oarsmen, arranged in two rows of twenty-five on each side of the ship. A
midship mast with sail could be employed under appropriate wind.
In any case, Scandinavia’s dynamic shipping evolution
from the Bronze Age to Late Latène was brutally interrupted during the 1st
to the 8th c. CE
"The watercraft of Scandinavia took on some of the
appearance of the future Viking ship, including high posts at each end
crowned with spirals or animal heads. Some of these heads are certainly
serpents or dragons, and dragons are depicted hovering over boats in
Bronze Age art. The warriors manning these boats often wore the horned
helmets that have come to symbolize the caricature Viking" 1500 years
later (Hale 1996).
Yet, even if we assume that Caesar had concocted his report on Veneti
sailing, why, then, would Strabo (63 BCE - 24 CE), a Greek, and the
empire’s foremost geographer, confirm the existence of early
Scandinavian sailors? Strabo knew them as the Cimbri that had attacked
the Roman Republic in 113 BCE. They were still active in the time of
Augustus (31 BCE – 14 CE). According to his Res gestae (ch. 26) the emperor’s
"fleet sailed from the mouth of the Rhine eastward as far as the
lands of the Cimbri, to which, up to that time, no Roman had ever
penetrated either by land or
Fig. 3. Reconstruction of a Greek Penteconter with
square sail and ram – here for only 28
[instead of usually 50 (pente)] warriors. Length varied from 25 to 35 m [width ca. 4.5 m].
The type preceded Viking long boats by at least some 1500 years.
by sea, and the Cimbri and Charydes and Semnones and
other peoples of the Germans of that same region through their envoys
sought my friendship and that of the Roman people".
Strabo locates this Germanic tribe in the "Cimbric
peninsula", identified with Danish Jutland:
"They still hold the country which they held in
earlier times; and they sent as a present to Augustus the most sacred
kettle in their country, with a plea for his friendship and for an
amnesty of their earlier offences, and when their petition was granted
they set sail for home"
(Geography 7: 2,1; bold GH).
It would have been regarded as a sensation if the
Cimbri had been known as sailing ignoramuses and, therefore, were forced
to row all the way back north to Denmark. Strabo would not have deprived
his readers of such an entertaining detail.
The mystery does not end with the question of rowing or sailing. By
whatever means the Cimbri managed to get back to Scandinavia, they would
not find a single port, not to mention a breakwater, to help them make
it safely to shore. Neither would they find a town with houses to rest
in, whereas in the Roman Empire – already in the 1st c CE – cities were
counted by the thousands:
"The earliest Viking Age (ca 700 CE) is the period
when urbanism first gained a footholt in the Scandinavian lands. At this
time urban communities had for several centuries been abundant further
south and west in the Roman Empire" (Skre 2012, p. 83).
For the first 700 years of the 1st millennium CE, Scandinavian sailors could only reach land
by wading through treacherous surf or beaching their boats. Yet,
Fig. 4. Roman silverware from the time of contact of the Cimbri with Augustus
(early 1st c. CE) from a tomb in Hoby (Denmark).
there are already splendid pieces of Roman art – too precious to fall
into the water – found in Denmark from the time of the Cimbri that prove
Scandinavia had contacts with the south during the 1st
c. CE. What is surprising, though, is the absence
of appropriate dwellings. The precious Roman items were discovered in
graves. (Fig. 4).
If Denmark had no towns in the 1st c. CE, one cannot understand what the sailors of
the fleet of Augustus who visited the Cimbri had actually seen. How
would they have landed without ports to dock their ships? More
intriguing, what did the Romans do to hide their square sails from
curious onlookers? Though there are no answers yet to such basic
questions, finds from burials
"all over Southern Scandinavia, of especially fibulas, indicate that
a small ‘Empire’ was present here in the first and second century, with
a ‘Himlingoje Dynasty’ as rulers. This ‘Dynasty’ not only traded with
Rome, but appearantly also lived a very ‘Roman’ style of life. If there
were such an ‘Empire’, it is obvious that the Romans could benefit from
this, and seek alliances with this regime" (Ravenna 2006).
Square sail images on Roman coins (1st BCE-2nd c. CE) that, after a hiatus
of some 700 years, also appear on Viking coins. Drawing A. Szwemiński.
A - Pompeius Coin (1st c. BCE)
B - Hadrian coin (2nd c. CE)
C-D - Viking coins with square sail boat from 9th/10th c.
It remains an enigma why such an open and extensive exchange between
Roman sailors and Scandinavian rowers would not have included the
transfer of the square-sail-concept. Moreover, an indigenous Danish
"Empire" without houses, temples, dams and roads is very difficult to
visualize because archaeologists never found such structures in the 1stcentury period. Yet, when in the 8th c. the Scandinavians, now called Vikings, build
sailing ships, breakwaters, ports, and towns they basically employ
700-year-old technologies. A bizarre situation, indeed! How could the
Scandinavian and Baltic peoples of Antiquity (1st -3rd c.) and Late
Antiquity (4th-6th c.) fail to adopt such basic improvements when
there were countless experts from all over Europe
Fig. 6. Roman millefiori beads (1st-3rd c.) – A
Glass Beads, Truso/Poland - B
Muzeum Archeologiczno-Historyczne w Elblągu/Museum of Archaeology and
History in Elbląg. Fot./Photo L. Okoński.
who could teach them? Even low-value Roman coins had
spread throughout their territories, confirming intensive economic
activity. A total of 7,756 Roman
denarii have been found in Sweden alone (mostly from 50-200 CE),
which indicates numerous Scandanavian contacts with the Roman world and
its shipping evolution.
When, at the latest, must Nordic mariners have seen Roman longships
with square sails? One may argue that Norsemen had not yet come into
contact with such ships before the Romans had replaced their
Hellenistic, Egyptian, and Phoenician rivals as masters of the sea. The
Romans had copied the ships of the defeated and, soon, were able to
employ them in their conquest of northwestern Europe, whose rivers, such
as the Rhine, became prime routes of Roman naval traffic. Under Julius
Caeasar’s (100-44 BCE) naval operations against the British Isles, the
North Sea to the west of Scandinavia became a Roman battleground. Thus,
by at least circa 1 CE, Scandinavians must have seen ships with square
sails. The Norsemen had no qualms about using Roman coins and silverware
from the very same 1st c. period that, strangely, left no houses or
ports but which did leave burials containing occasionally splendid Roman
imports. And yet for century after century – or so everybody believes
today – they stubbornly refused to assimilate them until the dawn of the
Early Middle Ages.
Ships with square sails are even portrayed on Roman
coins, from which the receivers of these monetary items could have
learnt about Roman progress in seafaring. And 700 years later, the
Vikings did not consider a coin too unworthy an item to carry an image
of their own sailing expertise (Fig. 5)
Yet, how could the Vikings, after 700 CE, become the
world‘s uncontested masters of the sea when – following the lethal and
irreversible fall of Roman civilization – there was nobody left to teach
them? How could people of Wulfstan’s times suddenly read classical Latin
and write it with the typical Roman iron stylus on wax tablets?
How could they create precious items known from Antiquity and Late
Antiquity, which they imitated perfectly, right down to the chemical
fingerprints of Roman glass tesserae and sophisticated millefiori beads
of the 1st c.(Fig.
6) . How could this have been done when they
did not even have archaeological strata for the 1stto 7th
c. beneath their habitats from which they could dig up
and copy the material culture of Rome?
The Northerners look like the world’s most improbable simpletons
during the 1st to the 7th c., whereas after the 8th c. they impress the
world as its most impossible geniuses. They teach themselves how to
produce Roman locks and keys. They recreate a long-extinct chemistry of
glass, only to use this formidable skill for mere imitations of earlier
stuff. The same appears to be true for the Vikings’ Arab trading
partners of the Early Abbasid domain (8th-10th c.). The Arabs, too, are
seen as living in a cultural backwater because – for the first seven
centuries of the 1st millennium – they are not able to mint coins, write
properly, develop urbanism or adopt monotheism (Heinsohn 2013). Yet, the
Abbasids, too, learn to revive 700-year-old Roman glass chemistry when
there is no one left to guide them towards such sophisticated crafts.
And yet, not a single person of erudition from the 9th c. – neither
Viking nor Arab – is on record for being mankind’s first scholar to have
analyzed 700-year-old materials down to their smallest elements. On the
contrary, once these masters had completed their enormous achievement of
retrieving dateless production processes, they fell back on boringly
Fig. 7. Roman millefiori glass bowl (1st c. CE) – A
Abbasid millefiori glass bowl 8th/9th c. CE - B
repetitive copies of outdated Roman shapes and patterns (Fig. 7;
Fig. 8). However, the Arabs, too, had no
1st-7th c. strata beneath their Early Medieval sites from which they
could have dug up Roman specimens to copy and perfect:
"Some of the finest examples of ancient Roman glass are represented
in cameo glass, a style of glassware that saw only two brief periods of
popularity. The majority of vessels and fragments have been dated to the
Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods, from 27 B.C. to 68 A.D., when the
Romans made a variety of vessels, large wall plaques, and small jewelry
items in cameo glass. While there was a brief revival in the fourth
century A.D., examples from the later Roman period are extremely rare.
In the West, cameo glass was not produced again until the eighteenth
century, inspired by the discovery of ancient masterpieces such as the
Portland Vase, but in the East, Islamic cameo glass vessels were
produced in the ninth and tenth centuries" (Trentinella 2003).
This notorious lack of originality is exhibited by the Vikings and
their Arab contemporaries not only in their arts and crafts but also in
the construction of their freight vessels, which are hardly
distinguishable from 700-year-earlier Roman models (Fig. 9).
Fig. 8. Late
1st c. CE Roman glass vase from Cologne (Harden 1988, p. 191) – A;
Fragment of 9th c. Abbasid glass plate: "A ninth-10th-century is
certainly possible. […] Similar motifs […] are found on a Roman
relief-cut vessel from Cologne" (Whitehouse 2010, 269) – B
Though it is true that the warships of Early Medieval
Vikings are clinker and rivet built, whereas Greeks and Romans of
Antiquity preferred mortise and tenon planking, (Fig. 10)
the Scandinavians use exactly the same technique
attributed by Caesar to the Baltic Veneti of the 1st c.
BCE. Liburnias used since the 1st c. CE in the Roman fleets for sea or river warfare,
pre-empted all the attributes of Viking war ships by some 700 years.
Their marines with round shields, as well as the boat’s split stern and
oarholes, convey the apperance of Vikings in Roman uniform. (Fig. 11)
If it comes to their animal style décor and and other
patterns the Vikings, again, do just as the Romans did 700 years before
"Viking ornament was chiefly rooted in a continuous tradition common
to much of north-western Europe which emerged in the fourth century AD.
From that period until the end of the Viking Age and beyond Scandinavian
artists were obsessed by a convoluted animal ornament which had its
roots in Roman art" (Wilson 2012, p. 323).
In the field of décor, there are complaints about the same
inexplicable 700-year standstill from Viking period
Reconstruction of Roman cargo ship from Londinium/England
with square sail (2nd c. CE) – A.
Reconstruction of Viking cargo ship with square sail – so-called
Knarr (9th/10th c. CE) (Haithabu 3 wreck; O. Uldum) - B
Źródła/Souces: P. Marsden; Ships of the Port of London: First to eleventh centuries AD - (A);
O. C. Pedersen 2009, p. 238, fig. 3 - (B).
Celtic Ireland to Arab Syria. There, too, one repeats
– of course with some local seasoning – in the 9th c. what elsewhere has
been already common in the 2nd century (fig. 12; fig. 13).
"Depicting vine tendrils, Corinthian acanthus scrolls,
gemmed vases and even fantastic Pompeian-like Roman palaces ensured
the survival of such [700 year older] motifs in Islam’s nascent art"
(Michaud et al. 1996, pp. 255 f.).
We have not fully exploited the Viking paradoxes yet.
Let us take a look at prominent cities like London or Winchester, (Fig. 14)
the capital of Alfred the Great (871-899). Supposedly
these two cities were heavily attacked by Vikings in the 9th c., and yet
they have no urban strata for that very period.
The Anglo-Saxon Alfred is of special interest because he sent
Wulfstan to visit Truso in Weonod terrritory, and Alfred’s coins are
found in many a Viking settlement. He confirms that Early Medieval Slavs
("Weonud") still carry names similar to those used in Antiquity (Venedi
[Pliny the Elder]) and Late Antiquity
Mortise and tenon planking was used by Greek shipbuilders at least since
the 4th c. BCE. It was continued by the Romans, and provides a smooth
and stable surface - A
Clinker/strapstake hull building with rivets in
the Viking style – B
Źródła/Sources: Eric Gaba - Own work Based upon a drawing Reference:
Jean Taillardat, La Trière athénienne et la guerre sur mer aux Ve et IVe siècles,
1968, [in:] Jean-Pierre Vernant, Problèmes de la guerre en
Grèce ancienne, Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences
Sociales, coll. Points, 1999
(Venethi [Jordanes]). Yet, if we look for buildings at Alfred’s
capital, Winchester (Venta Belgarum), we will fail to find it. Above the
building strata of the 1st-3rd c. Roman period one immediately finds
11th/12th c. churches. There are no strata with living quarters anywhere
between the 3rd and the 11th c. to accommodate the king’s 9th c. palace and entourage. Yet, there is a 2nd/3rd
c. Roman period palace in Winchester for which no one claims ownership.
Moreover, Alfred – with his coin portraits – puzzles historians. He
wears a Roman diadem as well as a Roman chlamys – very much like
Charlemagne and other Fankish rulers. Students are taught that Saxons
liked to brag on the cheap by putting on Roman attire. Yet, there is one
palace in Winchester that fits such a manly décor well. It belongs to
the Roman period ending in the 3rd c. CE. A sufficiently Roman appearance would be required
of anyone claiming ownership of the building. That’s where Alfred’s
diadem and chlamys would fit perfectly. Anyway, Winchester’s only palace
available for Alfred is located in Winchester’s Roman strata. What is
Fig. 11. 2nd
c. Roman Liburnia for sea and river warfare with square sail and ram.
Mosaic "Ulysses seduced by the sirens" in Bardo Museum, Tunisia - A;
9th c. Viking ship of Gokstad with square sail and clinkered hull
(23.33 m x 5.25 m). Such ships – without the rams of Scandinavia’s
pre-Christian era but with their extremely stable clinker hulls – might
well have been able to match 1st-3rd c. Liburnians. - B
as Alfred’s fashion obsession may just turn out be
the right thing for a Roman foederatus
who does not like to be ranked below other Roman foederati
(in more detail Heinsohn 2014, passim).
Thus, where Viking sites lack building strata for
some 700 years from the 1st to the 7th c. Anglo-Saxon cities lack living
quarters for 700 years, too, albeit between the 3rd and the 10th
"Parts [of Londinium] / were already covered by a
horizon of dark silts (often described as `dark
earth’) / Land was converted to arable and pastoral use or abandoned entirely.
The dark earth may have started forming in the 3rd century"
(Schofield 1999; bold GH).
There is not even any sign of English agriculture
Celtic Triskele patterns on chain mail - 1st c. BCE (Late Latène) – A
Celtic Triskele patterns in Book of Kells, section of folio 34 (8th/9th c.) - B
Źródła/Sources: Sándor Berecki; Two Latène Bronze Discs from Târgu Mureş, Transylwania (A)
whose harvests the Vikings could have fed from in the 8th or 9th century:
"Whatever the discussion about the plough in Roman
Britain, at least it is a discussion based on surviving models and parts
of ploughs, whereas virtually no such evidence exists for the Period
A.D. 500-900 in England. […] In contrast to the field system of the 500
years or so on either side of the beginning of our era, little evidence
has survived in the ground for the next half millennium"
(Fowler 2002, p. 28).
Thus, we do not know what the Vikings might have come to the British
Isles for in the 9th century. Looting expeditions in the 1st/2nd c.,
however, would have provided rich booty, including the sophisticated
1st/2nd c. Roman glass specimens found in 8th/9th c. Viking sites. It
would also work the other way round. If we were to date 2nd c. London or
Winchester to the 9th c., the Viking pillaging raids could keep their
conventional 9th c. date. Yet, the Roman Empire would have to move
forward by some 700 years. Doesn’t that sound utterly bizarre? It does,
but it would fit the stratigraphy that shows in countless sites High
Medieval strata (10th/11th c.) right on top of 230s-strata of Antiquity
Fig. 13. 1st
c. BCE fresco from
Villa Arianna in Boscoreale
with utterly destroyed Roman urban structures covered
by debris, dark earth, dried mud, sand, peat or other materials.
Aachen, Europe’s most prominent city of the Viking period, was
plundered by Norsemen in the 9th c. Aachen exhibits primitive 10th c.
huts of the High Middle Ages sunk into dark mud ("Moder") covering 3rd
c. ruins and has nothing to show for the 3rd to the 10th century. Where
one stratigraphically expects the living quarters of Carolingian Aachen
(8th-10th c.) one finds Roman Aachen of the 2nd/3rd century. Complaints
abound about „the complete absence of early medieval finds, especially
the lack of Carolingian building activities" (Sage 1982, p. 88). With
the exception of the palatial complex – in the unexpected shape „of
palaces of Antiquity" (Sage 1973, p. 2) – there „are no Early Medieval
houses" in Aachen (Müller et al. 2013, p. 42). Perplexed scholars,
therefore, cannot help but qualify Charlemagne’s palatial complex to be
the offspring of a time-machine: "It looks rather like an accidental
rebirth of Rome" (Henning 2008, p. 52). The Carolingians of the Viking
Period either used 700-year-old Roman living quarters or had no roads,
residential areas, plazas, barracks, stables, workshops, monasteries,
churches, aqueducts and even latrines or sewers anywhere.
Fig. 14. 2nd c. mosaic from Winchester (Venta Belgarum) of Alfred the Great
For Viking-period cities under Carolingian rule like
Spoleto (Italy), Trier (Germany) or Zurich
(Switzerland) it is explicitly claimed that from the 700s
to the 930s people still lived in dwellings from
the 1-230 period:
"The archaeological findings exclude a destruction of
the settlement structures of Zurich. The Roman settlement underwent
hardly any change up to the Early Middle Ages. Roman streets, houses,
and infrastructure were continually used" (Kaiser 1995, p. 152) seven
Transposed into the 2nd millennium, one would have to imagine Europeans from 1700-1930 living in
unaltered houses from 1000-1230. Back in the 1st millennium, such
durability – after the West Roman Empire had been felled in the 3rd c.
with the East Roman following suit in the 6th
c. – would be no less than a miracle. How, then,
could the buildings of the 1-230s period still have been in perfect
shape in the 700-930 period? That would be possible only if 1-230s and
700-930s are simply different chronological labels for the same
archaeological period of some 230 years that immediately precedes the
High Middle Ages starting after the 930s.
Fig. 15. 2nd c. CE Ulpia
Serdica (Sofia; walls 10-12 m, gates 13-15 m high) - A
9th c. Pliska/Bulgaria in 2nd c. castrum layout with
gates and pointed towers similar to Ulpia Serdica (walls 10 m, gates
14-15 m high) - B
Źródła/Sources: Ulpia Serdica Graph of Serdica by Prof. Plamen
Valchev, which came on the philatelic mark in honor of the 1700
anniversary of the Edict of Serdica in April 2011.
Ilu 18b1 ilu 18b2 Pliska - 100 years of archaeological excavations.
Rasho Rashev, Yanko Dimitrov (Shumen, „Svetlana", 1999)
Regarding 1-230s and 700-930s as different aspects of
the same period can also explain Viking period sites of the 9th c. whose
architecture cannot be distinguished from
Roman sites of the 2nd c., though both types of sites are found in the same country. A famous
example, of course, is provided by Bulgaria. 1st -3rd c. Roman Sofia (Ulpia
Serdica) looks like 8th-10th
c. Early Medieval Pliska (Fig. 15).
Yet Sofia has no 8-10th c.
Early Medieval strata, whereas Pliska has no urban strata for Antiquity
but builds in its Early Medieval 8th-10th c. as if it were 1st -3rd century:
"The thesis about the antique [1st-3rd c. CE;
GH] origin of the monumental buildings in Pliska is not based on the
antique materials found there alone. Its most impressive monuments are
’antique’ in appearance. / It seems more natural to assume that they
belong to an earlier epoch. But the archaeological evidence does not
allow this and it is exactly what makes Pliska a real puzzle" (Rashev &
Dimitrov 1999, ch. IV).
Hungary shows the same stratigraphical pattern as
Bulgaria. Viking-Carolingian Period Mosaburg is built in the Roman
fashion of Budapest (Aquincum)
of the 2nd c. for which,
however, the Carolingian site has no underlying strata to copy from.
Where Scandinavia is puzzled by its 700-year delay in assimilating
Roman square sails, Viking- period
Fig. 16. 2nd
c. governor palace in Budapest (Aquincum)
Basilica of Zalavár-Récéskút (limestone and marble) at Viking period
Mosaburg – B
[Model in National Museum; Budapest; fotos G. Heinsohn].
Źródła/Sources: Fot./Photo: G. Heinsohn
Pliska is puzzled by its repetition of Roman roof
tiles and piping after a 700 year hiatus. Within Germany a comparable
similarity over 700 years is attested for the 8th/9th c. Carolingian palace at
Ingelheim – visited by Haithabu’s 9th c. Viking
King, Harald Klak – that recreates a 2nd c. palace from the forum of Roman Cologne.
Again, there are no 1st -3rd c. building strata beneath Ingelheim from which
Carolingian architects and chemists could have obtained information
about Roman building techniques or the composition of Roman paints. And
yet, in every aspect – including the shape of the city gates and the
waterproof cement in the channels (Fig. 17)
– they master 700 year old trade secrets:
"The semicircular building clearly shows the significance of antique
models, the only one of its kind in medieval architecture". /
Ingelheim’s throne hall "is in the tradition of the antique and late
antique palatial aula". / Ingelheim’s water tunnel with "hydraulic
mortar (Opus signinum)" repeats "the traditional engineering feats from
the days of ancient Romans". // The aula’s roof
Viking period city gate of 9th c. Carolingian Ingelheim in 2nd c. Roman
style and ique - A
Ingelheims brick-lined channel of the 9th c.: "For a
long time this was regarded as Roman. The canal is lined with quarry
stones and hydraulic mortar (Opus signinum)" - B
Źródła/Sources: Grewe 2014, s. 347; Kaiserpalz 2015.
"tiles are formed in the ancient Roman way". /// The
Heidesheimer Gate "shows obvious similarities with city gates of
Antiquity" (Kaiserpfalz 2015 // Geißler 2014 /// Grewe 2014, p. 47).
In Poland, the stratigraphic situation resembles
Ingelheim’s because sites with Early Medieval 8th/9th strata of Hill Forts or Viking settlements contain
1st/2nd c. Roman artifacts or coins (fig. 18).
They are regarded as heirlooms although no on-site 1st/2nd c.
Roman or later strata are found through which
such artefacts could have been bequeathed over 700 years from parents to children. (Tab. 1)
Moreover, Polish Przeworsk-Wielbark sites of Antiquity (1st-3rd c.)
are nowhere super-imposed by building strata of Slavic tribal centres or
Viking sites of the Early Middle Ages (8th-10th c.). It is not
understood why the exquisite locations and soils of Wielbark sites are
not used by Early Medieval Slavs. Why such a waste of prime space? On
the other hand, Wielbark sites and Early Medieval Slavic sites have many material
Fig. 18. 9th
c. Truso with 2nd c. Roman coins of Faustina (+140) and Antoninus Pius
(138-161) – A [Bogucki 2012, p. 41].
8th/9th c. Haithabu with Roman tegula. The earliest of Haithabu’s
Roman coins is from 79 CE (Titus) - B [Schietzel 2013, p. 550].
items in common, e.g. Imperial Roman coins, glass
beakers, locks and keys. If it weren’t for the 700 years placed between
the two cultures by mainstream chronology, one might conclude that they
are contemporary. Early Medieval Slavs simply could not have continued
building upon Wielbark foundations because the two cultures existed side
by side at the same time in the 8th-10th c. period.
Again, such an assumption appears to touch on the absurd. Yet it
would solve Poland’s greatest historical enigma, which concerns the
country’s oldest city, Kalisz. It is first mentioned, as
Claudius Ptolemy (90-168 CE). Yet, there are no building strata in
Kalisz from the 1st to the 7th c. CE. 700 years after Ptolemy, however,
Kalisz is indeed one of the most impressive sites in all of Poland.
Still, there must have been something going on at Kalisz already in the
time of Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE) when he described the sailing boats
of the Venedi-Slavs of Antiquity. And, indeed, Late Latène coins of the
1st c. BCE - possibly some of their molds, too - have recently been
discovered around Kalisz (Rudnicki et al 2009).
Stratigraphically, thus, Kalisz appears to tell us that Ptolemy did
not write about Calisia in the 2nd but in the 9th c. CE.
Archaeologically, that would be the appropriate conclusion to draw.
Chronologically, however, it would be absolute anathema. From an
archaeological point of view, Poland’s proud Kalisz traditionalists
Table 1 Poland’s stratigraphic situation for
Early Medieval Slavic Tribal Centers or Viking towns
8th c. ff.
Early Medieval Slavic Tribal Centers or Viking towns (like
Truso) with Weonod-Slavs that contain 1st/2nd c. Roman coins.
1st-7th c. CE
Hiatus of 700 years immediately beneath the strata of Early
Medieval Viking towns or Tribal Centers although remains for
Venedi-Slavs (Antiquity) as well as Venethi-Slavs (Late
Antiquity) had been expected.
would be right that their city already existed in Antiquity. Yet,
they would have to be content with an Antiquity that is 700 years
younger than they would like it to be. Today, they are frequently
ridiculed because the identity of Calisia (source of 2nd c.)
and Kalisz (fortress of 9th c.) is frequently denied for chronological reasons
although the identification was considered credible because the latitude
of Kalisz (51°45’27") is quite close to Ptolemy’s latitude for Calisia
(52°50’). The deniers favour either the Czech city of Olomouc (Latin
Iuliomontium with a Roman camp) or the
Slovakian city of Trenčín (Latin Laugaricio
with a Roman inscription of 179 CE) as the namegiver for
Ptolemy’s Kalisz. Poland’s archaeologists, to go along, would not have
to change much in terms of chronology. Yet, they would have to swallow
that Kalisz’s Early Medieval period is Calisia’s
Antiquity. The resistance against moving Antiquity 700
years closer to us would make such an acknowledgement extremely
Once Early Medieval Kalisz is accepted as part of
Antiquity, whose age must be shortened by some 700 years, Early Medieval
Vikings have to undergo the same reassignment to Antiquity, without
however, having to change their 8th-10th c. chronology. As Kalisz would shed its mysterious
hiatus and directly connect with the 700 older Late Latène coins found
in its realm, so would the Vikings turn into immediate successors of
Julius Caesar’s Late Latène Norsemen with clinkered and riveted sailing
ships whose ports had been visited by a fleet of Emperor Augustus.
Observers of Scandinavia’s archaeological situation might object to
any analogy with Early Medieval Polish sites. It is true, they might
concede, that places like Kalisz or Truso suffer an inexplicable hiatus
from the 1st to the 7th c., but Sweden’s Late Antiquity (4th-6th c.) does not only have burials but settlements,
too. It is a period dominated by farmhouse hamlets and their emergency
hillforts. They contain catalogue-dated Roman coins and even a Roman
board game with pawns of ivory found in the Western Mound of Gamla
["Old"] Uppsala in the heart of the Vendel-Culture. The Vendel-Period
for a long time was seen as an extension of Late Antiquity into the
time-span of 550-790. Yet such dating was rather born out of the desire
to show something for huge but empty stretches of time than by the
requirements of stratigraphy. The Mounds of Gamla Uppsala have recently
been dated to 475-550, i.e. they belong to Late Antiquity.
Though the continuity of close contacts with Roman culture is well
attested for the Scandinavians of Late Antiquity, they still are
incapable of building urban structures, ports and breakwaters or
employing square sails although they are in use all over their known
world. Eventually, at least, there are boats, like the famous Nydam
specimen (fig. 19) in the clinker and rivet technique described by Julius Caesar more than 300
To complicate matters, however, such Late Antique Scandinavian
dwellings are nowhere found on top of 1st-3rd
c. dwellings. Neither are they super-imposed by Early Medieval
dwellings of the Vikings (8th-10th c.). There are Viking burials at Gamla Uppsala. Yet, their dates
reach 1050 CE. It is not clear, therefore, if they are Early Medieval
(before 930s) or High Medieval. Yet, there are no remains of 700-930
Viking dwellings or any other urban structure in this core district of
Sweden. Thus, each individual site can fill a maximum of some 230 years
with archeological substance (burials or hamlets or towns) for the
entire time-span from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages (1-930s CE).
Thus, strata-wise these sites are not richer than Truso or Kalisz of the
8th c. onwards. All "three" Scandinavian periods
have Roman artifacts as well as 1st-3rd
coins. Their division into three consecutive portions allows the
filling up the 1-930-period whose length everybody takes for granted.
How is the "filling" done? The 1st-3rd c. period is preferentially
filled with relics from burials as well as
Reconstruction of the clinker hull Nydam Boat (dated 320 CE). Length:
c.22.84 m. Maximal width: 3.26 m. Crew: Up to 45 men including 30
Źródła/Sources: A – fot./Photo Erik Christensen
B – P. Smolarek 1963, tabl. II.
with catalogue dated Roman coins. Questions for urban
structures, farmhouses, hillforts (in use around the Mediterranean at
that period), sailing ships, and ports can be answered with potential
future digs that may eventually deliver the goods.
The 4th-6th c. period is preferentially furnished with farmhouse
hamlets and their emergency hillforts as well as Roman coins
catalogue-dated to that period. Again, questions for urban structures,
sailing ships, and ports can be answered with future excavations that may still reveal such items.
The 8th-10th c. period receives the most immovable and manipulation-resistant
items, like urban structures, ports, pier, breakwaters, sailing ships
but also the non-Roman coins. Of course, there are Roman coins,
millefiori beads, locks, glass beakers, fibulae etc. in the 8th/9th c.
strata, too. Yet, the situation remains defendable. If one finds a
funeral urn with a 2nd c. Roman coin in a 9th c. stratum, and, in the
same 9th c. stratum, one also finds a hoard with a 5th c. Roman coin,
one may claim that nearly all of the 1st millennium periods are
represented in the site. Yet, one can never say that, in a 9th c.
stratum with port and town, one has found a funeral urn containing a 2nd
c. pier, and a larger tomb containing a 5th c. breakwater, and, then,
claim that there have been ports all through the 1st millennium. If it
comes to towns and ports, one has to respect the stratigraphical
position. If the stratum is contingent, elsewhere or on site, with
10th/11th c. material it must be dated to the 8th-10th c. CE. Yet, that
is the maximum of logic that will be accepted by the archaeologists.
Claims that 1st c. Roman glass and coins in 8th c. strata makes that
period parallel with the 8th c., too, are rejected by resorting to
theories of scrap metal and heirlooms. Small finds that chronologically
come too early are "mixed into lower levels later." If they come too
late they are "inherited", belong to "ancient museums" or to a private
collection of antiques. All these ways and manners lead to the following
schematic view of Scandinavia’s history in the 1st
millennium. (Tab. 2)
If one tries to understand the aggressively defended convictions of
delays for 700 years and repetitions over 700 years with a standstill of
evolution, one must recognize that Scandinavia’s archaeologists and the
Viking specialists everywhere desparately try to obey a 1st millennium
chronology whose construction they neither understand nor challenge. Who
does? The 1,000 years are always there, bigger than life, the most
powerful and most sacred tool for giving order to history and for giving
scientific dating its general direction. Yet, most of the time these
excavators are honest scholars and meticulous researchers. The author
feels great respect for
Table 2 Filling
Scandinavia’s 1-930s period by distributing material remains for
some 230 years over Antiquity, Late Antiquity/Vendel and the
Early Middle Ages. The three periods are nowhere found
super-imposed in a triple-layer stratigraphic cake because they
are all in the same plane.
4th-6th/7th c. CE
7th/8th-10th c. CE
with Roman coins and crafts. Hamlets and hilllforts are used for
Late Antiquity- Towns, ports, breakwaters and sailing ships are
left for the Early Middle Ages.
and hilllforts with Roman coins and artifacts. Towns, ports,
breakwaters and sailing ships are left for the Early Middle
coins and artifacts. Eventually towns, ports, breakwaters and
sailing ships arrive.
them. They want hard evidence for the millennium no
less than anyone else. To bring it about they decide to distribute the
available artifacts over the entire period.
Because of the archaeological parallelity of the
"three" supposedly sequential periods, the Scandinavian approach to a
level of civilization that supposedly was implemented elsewhere at least
700 years earlier, no longer looks so so "retarded". If the periods are
kept in a sequence, it appears as if the Norsemen did not dare to
engineer anything relevant before the 8th c. CE. When they finally
caught up in shipping technology, their only important innovation
appears to have been a mental rather than a hardware one. Scandinavians,
now called Vikings, eventually – it is believed – felt psychologically
ready to adopt the square sail, and to take the even more audacious
decision to no longer transport their belongings through treacherous
surf. In their ports, of course, there were no innovations either. Yet,
their determination after 700 years of bickering at least touched
onlookers because of its aura of radicalism. And, hardly expected
anymore, after the Vikings had brought themselves to erect towns, ports
with landing piers and breakwaters (fig. 20)
a sigh of relieve was vented in the rest of Europe,
although there were no concepts in these small cities, either. Simply
taking the step towards urbanism could already be regarded as a major
That’s the impression shared to this very day. Once, however, one
recognizes that the "three" periods of Antiquity, Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
belong – contingent with the immediately following High Middle Ages – to
the same archaeological plane one can say farewell to that deeply
entrenched view of backwardness. Scandinavians, as well as the Early
Medieval inhabitants of Poland, developed more or less in tandem with
the rest of the Europeans. They were not smarter but just wrongly dated
some 700 years too early.
To test the formula Antiquity=Late Antiquity=Early
Middle Ages, one would have to present sites that match our textbook
chronology for the 1st millennium, that schematically looks as follows.
This author, for half a decade, has asked experts to
show him not a thousand nor a few hundred sites nor five or ten but just
a single site anywhere that exhibits a full 1st millennium stratigraphy.
The result has been negative. Nowhere exists a site with distinct
building strata of Antiquity (1st-3rd c.) that – after the
50-year-crisis of the Barracks Emperors – are super-imposed by new and
architecturally different bulding strata for Late Antiquity (4th-6th c.)
that in turn – after the crisis of Justinian’s comet cum
plague in the 6th c. – are covered by new building strata
in the fashion of the Early Medieval period (8th-10th c.). The most that
can be found is a set of strata matching some 300 years out of the 1000
years attributed to the 1st millennium.
The 700-year lacunae may be found between the end of Latène (ca. year
1 CE) and the beginning of the Early Middle Ages (ca. year 700 CE).
Poland’s Truso and Bulgaria’s Pliska belong to that group, as do
Ukhaidir in Iraq and Anjar in Lebanon. In other sites, the 700-year
lacuna is placed between the end of Antiquity (3rd c.) and the beginning
of the High Middle Ages (10th c.). In yet other first millennium sites,
the 700-year lacuna is divided into two parts: (1) 300 years of missing
building strata for Antiquity (1st-3rd. c.) plus (2) 400 years of
missing building strata for the Early Middle Ages (7th- 10th c.), whilst
the 4th-6th c. of Late Antiquity is present. The most famous example, of
course, is provided by Byzantium/Constantinople. It was described by
Cassius Dio (163-229 CE), at the end of the 2nd c. CE, as the Empire’s
2nd city but has no houses or even potsherds for the 1st -3rd
c. period because all imperial material
Fig. 20. Reconstructions of Viking towns with breakwaters of the 8th-10th c. CE
that supposedly had not been needed from 1-700 CE.
Haithabu/Germany (Schietzel 2014, p. 94) - A
Truso/Poland (Jagodziński 2017) - B
remains have been labeled Late Antiquity. In Rome, on
the other hand, all churches labeled Late Antique (4th- 6th c.) or Early
Medieval (8th-10th c.) are built in the technologies, styles and
materials of Antiquity (1st-3rd c.).
Moreover, the material culture - including immovables like
architecture, water systems, ports etc. - is more or less the same in
Antiquity, Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. There is,
bewilderingly, no evolution between the three periods, although within
each period there is evolution, crisis, and new beginning. It is as if
Table 3 Poland’s stratigraphic situation for Early
Medieval Slavic Tribal Centers or Viking towns
|Po 930 r.
architektura i sztuka środkowego średniowiecza
Destrukcja, wyludnienie, ciemna lub szara ziemia, itd.
architektura i sztuka wczesnego średniowiecza [Wikingowie]
Destrukcja, wyludnienie, ciemna lub szara ziemia, itd.
architektura i sztuka późnej starożytności
Destrukcja, wyludnienie, ciemna lub szara ziemia, itd.
Architektura i sztuka starożytna
okres lateński/ późny hellenizm/ Republika Rzymska
you have a sequence like Renaissance-Baroque-Roccoco
not just once but three times in sequence.
But what about dendro-chronology? It may become a
powerful dating tool. So far, there never was a true blind test to
research whether Antiquity, Late Antiquity, and the Early Middle Ages
really existed in a chronological sequence. In such a test only one
person would know what tree-slices distributed to, let us say, half a
dozen laboratories come from a beam taken from a building labeled
Antique or from a building labeled Late Antique or from a building
labeled Early Medieval. The scientists would receive no hint whatsoever
what period is "expected" for the wooden specimen that arrived at their
institute. The author seriously hopes that such a test of the validity
of dendro-chronology will not be postponed forever.
The most unexpected result of all of the parallels
between 1-230, 290-520 and 700-930 is that only the supposedly
"retarded" groups (8th-10th Scandinavians, Slavs, Franks, Anglo-Saxons,
Arabs etc.) get it more or less right when it comes to stratigraphy-based
dates for their habitats. By simply fitting their chronology to the
dates of the 10th/11th c. culture materially following their own, they
cannot help but end up in the 8th-10th c. period.
Their end is no less dramatic than the crises of the
3rd and the 6th century:
"There is another type of discontinuity in
the late Viking Age: the old rural places of power, commonly called
central places, all met their end. In some cases, most pronounced in
Lejre-Roskilde and Uppakra-Lund, a town with central royal and
ecclesiastical functions was established in the vicinity around the time
when the central place was abandoned. It is the new and strong
connection between king and Church which might hold a key to
understanding the discontinuity both in towns and in central places
around the turn of the millennium. A general conversion to Christianity
took place at this time" (Skre 2012, p. 86).
The earlier conflagrations are not represented by
super-imposed destruction layers in Scandinavia or in the Slavic realm
because there was just one global devastation. It ended a civilization
with a cultural imprint that was no less Roman in the 10th c. than it
has been in the 6th or 3rd century
because it wiped out the same habitats between Norway and Mesopotamia.
The ubiquitous surprise about the absence of written sources referring to the 10th
Century Collapse is due to their being "consumed" for the
3rd or 6th century. Yet, the archaeological traces for the
annihilations are no less impressive. Slovakia suffered major
"destructions" at the "beginning of the 10th century
" (Chorvatova 2012, p. 249). None of the available sources
names human enemies or other causes that may have inflicted that disaster.
At the same time, in the Czech Republic, "castles of
regional chieftains were destroyed. / That phenomenon is not at all
mentioned in the written sources" (Sommer 2012, pp. 266 /273). Poland,
too, was hit in the early 10th century:
"There was a rapid, sometimes catastrophic, collapse
of many of the pre-existing tribal centers. These events were
accompanied by the permanent or temporary depopulation of former areas
of settlement. Within a short time new centers representative of the
Piast state arose on new sites, thus beginning [in 966] the
thousand-year history of the Polish nation and state" (Buko 2011, p. 464)."
The Southern Baltic ports mysteriously "undergo discontinuity" (Kleingärtner
2014, p. 249) in the 10th c. CE. The indigenous names for some of the
deserted ports are not known to this very day. In Hungary, the Viking
period town Mosaburg with its strikingly Roman style stone Basilica of
Zalavár-Récéskút (9th/10th c.) "had become ruinous by the Arpadian Age.
/ Dateable finds from the multilayer cemetery could all be dated to the
years from the second third or middle of the 9th century to the early
10th century, namely to its first few decades" (Szöke 2014; pp. 70
/122). Bulgaria’s Viking period Pliska with its full blown Roman
architecture, too, comes to a terrible end: "A dark grey (most probably
erosion) layer"(Henning 2007, p. 219 had strangled that urban jewel for
good. "Between the 11th and 15th c. CE, the Pliska basin was turned into
a desert landscape" (Kirilov 2006, p. 134).
The written sources referring to the conflagrations
with 3rd and 6th century labels will come to life by matching them
with these 10th c. chasms who in turn may find a better comprehension by turning to those texts.
The author tries to show that 1st-3rd as well as 4th-
6th c. Scandinavians were the same people we see today as Vikings of the
8th-10th c. CE. The material evidence that stratigraphically all belongs to their Early Medieval period has been
spread over the entire time span of 1-930s CE, whose construction is
neither understood nor challenged. Burials and catalogue-dated Roman
coins are the preferred way of filling the 1st-3rd. c. period. Farm
hamlets with their emergency hillforts, and more catalogue-dated Roman
coins give the main weight to the 4th-6th c. period, whereas towns,
ports, sail-fitted long boats, breakwaters, and non-Roman coins provide
the most important furnishing for the 8th-10th c. CE.
Viking 9th c. longboats with square sails are in actual fact found at
the same stratigraphic depth as Roman longboats with square sails. The
latter are wrongly dated 700 years too early to the 2nd c. CE.
Therefore, the Scandinavians’ supposed 700-year delay in all major
fields of develoment, such as towns, ports, breakwaters, kingship,
coinage, monotheism, and sailing ships, is dervied from chronological
ideas that make the Roman period some 700 years older than stratigraphy
allows. Stratigraphically, Antiquity, Late Antiquity, and the Early
Middle Ages occupy the same archaeological plane. The three catastrophes
hitting Rome in the Third Century Crisis, Byzantium in the 6th c. plague cum
comet, and the Early Middle Ages as the 10th Century Collapse are just different facets of the
10th c. cataclysm.
Contemporaneity of 1st millennium periods that stratigraphically
are contingent with 10th/11th c. material culture, and,
therefore all belong to the 8th-10th period. They enter the High
Meddle Ages simultaneously.
HIGH MIDDLE AGES
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Antiquity (290-520s CE)
Middle Ages (700-930s CE)
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