Aggersborg is the largest of Denmark's former Viking ring castles, and one of the largest archeological sites in Denmark. It consisted of a circular rampart surrounded by a ditch. Four main roads arranged in a cross connected the castle centre with the outer ring. The roads were tunnelled under the outer rampart, leaving the circular structure intact.
The ring castle had an inner diameter of 240 metres. The ditch was located eight metres outside of the rampart, and was approximately 1.3 metres deep. The wall is believed to have been four metres tall. The rampart was constructed of soil and turf, reinforced and clad with oak wood. The rampart formed the basis for a wooden parapet. Smaller streets were located within the four main sections of the fortress.
The modern Aggersborg is a reconstruction created in the 1990s. It is lower than the original fortress.
Dating the structure has proven difficult, since the archaeological site has also been the site of an Iron Age village. The ring castle is believed to have been constructed around 980 during the reign of king Harold Bluetooth and / or Sweyn Forkbeard. Five of the six ring castles in historical Denmark have been dated to this era. The structure was completed within one or two years, and only used for a short period of time; between five and twenty years.
Archaeologists have estimated that the ring castle could hold a 5,000-man garrison, located in 48 longhouses. Twelve longhouses were located in each quadrant, all located on a north-south or west-east axis. No remains of the actual houses exist, but proof of the location of the walls has been found. The individual houses are believed to have been similar to the form seen on the Camnin chest, a house-shaped reliquary, as well as on house-shaped tombstones in England.
The houses had curved roofs and curved sides, similar to the form of a ship; 32.5 metres long and 8.5 metres across. They were divided in a long inner hall, around 19 metres long, with smaller rooms at the end. It is estimated that construction of a single Aggersborg house required 66 large oak trees. The entire structure, housing included, is estimated to have used 5,000 large oaks.
A large number of archaeological finds have been discovered on the site, including many imported luxury items. Examples include beads of mountain crystal and pieces of glass jars. A damaged golden ring has been discovered on the site as well; a replica is displayed in the Aggersborg museum.
No conclusive data yet exists whether Aggersborg was a stronghold controlling trade routes or whether its primary function was as a barracks / training grounds in connection with Sweyn Forkbeard's Viking raids on England.References:
Het Steen is a medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre.
Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.
In 1890 Het Steen became the museum of archeology and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which in 2011 moved to the nearby Museum Aan de Stroom. Here you’ll also find a war memorial to the Canadian soldiers in WWII.
There are some beautiful plaques on the back side of the Steen Castle at Antwerp. Canadian visitors will especially want to see the plaques thanking the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry for their part in the liberation of Antwerp, in 1944.
At the entrance to Het Steen is a bas-relief of Semini, above the archway, around 2nd century. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). A historical plaque near Het Steen explains that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children; the god was reviled by later religious clergy. Inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as 'children of Semini'.
At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times.