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:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.