Hovgården is an archaeological site on the Lake Mälaren island of Adelsö. During the Viking Age, the centre of the prospering Mälaren Valley was the settlement Birka, founded in the mid-8th century and abandoned in the late 10th century and located on the island Björkö just south of Adelsö. Hovgården is believed to have been the site from where kings and chieftains ruled the area. Hovgården, together with Birka became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
The oldest archaeological remains on Adelsö, found north of Hovgården, are grave fields and burial mounds from the Bronze Age (c. 1800-500 BCE). Apparently this culture survived into the Iron Age (500-800 CE) as graves from the early part of this period have been found at several locations in the area. At Hovgården some 124 graves have been found; the oldest from late Roman Iron Age (1-400 CE) and the youngest from the beginning of the Middle Ages (c. 1050-1520), indicating the area has been settled uninterruptedly throughout this period.
Just north of the parish church are five large burial mounds of which three are called Kungshögar. In Swedish, Kung meaning King and högar, from the Old Norse word haugr, meaning mound or barrow. Hovgården apparently was the location for a royal estate Kungsgård as early as the Viking Age (c. 800-1050 CE). An excavation of one of these royal mounds in 1917 revealed the remains of a wealthy man who lived around 900 CE. He was burned lying in a boat, dressed in expensive clothing but without weapons, accompanied by horses, cows, and dogs.
Birka, the oldest town in Sweden, was an international trade post. It has been assumed the royal settlement at Hovgården was established as the king's mean of controlling Birka. However, while Birka was abandoned in the mid-10th century, the royal estate was apparently not as the runestone U 11 from around 1070 which claims to have been carved for the king was erected next to the royal mounds. It was part of Uppsala öd, a network of royal estates supporting the Kings of Sweden.
Furthermore, King Magnus Barnlock had the old castle replaced by a palace built in brick, Alsnö hus, in the 1270s. In the palace, the king established the Swedish nobility through the Ordinance of Alsnö (Alsnö stadga) in 1279. However, the palace was destroyed before the end of that century, and as it was left to decay Hovgården lost in importance.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.