Northern Emporia. An archaeology of urban networks

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Søren M. Sindbæk


Aarhus University


DKK 821,774




Monograph Fellowships


The trading towns or emporia, which emerged along the coasts of Northern Europe from the late 600s CE, and especially during the Viking Age, are particularly intriguing case of urban development in the past. Seen from the point of view of common theories about urbanization, places like Viking-age Ribe, Hedeby or Birka do not fit expectations on many points. Yet they seem to align with a number of similar developments in the ancient and medieval worlds. This project is to analyse the emporia of the northern world in a comparative perspective, aiming to establish a new synthesis and to revise theoretical models with particular attention to the network aspect of urbanism.


There are few early systems that are as well documented by archaeology as the northern emporia are today. Over the past couple of decades high-quality reseach excavations have taken place in many sites. Most recently, the Carlsberg Foundation sponsored a major research project focused on the key site Ribe, in Jutland, a project I directed between 2016 and 2021. Presently the need is to synthesize and analyze all this new evidence. Many textbook assumptions about these sites, put forward when the evidence was much slighter, have proven to be misleading, and we need a new coherent picture of these important sites and the processes they express.


My aim in the project is to put together a monograph to act as a new basic reference and synthesis for the northern emporia. This work will build, of course, upon my research in the past 20 years, but will involve a great amount of data collection, theory building and testing. I have an agreement with Cambridge University Press for the publication of the book.

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