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Viking trading town Kaupang

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Kaupang is a seasonal Norwegian Viking Age trading town founded in 780 and abandoned in 950. Kaupang; It is located west of the Oslofjord (Viksfjord) in Vestfold, present-day southeastern Norway with sea access to Skagerrak. Although much smaller than the Viking cities in Sweden and Denmark—Birka and Hedeby—Kaupang was economically important to the Norwegian and Danish Vikings who raided and traded with Western Europe and the British Isles. Kaupang can be said to be the oldest city in Norway, possibly being the same place as the place called "Sciringesheal" or "Skiringssal" (Old Norse: Skíringssalr) visited in the 9th century by the Norwegian sailor and writer Ohthere of Hålogaland.

Kaupang gets its name from the Old Norse word “Kaupangr” meaning “market place” or “city”. Kaupang was located where Tjølling Municipality is today. It is located 5 km (3 mi) southeast of the modern city of Larvik, about 140 km (88 mi) from the Norwegian capital, Oslo. In the early Middle Ages it covered roughly 5 hectares (12.5 acres).

Unlike the cities of Hedeby and Birka, the origin of Kaupang's founding is shrouded in mystery due to the lack of definitive written sources. Nonetheless, there is evidence to suggest that in the early 9th century Kaupang had a central power that organized activities in Kaupang in ways similar to Hedeby and Birka. Vestfold was arguably the richest and most fertile region in Viking Age Norway, and the Frankish Annals from 813 reveal that Danish kings fought for control of the region in the early 9th century. One of Kaupang's piers dates back to 803, and some scholars believe that King Sigfred (reigned 770-804) or King Godred of Denmark (reigned 804-810) settled it in Kaupang to increase his influence and political power in Norway. They suggested that he may have established or encouraged it.

Examples of houses, tombs, shops, warehouses, piers attest to the role Kaupang played as a trading center between Norway and the outside world. The first plots and structures were drawn and erected in Kaupang between 780-800 BC. While it was originally thought that the periods experienced in Kaupang were associated with the opening and closing of the seasonal markets, recent archaeological research by Dagfinn Skre between 2000 and 2007 has shown that Kaupang is inhabited throughout the year. (Still, some of the houses excavated at Kaupang do not appear to have a hearth, indicating periodic or seasonal settlement.)

 Despite evidence of vibrant international trade in Kaupang, the city appears to have not been interfered with in an interesting way, in contrast to the cities of Birka and Hedeby. Changing maritime conditions in and around Kaupang perhaps helped protect the settlement from pirates and invading forces. The first settlers of Kaupang were traders, but the finding of agricultural tools used by the farmers in Kaupang's tombs indicates that some farmers were probably among the settlers. Some structures show local artisanal asset production in Kaupang. There is also evidence that some residents of Kaupang have responsibilities such as smelting and selling and exporting iron and other materials.

Around 875, Kaupang had around 400-1000 inhabitants. Kaupang's burial sites have long been of interest to archaeologists. The interior and surroundings of the family tombs are mostly from a century-old period, 840-940. Many items from Western Europe and the British Isles were found in these tombs. Ceramic objects from Denmark are common in these tombs. Other burial sites around Kaupang include a cremation cemetery and several funeral boats that may have belonged to wealthy Danish merchants.

Items discovered at Kaupang include German wine in Rhine pottery (glass filled with drinking horns), Vend (Slavic) honey, whetstone from anywhere in Norway, Danish pottery, Frankish or Frisian clothing, in addition to Frankish and Anglo-Saxon book mounts. and Irish jewellery. The discovery of walrus tusks and soapstone fragments is proof that Kaupang was also connected to Viking trade routes further north and trade routes to the Arctic regions. A number of foreign coins found in Kaupang - Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, Danish, North African, Central Asian and Arabian - indicate that Kaupang was linked to other Viking empires.

Kaupang's decline as a place of commerce and commerce is a reflection of Birka and Hedeby. There was a sudden growth and urbanization in other nearby towns. After the second quarter of the 10th century, there is a noticeable, sharp decline in artifacts, which is associated with abandoned human activity and settlement in Kaupang. Some scholars believe that Kaupang's decline was the result of the mid-10th century when the fast-growing city of Tønsberg in nearby Norway became the center of Norwegian trade, along with trade with Scandinavia and Western Europe. The city of Skien - located 38 km (24 mi) northwest of Kaupang with access to the Frierfjord - rose rapidly after 1000, gaining wealth thanks to iron and whetstone exports from Norway to Western Europe.

The abandonment of Kaupang can be explained by the rejection of trade links with Denmark, especially the city of Hedeby, or as a result of sea level variability. Sea level is known to have dropped in parts of Kaupang during the Viking Age, and Kaupang had better overseas connections 1,000 years ago. Today, sea level near Larvik has dropped roughly 3 m (10 ft) from Viking times. Norwegian archaeologist Caharlotte Blindheim proved this during Viking-era burial excavations near the cities of Larvik and Sandefjord between 1950 and 1957.

Archaeological excavations in and around Kaupang were begun by Norwegian archaeologist Nicolay Nicolaysen (1817-1911) in 1867, but the first extensive excavations of Kaupang's tombs and several other structures were made between 1956 and 1967. Today, archaeologists have excavated and discovered less than 3% of the 40,000 square meters (9.9 acres) that make up Kaupang. In total, about 1,400 square meters (1,5069 square feet) have been excavated.

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