Viking Kaupang: Shining Town that No Longer Shines

Posted by Ms Elly on

Viking Kaupang: Shining Town that No Longer Shines

Kaupang was one of the busiest economic town of the Vikings in their time. It was a seasonal trading town that was founded around 780s. This town flourished roughly two centuries which was as long as the Viking Birka Town. The reasons why Kaupang collapsed were much similar to those of Birka and other Viking towns: sudden growth and urbanization in the near towns and the uprising water level. 

Viking Kaupang City in its glorious days

What the archaeologists have found in the site including houses, graves, shops, etc attest to the important role of Kaupang as a busy trading town. Some findings vary because some suggest the town was occupied seasonally while others noted that it was dominated all the year round. To explain this, the archaeologists said that in the beginning, it was a seasonal town. Later, when it became a perfect spot to earn wealth, people dominated it all the year around. 

One strange thing about the town is that it was not fortified. This is completely different from other hectic Viking towns like Birka whose fortification was carefully erected. Maybe the shifting maritime condition helped the Kaupang town against pirates and other external forces. 

People didn't come to Kaupang to trade only. Farmers lived inside this town too. Evidence for this came from the archaeological artifacts of agricultural tools unearthed from the graves. 

As a hectic Viking trading town, Kaupang could not lack a number of craftsmen. 

Around 875 was the most flourishing time of Kaupang. It had approximately 400-1000 inhabitants. The grave sites in Kaupang have always been a subject of interest to the archaeologists. For they have found a mixture of items originating from different regions. Goods from Western Europe, British Isles, etc. were found from the graves in Kaupang. 

Glory didn't smile on Kaupang forever 

Like other Viking trading towns, Kaupang had its final days. The fall of Kaupang mirrored that of Birka and Hedeby. 

Map of Viking trading towns

Map of Viking towns. Most of them were located in the coastline. This promoted their harbour system and enabled the ships to get access to the towns easily

Towards the end of the 10th century, there was a sudden growth and urbanization in the towns near Kaupang. A sharp and dramatic decline in the number of artifact dating back to the late 10th century relates to the collapse of Kaupang town. 

Viking jewelry artifact in Kaupang town

Viking jewelry aritfact found in Kaupang

Tønsberg was the flourishing town at the time. And the scholars believed that it was the destinated town for the Vikings when Kaupang was about to collapse.

In other words, some scholars directly claimed that Tønsberg was the reason why Kaupang collapsed when most of Kaupang inhabitants moved and settled down in Tønsberg. 

Additionally, the lowering sea level somewhat affected the harbour of the town, disabling ships to approach Kaupang. This was a hindrance to the economic growth in Kaupang. 

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