North-European Trading Centres and the Early Medieval Craftsman; Craftsmen at Åhus, north-eastern Scania, Sweden ca. AD 750-850+
Callmer, Johan (Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften)
Central Places in the Migration and the Merovingian Periods, Papers from the 52nd Sachsensymposium, August (2001)
The emergence and the further development of wics and trading places in Northern and North-western Europe (late 7th century to the 10th century) cannot be explained as the result of only one social and economic system. This complex background could be studied in the archaeological material from the workshops of craftsmen. In the person of the craftsman different social and economic and possibly also cultural spheres join together. The site of Åhus II (S. Sweden) and its waste material from diverse crafts is presented shortly: amber-working, antler-working, bronze- and silver-casting, glass-working, specialized forging, fine textile-working). The craftsmen were mainly residents of the site although some may have been absent e.g. during the summer months. The number of active craftsmen was high (hundreds of them). The craftsmen at Åhus II to a considerable extent were generalists performing several crafts. Fine dresses and clothes with accessories may have been the most important products. They joined in small-sized work groups forming an important element in the social system of the site. The relative regularity of plots may hide a considerable variability. Many craftsmen at trading sites in Northern Europe were free men although the community of the site was dependant on the protection of local holders of power. The military potential of a site of this type should however not be played down completely. Presumably the emergence of more extensive and more complex estates in the 7th and 8th centuries was an important mover for the development of wics and trading centres. The craftsman often worked intimately together with traders and merchants and may even sometimes have been the same person.
The phenomenon of trading places cum craftsmen of the late seventh to ninth and tenth centuries in North-western and Northern Europe has been much discussed during the last decade. From the beginning mainly being a topic of Scandinavian archaeology and with very slow progress, it has now shifted its focus away from the northern examples and has been predominantly involved with the wics of Anglo-Saxon England, the Channel area and the Rhine estuary. It is however most essential to see all these places as integrated parts of a single extensive network, albeit with various distinctive branches. There have been three dominant approaches to the question how and why these very special and undoubtedly in many ways urban sites emerged and functioned in relation to each other and in relation to surrounding regions.