The market place, 710 AD

The beginning of Ribe

A bustling market

The marketplace in Ripa is buzzing with life. Craftsmen and merchants from all over Scandinavia and as far away as Gothland, England, the kingdom of the Franks, Spain and Byzantium congregate here. The traders rent a small plot of land from one of the king's officials, and from here they can sell their goods and perhaps even work on more. In return, they are guaranteed the king's protection as no one is allowed to steal, rob or assault anyone in the area.

There is an intense market atmosphere. The loud peal of hammering mixes with the cries of the fishwives, bakers and entertainers. It smells of dripping, honey, and exotic spices  as well as of cow-dung, urine and offal. A boy tightens his grip on his leather pouch holding the precious lumps of amber he has collected during the winter. Then he ducks into the roaring crowd of market-goers, craftsmen and merchants.

Reconstructions at Ribe VikingeCenter

The street running alongside Ribe River, which is today known as Sct. Nicolajgade, was from approx. 705 AD to 850 AD the main street of a marketplace, 65 meters across and more than 200 meters long. The partly plank covered road was bordered by 70-80 fenced plots where artisans and traders had set up their stands, presumably against some form of tribute paid to the local authorities.

As such, the site reconstructed at Ribe VikingeCenter is approx. one fifth of the original market's size. No traces of permanent settlement have been found from the early period of the market place, so we are led to suppose that it was only in use for parts of the year. Traders would most likely have spent the nights aboard their ships, in smaller temporary shacks or in tents.

Craftmanship, trade and silver coins

Archeologists have recovered debris from shops working with textiles, leather, antler, bone, glass, amber, bronze casting and more. In addition, a rather large number of imported goods have been found in the marketplace: Shards of drinking glasses, grinding stones, quern stones, whale bone, rock crystal, jewelry and ceramics. Recovered dung shows that there was some trade in cattle and we should also imagine a lively trade in easily-perishable products such as wood and bark objects, furs, bread, flour, fish, salt and the like.

Services and goods were presumably traded directly to a large extent but payment could also be made in the form of silver coins, sceattas. From the time they appear, around 720 AD, and until they go out of use, approximately 80 years later, more than 150 of these coins have been found, scattered across the marketplace. In the surrounding villages, this type of coin has only been found in a single location, something that suggests that they have been closely linked with the commerce in the marketplace in Ribe.