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The Trade Places


In the course of the Viking Age a special kind of trade places emerge, the so-called -købinger in the eastern part of the Danish kingdom. The købinger are situated in areas, which have had a somewhat larger building activity. They can be dated back to the 9th century and forward to the 11th century.

It is probable that their importance as international settlement trade places have disappeared with the emergence of the early towns. However, other types of international trade places have probably existed too.

The Köpinge (the last part of many towns´ names)
Scania was divided into districts in the old days. When this division into districts came into being, is not quite clear. The oldest mentioning of a district is during the time of Bishop Eskil 1138-1177 and that is Skytt´s district in south western Scania. However, if you compare the district borders with the early medieval map of church density, you can just see that the districts have been created from the ancient central settlements. The district borders have probably been implemented as a royal, administrative way of surveying the population structure.
Every central settlement on the coast has a so-called ”köpinge”place. These köpingar is considered the predecessors of the towns from the late Viking Age. We find them all near the Scanian Coast in connection to water sources, which is why they must have been the international trade places of the settlements. The map shows the situation. South of Helsingborg in connection to Råån is Köpinge. At Löddeå is Löddeköpinge, at Pilebäcken south of Malmö Hököpinge and at Dalköpingsån east of Trelleborg Dalköpinge. East of Ystad is Stora Köpinge next to Nybroån and south of Kristianstad we find Gärds Köpinge next to Helgeå.
Two köpinge-places, Hököpinge and Dalköpinge, is relatively close to each other in south western Scania. However, the church density map indicates that the early medieval churches are the densest in this area. The large population here has made it possible to have two large international trade places in the area facing the Sound coast. Hököpinge has had its trade route facing west to the Sound coast, Dalköpinge south towards the Baltic coast. As opposed to Löddeköpinge and Stora Köpinge, no archaeological activity has been directed towards uncovering these two trade places. One phosphate analysis, however, of a limited area north west of Hököpinge on the end towards Pilebäcken, shows that here are increased phosphate values. It was in the same area that a large silver treasure from the Viking Age was found in the beginning of the 19th century.
The köpinge areas are all close to water sources with direct access to the coast. What is the significance of the water in connection with the emergence of the trade places? The big streams Råån, Löddeå and Helgeå have made it possible for Viking ships to come in from the coast. Other trade places, however, are placed by waters, which today would be classified as big brooks. Of these Hököpinge is by Pilebäcken and Stora Köpinge by Nybroån relatively far into the land. These water streams have not been accessible for trade ships.
At Høkøpinge close to the coast, there is a fortification in the form of a double, oval moat with remnants of ramparts. See photo. Probably there must have been some kind of observation post at this landing, perhaps a control post for arriving trade ships.
Church Density in Scania
Church Density in Scania

Løddekøpinge is the most excavated ”køpinge”- place in Scania. Excavations started here as early as the 1960´s. When they dug away the top soil here to prepare the building of a number of villas, large, black squares were exposed in the sand. These squares were remnants of smaller dug down houses from the Viking Age, the so-called pit houses. The houses must have been rather primitive and the number of houses indicates that there must have been a market place here. The area is approximately 2 kilometres up along the wide Løddeå.
The size of the pit houses have varied from 6 to 20 square metres. Sand layers in the floors of the houses indicate that the buildings have been left empty for periods of time, which in turn confirms the assumption that this was a market place, used in certain seasons. The houses are from the 8th to the 10th century. At this time the market place seems to have been moved one kilometre further up the brook. At this later settlement there are quite large houses, which the archaeologists have found to be a more permanent settlement. Here is also the oldest, Christian church building with a very large cemetery. Although the whole cemetery hasn´t been excavated, 1412 graves from the Viking Age have been found. Remnants of two wooden churches from the end of the 10th -11th century have been excavated in the middle of the cemetery. Coin finds in the graves show that the youngest graves stems from the time of Oluf Hungers, i.e. 1086-1095.
See sketch of the cemetery.
Viking Graves
Viking Graves

Furthest down in the south western corner of Scania is Høllviken. The name may be interpreted as “the inlet by the large ”høllen” i.e. by the large hall. The tidal meadows between Høllviken and Foteviken were called ”LittleVie’s field” in the 16th century. A ”Vi” denotes a holy, heathen place, a temple or a holy grove. In this ”Vi”-area Foteviken’s Museum has excavated a ship grave from the Viking Age, which supports the theory that this is a holy place. At such a place for idolatry there were always one or more large halls, where sacrificial feasts were held. Thus Høllviken can be interpreted as the name of the inlet by the large hall by the holy place
This area between Høllviken and Foteviken was probably called Halør. See the chapter on ”ør”-ne in the Sound”. In the Viking Age there was a large market place here. In ”The Faroese saga,” which was written before the year 1100, an episode from the end of the 10th century is related.: ”Here (i.e. in Halør) a large crowd had gathered and it is said that while the market is held, there is nowhere in all of Scandinavia, where such a large gathering takes places.”
The market by Halør has probably been different than the markets at the købing places. At the købing places people from different areas traded. In Halør traders from different countries met and traded. This place in south western Scania is well suited for such a trading place. The protruding Falsterbo peninsula becomes a natural border zone for seafaring traders from the east and the west. The market in Halør was held every year in the beginning of summer.
It is important to distinguish between the Halør market and the herring market, which came into existence in Skanør on the other side of Høllviken around the year 1200. The Skanør market took place in August-September, the time, when the herring showed up in large quantities in the Sound. The Skanør market was also a fish market and as such demanded large quantities of salt, which was imported from Germany. However, when the Halør market existed salt was a very expensive commodity, which only existed in small quantities. Thus the Halør cannot have been a fish market.

©  Øresundstid 2009