Dating earthwork fortifications: Integrating five dating methods in Viking-age Ribe, Denmark

Sarah Croix, Olav Elias Gundersen, Søren M. Kristiansen, Jesper Olsen, Søren M. Sindbæk, Morten Søvsø

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Precise dating of earthworks with limited datable material is a well-known archaeological challenge. Here, based on artefact chronology, coin dates, radiocarbon dating of macroscopic and soil organic-matter fractions, and
Bayesian modelling combining all these, we discuss the relative strengths and limitations of each method for dating an earthwork fortification from the Viking-age town of Ribe, Denmark. In a novel approach, we model the
circulation time and loss rates of coin finds to obtain a detailed distribution curve, which is worked directly into a Bayesian model. It is shown that the earthworks, an early moat and rampart, belong neither to the ninth-century
emporium or to the eleventh-century rise of the Cathedral town. The refined dates point to a construction in the period 889–974 CE and a use-life of at least 50 years, but the moat was filled-in by the mid 11th century CE. In consequence, Ribe's earliest fortification can be compared to the early fortification of two other
Viking-age towns: Hedeby and Aarhus, possibly as a concerted defensive effort. Our integration of five dating methods reveals the strengths and weaknesses of each and provides a means to compare and correlate each component within a characteristically heterogeneous set of archaeological dates
Artikelnummer 101906
TidsskriftJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Udgave nummerAugust
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2019


  • Dating methods
  • Bayesian modelling
  • Earthworks
  • Defence
  • Ribe
  • Viking Age
  • Emporium