Birka is the first capital of the Swedish kings, was once on the island of Bjorko, 30 km from present-day Stockholm, at the exit from Lake Malaren to the Baltic Sea.

Birka is the first capital of the Swedish kings, was once on the island of Bjorko, 30 km from present-day Stockholm, at the exit from Lake Malaren to the Baltic Sea

This "proud ancient glory" city in 9-10 centuries. was the largest trade center in the Baltic. Its very name - Birka - comes from the Old Swedish word "birk", which means "trader". There were legends about the wealth of the residents of the city of Birka. It is said that when in 845 the Danish army launched an unexpected raid on the town of Birka, the inhabitants, taken by surprise, offered the enemy a ransom of 100 pounds of silver. But the Danes rejected this proposal, saying: "Each your merchant individually has more than we are invited!"

In the last quarter of the 10th century, Birka ceased to exist - strange and inexplicable. The role of the main commercial, cultural and political center of Sweden was transferred to the city of Sigtuna. And the island on Lake Malaren was empty, and only high earthen ramparts reminded of the ancient Swedish capital that existed here.

Nevertheless, until the end of the 19th century, disputes continued as to whether the settlement on Bjorko is a remnant of the very same Birka, or whether this city should be sought elsewhere.

In 1686, Joseph Hadorp made the first excavations on the island of Bjorko and found objects related to the Viking Age. The second archaeologist who visited the town of Birka was Scotsman Alexander Seton. But the true discovery of Birka is connected with the name of the Swedish scientist Hjalmar Stolpe (1841-1905). In 1871, he landed on the island of Bjorko and discovered numerous viking burials.

His main goal Stolpe chose a huge burial mound on the "Black Lands". This is the name of the tract, located outside of the city's ramparts. Here is the largest early medieval necropolis in Sweden - about three thousand burials, in part with barrows mounds. In total, Stolpe unearthed 1100 burials, located on an area of about 4 thousand square m.

The archaeological material collected by Stolpe was huge - swords, amulets, jewelry, coins, ceramics. The study and systematization of finds in Birka continued to the scientist until his death and were continued by his disciples.

Excavations of Birka continued in the late 1920s. Holger Arbman. His goal was the first Christian church founded by St. Ansgar. But his search ended in vain. But Arbman made another discovery: he discovered the remains of a vast building, in which, apparently, the city garrison was located. Here were found weapons, fragments of armor. The last large excavations in Birka were conducted in 1990-1995. Bjorn Ambrosiani. He investigated a large area in the harbor area and the "Black Lands".

Investigations of the Mark have enabled scientists in many ways to take a fresh look at both the Viking Age and the history of Sweden and the whole of Northern Europe. It is now established that Birka was Sweden's oldest urban-type settlement. The date of its origin is dated to the 8th-9th centuries, although people lived on the island of Bjorko even before the royal city was founded here. The residence of the kings - Hovgarden Castle - was located on the neighboring island of Edelso.

Archaeological research has shown that Birka did not originate spontaneously, but, most likely, was laid down by order of the king. In any case, the central part of the city was strictly ordered, planned nature. The first constructions of the Tag can be dated to the beginning of the 9th century. In the 10th century the city was surrounded by an earthen rampart.

According to scientists, in 9-10 centuries. in the city of Birka, there were about 1500 permanent residents. However, in the summer months, when ships with goods arrived from all over the Baltic, the number of residents could increase to 8 thousand.

In terms of significance in the economic and cultural life of the early medieval Northern Europe, historians compare the city of Birka with the Old Russ Novgorod. It was from the walls of the city of Birka that the path "from the Varangians to the Greeks" began, in the 10th-12th centuries linking Sweden to Russ, Byzantium, the Middle East, Central Asia. In the burial grounds of Birka, archaeologists find fragments of silk fabrics from China, ceramic and bronze vessels from Iran, jewelry from Byzantium and Ancient Russ, Arabic coins.

The mystery of the sudden death of the city of Birka has not yet been uncovered. All the finds made here unequivocally testify that after 960 the city was abandoned. It is possible that the role of Birka in the fate of Birka was played by the sinking of the straits of Lake Malaren, which caused the merchant ships to lose access to the harbor of the Swedish capital. Another reason could be a general change in international trade routes: from the 10th century, the island of Gotland began to play an increasingly important role in trade with Eastern Europe, the competition with which Birka could not stand. Finally, as a third reason, some scholars call the adoption of Christianity by the Swedish kings: perhaps this circumstance caused them to move the capital from Birka, located in the midst of the pagan population, to Sigtuna.

Be that as it may, the research of the ancient city of Birka continues, and one can hope that the secrets of the ancient capital of the Swedish kings will sooner or later be solved.