Site Overview

Wolin - home of the Jómsvikings and a golden disc

Wolin is an island at the mouth of the river Oder. It was almost certainly the location which the sagas depict as the home of the Jómsvikings: a band of elite Vikings who sold their services to the highest bidder.

Sagas tell of a magnificent fortress with an artificial harbour which could hold 360 ships. The archaeological evidence does not bear this out, but Jómsborg may well have been the base of a band of mercenaries who served a Slavic prince.

Jómsborg Viking Fort

This is a reconstruction of the fort, 3km from Warsaw. The wooden buildings and palisades have been interpreted and, at weekends in the summer, the fort is populated with living history demonstrators.

There are regular demonstrations of archery, axe throwing and sword fights, although there are also demonstrations of Viking crafts and “historical picnics” on occasions.

The stronghold also organises "living history lessons" for school groups and historical events/shows for groups of adults.

Waterside Town

By 800, Wolin had grown from a simple fishing settlement into a waterside town with wooden houses and streets which were surrounded by a semi-circular rampart. Arabic writer Ibrahim Ibn Jakub described the harbour in 964-5, and Adam of Bremen (mid-11th century) described it as “one of the greatest of all cities of Europe”, which was “crammed with the goods of all the peoples of the North”. Excavation has shown this to be true of this cosmopolitan city in which the Viking influence is clearly visible.

The wooden structures survived extremely well and could be dated using dendrochronology. The palisade resembled those of the Viking towns of Hedeby (today, in northern Germany) and Ribe (southern Sweden) in the Scandinavian homelands. By the end of the century, the town was laid out on a regular grid, with square plots each containing four buildings. Each building was more or less uniform in size, approximately 5m x 6m.

Archaeologists discovered that the buildings had been used for a wide range of craft activities. These included finely worked Baltic amber, as well as smithing and smelting, comb making, leather work and textiles, and shipbuilding.

Temple and Cemeteries

An unusual feature of Wolin was a Slavic cult temple, dating to around 966. Extensive Viking cemeteries have also been discovered.

Golden Disc

A gold disc, known as the Curmsun disc, includes the names of both Harald Bluetooth and Jómsborg. It is believed to have been part of a hoard found in Wolin in 1841, but was not recognised as being of any value until 2014. The disc actually has a very high gold content.

Museums

Excavated artefacts are on display both in the town museum (Muzeum Regionalne) and also in the Muzeum Narodowe in Szczecin.

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