Birka: The Abandoned Town That Used To Be A Hectic Viking Trading Center

Birka, a town in Sweden that rests on the island Björkö "Birch Island", used to be one of the most hectic Viking trading centers back in the day. In fact, the Vikings weren’t the only ones who traded here. People from other regions (around Birka, Frisia, England and other places in the East side) also came here for trading and business-related purposes. Unfortunately, its glory eventually faded and ended by the end of the 10th century.           

Although this town used to be a Viking trading center way back then, it actually took centuries after it lost its glory to be honored. This wasn’t something that sat well with other people, but it’s better than never, right? So by 1993, it was finally given the World Heritage recognition that it rightfully deserves. Two more Viking towns (specifically Dannevirke and Hedeby) were recognized by UNESCO 25 years later.          

Now you’re probably wondering how this town came into full swing.   

So around halfway through the 8th century, there was once a Swedish king who lived a few kilometers away from Birka’s location.

Based on its geographical setting and location (part of the Medieval trading route) facing the Baltic Sea, its Western side was surrounded by humongous rocks. This king knew that this particular place (stretched up to 32 acres) could become a hectic trading center. 

So he founded and created this town to help facilitate trading activities. He was right about the town’s potential because Birka had grown and flourished at an incredible speed after just two years in operation. The most popular commodities at that time were iron goods, craft products and fur.       

Aside from founding Birka, he also used this town to control the south of Sweden (both politically and economically).              

Birka’s end

The sad reality is that there’s always an ending to every beginning. Birka eventually lost its glory after two centuries of success. After Birka’s collapse, there were many theories as to why this happened. 

One of the generally accepted theories why inhabitants abandoned this town was that there was a rise of land masses. This probably affected the water levels in the area and was one of the reasons why the economic activities there stopped and never came back. 

Birka today

Although Birka is no longer considered an important economic site in this day and age, it’s still recognized as an important archaeological site. People who visited this former Viking trading center observed green hills (there are thousands of them) which are actually Viking age burial mounds.

Also, archaeologists concluded that there were 6 major graveyards that surrounded Birka in the past. 

One of the most popular excavations in Birka was BJ581 where archaeologists found the remains of a Viking woman along with two horses and her weapons.     


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