THE “KOVIRKE” - NEW DEFENCES FOR HEDEBY?

The “Kovirke” is part of the Danevirke system of ramparts. It consists of an embankment and a ditch. It runs in a straight line between the waters of Selk Noor near the Viking Age trading centre of Hedeby and the fl oodplain of the Rheide Au river. This is an example of how natural obstacles such as rivers, marshes and lakes were skilfully incorporated in the planning of the Danevirke. The Kovirke was not built until the end of the 10th century and ran south of existing sections of the Danevirke. Harald Bluetooth was then king of Denmark, and his seat was in Jelling. He ordered the construction of the Kovirke after a confl ict between Denmark and the East Frankish Empire. As a result, the important trading town of Hedeby was better protected in a location further back from the front line of defence. The Kovirke comprised an earthen rampart with a wooden palisade front and a V-shaped ditch. The construction is similar to the Danish “ring fortresses” built by King Harald Bluetooth throughout Denmark at about the same time. These are named after the Trelleborg fortress on Zealand.

Rekonstruktion Erdwall

Reconstruction of earthen rampart with palisade and v-shaped ditch in front (source: Elsner 1992).


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