Elites, networks and the Finnish connection in Birka

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In research on Birka strong focus has since long been directed towards long-distance contacts with Western as well with and Northeastern Europe (todays Russia, Belarus and Ukraine). The great attention paid to west- and east European contacts has likely contributed to that contacts with Finland have fallen out of the discussions. However as seen from studies of the pottery in Birka the Baltic Finnish ware constitute the second largest group when it comes to imports to the town. In the graves on Björkö there are finds of this type of ware as well as of dress details deriving from or showing heavy influence from the Finnish mainland. Some of these finds derive from the most lavishly furnished chamber graves in Birka, indicating that the elite in the town were part of a network that was directly or indirectly connected to groups on the Finnish mainland. Besides Baltic Finnish pottery or dress details from Finland these graves also contained objects such as weights, scales and Islamic coins – items indicating an affiliation to groups involved in the sale and exchange of goods. Finds of standardized weights in south western Finland is a clear indication that this region was part of a supra regional network in the Viking Age just like Birka. Objects from Finland found in Birka on one hand and objects from Scandinavian and central Sweden found in Finland on the other confirm that there has been a close connection between the Mälaren region and south western Finland. Probably products such as furs distributed by the elite in Vakka Suomi attracted groups in eastern Sweden and Birka. However the elite in Birka might also have had other reasons for maintaining contacts with groups in south western Finland. People in south western Finland were linked to routes and networks spanning much further east and by extension also to the riches of the Caliphate.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Aspects on Viking Age Urbanism c. AD 750-1100
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the International Symposium at the Swedish History Museum, April 17-20th 2013
EditorsLena Holmquist, Sven Kalmring, Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson
Place of PublicationStockholm
PublisherArchaeological Research Laboratory, Stockhom University
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978-91-89338-20-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventAncient Centres, Special Economic Zones and - Restart!: New Aspects of Viking Age Urbanism, c. 750-1100 - National Historical Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 2013 Apr 172013 Apr 20

Publication series

NameTheses and papers in archaeology. B
PublisherStockholm University. Archaeological Research Laboratory
ISSN (Print)1102-1195


ConferenceAncient Centres, Special Economic Zones and - Restart!

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Archaeology
  • History


  • Trade
  • Finland
  • the Mälaren Valley
  • Birka
  • Archaeology
  • long-distance contacts
  • The Viking Age
  • Networks
  • Furs


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