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Hedeby and Danevirke, an archaeological border landscape

Date de soumission : 28/01/2016
Critères: (iii)(iv)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany to UNESCO
État, province ou région :
State of Schleswig-Holstein
Ref.: 6083

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Les noms des biens figurent dans la langue dans laquelle les États parties les ont soumis.


Id n°

Component part

Coordinates of the Central Point


Crooked Wall Area 4

N54°27'26" E9°20'52"


Crooked Wall Areas 3 to 4

N54°27'59" E9°23'16"


Crooked Wall Areas 1 to 2
Main Wall Areas 4 to 5

N54°27'48" E9°27'19"


Main Wall Areas 2 to 3

N54°28'46" E9°29'25"


Main Wall Area 1

N54°29'19" E9°30'15"


Connection Wall Area 9
North Wall Area 4
Arched Wall

N54°29'42" E9°30'48"


North Wall Areas 1 to 2

N54°30'02" E9°31'28"


Arched Wall

N54°29'45" E9°31'12"


Connection Wall Area 8

N54°29'41" E9°31'08"


Connection Wall Areas 5 to 7

N54°29'36" E 9°32'12"


Connection Wall Area 3

N54°29'32" E9°33'14"



N54°29´28” E9°33´59”


Kovirke Area 1

N54°27'52" E9°28'45"


Kovirke Area 2

N54°27'56" E9°29'10"


Kovirke Areas 3 to 5

N54°28'11" E9°31'04"


Kovirke Area 6

N54°28'30" E9°33'39"


Kovirke Area 7

N54°28'33" E 9°34'02"


Kovirke Area 8

N54°28'36" E9°34'21"


Offshore Work

N54°31'00" E9°38'32"


East Wall Area 1A to 1C

N54°28'57" E9°44'53"


East Wall Area 2D

N54°28'40" E9°46'27"


East Wall Area 2E to 2F

N54°28'41" E9°47'02"

From as early as the 6th century AD onwards, a system of earthen and wooden ramparts and stone walls connected with defensive ditches, named the Danevirke, marked a strategic key location in the Jutland Peninsula. Here, the Schleswig Isthmus served as a natural traffic barrier for the north-south passage between Northern Jutland and the mainland of central Europe and it provided the fastest passage for goods and travellers between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea at the same time. The man-made structures of the Danevirke functioned together only in connection with natural obstacles such as expansive boggy lowlands along rivers, lakes and the Schlei fjord itself. For centuries the landscape was shaped due to its role as a borderland between the territories and kingdoms of Danes, Saxons, Franks, Slavs and Frisians as well as a frontier of the Christian European civilisation. Between the 9th and 11th centuries the significance of this region as a borderland was enhanced by the early town of Hedeby, which developed into one of the most important long-distance trading and production centres in Northern Europe at the time.

The system of the Danevirke consists of several segments. They combine natural obstacles such as bodies of water and peaty lowlands with manmade structures such as earthen ramparts, palisades, ditches, stone and brick walls, and an offshore work in the water. The Danevirke’s method of construction consciously integrated those features of the landscape particular to the Schleswig Isthmus wherever it seemed possible and worthwhile. In between these natural barriers was an economic, mainly straight-lined course. The defensive system extends beyond the Schleswig Isthmus and includes parts of the Schlei as well as the transition to the Schwansen region south of the Schlei. The Danevirke consists of the sections of the Crooked Wall, the Main Wall, the North Wall, the Connection Wall, the Kovirke, the Offshore Work and the East Wall, thereby including all archaeologically verified ramparts, walls, moats and wooden structures. Hedeby lies protected on the western shore of the Haddeby Noor, a marginal bay at the innermost part of the Schlei. This situation far inland compares to that of other Viking Age trading centres such as Birka in the Lake Malar district and Kaupang in Oslo Fjord. The settlement area of Hedeby is surrounded by an earthen rampart which is part of the defensive system of the Danevirke. In the water in front of it lies the extensive former port area. Upon a moraine peak to the north is a hill fort. South of the town rampart there is a large cemetery as well as a further settlement.

The Danevirke was extended and reinvigorated several times during the 6th to 12th centuries while Hedeby thrived as a settlement and trading centre between the 8th and 11th centuries. After this time the built structures fell into ruin and especially Hedeby was forgotten in the course of the centuries. Later, in the 19th century, the Danevirke was again reinforced as interest in its earlier history and use grew during the struggles between the emerging Danish and German national states. 

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionnelle

The defensive system of the Danevirke and the trading centre of Hedeby consist of a spatially linked complex of earthworks, walls and ditches, settlements, grave fields and a port from the 1st and early 2nd millennium AD across the Schleswig Isthmus. Here, the singular geographic situation on the Jutland Peninsula creates a strategic link between Scandinavia, the European mainland, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. At the Schleswig Isthmus the north-south passage across the peninsula was constricted by a fjord, rivers and expansive boggy lowlands. Taking advantage of this situation features of the natural landscape and man-made structures were combined in the border landscape of Hedeby and Danevirke.

The geographic situation brought about the fastest passage between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea where only a narrow land bridge needed to be crossed. Thus, Hedeby and the Danevirke were located closely to the main waterways of the 8th to 11th centuries AD. By means of the defensive works of the Danevirke it was possible to mark and control the isthmus as the crossover to the domain of Danish chieftains and kings but also as a nodal point of important trading routes. Using the same natural assets and political situation, Hedeby became one of the few trans-regional trading centres in the Baltic region. This is showcased by large quantities of imports among the finds as well as local products which were found in the archaeological material from all over Northern Europe. Craft products and grave goods in Hedeby were often very rich. As one of the most significant urban centres of its time, Hedeby played a decisive part in Scandinavia’s exchange with the European continent.

Criterion (iii): The defensive system of the Danevirke and the trading centre of Hedeby materialize in Southern Jutland the conflicts and at the same time exchange and trade between the civilization of the European mainland and the Scandinavian societies between the 6th to 13th centuries AD. The diversity and quality of the archaeological evidence of Hedeby and Danevirke makes this border landscape a ‘scientific key’ for interpreting the long lasting development and interaction between Scandinavian and Slavic petty kingdoms and large continental states like the Frankish empire. Thus it is an outstanding testimony to the cultural traditions of Northern and Western Europe.

Criterion (iv): The Danevirke developed over more than six centuries in several building phases and defensive lines employing the latest military building technique - incl. a massive stone wall, wooden constructions for wetland areas and an early example of a brick wall - and combining it with natural barriers in the best possible way. The Danevirke functioned as a fortified boundary and show of force and as a means to control the borderland between the emerging Danish kingdoms and the empires and peoples of the continent. The Danevirke is a unique example of the development of the architecture of fortified boundaries over centuries as a result of interaction between different civilisations and of the change of social and political structures.

Hedeby became one of the few important trading centres in Northern Europe before 1000 AD. Because of its preserved town layout and its exceptional archaeological remains of houses, workshops, harbour facilities and roads it is an outstanding materialisation of the development of urban structures in Northern Europe and an important example for the mass production of craft products, for long-distance trade, for the co-habitation and communication between different peoples and for the syncretism between Christian and pagan beliefs. The port, the settlement areas and the cemeteries of Hedeby further highlight the significance of the borderland during the 8th to 11th centuries. Hedeby is an excellent showcase of the growth and decline of the emporia trade settlements in Europe and of the interaction between the Scandinavian societies, Slavic and Saxonian petty kingdoms and large continental kingdoms like the Frankish empire over 300 years.

Together, Hedeby and Danevirke form an exceptional example of a border landscape where demarcation and contact are represented like the two sides of the same coin. The landscape is at the core of the borderland of Scandinavian kingdoms which served as the frontier of Latin European kingdoms at the same time. Hedeby and Danevirke represent a significant cultural, political and economic phase in the history of the region. Moreover, Hedeby and Danevirke reflect the role of borderlands in general with respect to social and territorial organisation, socio-economic structure, interaction and territorial dispute between different civilisations in an outstanding way.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

Danevirke and Hedeby are exceptionally well-preserved archaeological sites and structures of the 6th to 12th centuries AD. As an archaeological complex, Danevirke and Hedeby are entirely authentic, and no reconstruction has been carried out.

The State Party has endeavoured intensively and successfully in recent decades to preserve this historical-archaeological site and to care for it with lasting effect. The borders of the nominated property are defined by the extent of the complete archaeological sites. Representing all important historical building phases and structures, the archaeological material and substance, the construction and layout and the situation and setting of these sites are adequately intact in order to convey the significance of the property as a cultural landscape.

The well-preserved urban remains and extensive harbour facilities testify to the economic expansion and the significance of trade and communication in this cultural landscape. The ground of Hedeby has never been developed and thus offers archaeological research a multitude of options for a range of different enquiries. Large parts, 26 km, of the preserved structures of the Danevirke are still visible as pronounced embankments or low ridges. Some parts of the sections, especially the western end of the Crooked Wall, are only known from archaeological surveys.

The credibility and truthfulness of the evidence for the interpretation of the border landscape of Hedeby and Danevirke is conveyed by the genuine archaeological material, the construction and layout and the situation and setting of the archaeological sites. Hence, all archaeological remains of the nominated property have retained their authentic construction and layout since the time of their primary use. The archaeological material and substance of the nominated property is also entirely authentic. All building phases, features and their remains relevant to this nomination date to the 6th to 12th centuries AD or are likely to do so. Important topographical conditions and features which were historically availed of for the choice of site and the layout of the structures are still recognizable even today. Where recent repairs and restorations have been carried out they can clearly be distinguished from the historical material and are based on complete and detailed archaeological documentation. The credibility of the evidence has been corroborated by numerous written sources and extensive research using established archaeological and natural scientific methods. The theories used for the interpretation of the sites and of historical processes are derived from this research and have wide acceptance in the scientific community.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

The Danevirke and Hedeby complex form an important archaeological border landscape between different peoples, territories and civilizations illustrative of the communication of power and territorial claim and of the elaborate trading networks between Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea Region and mainland Europe in the centuries before and after 1000 AD and their influence on the subsequent history of Scandinavia as well as of the developing states and of structures of power.

Hedeby has to be seen against the context of the other emporia of this period, from Staraya Ladoga to Dublin. The only sites that are comparable with Hedeby in terms of the degree of conservation and accessibility are Birka (Sweden) and, to a lesser extent, Dorestad (Netherlands). Most of the others, such as Ribe, Aarhus, Hamburg, York and Dublin, are beneath the existing towns and cities. The wealth and diversity of the material excavated at Hedeby indicates that it was one of the most important sites of this group.

The Danevirke has only much smaller earthworks as direct comparison in a Scandinavian context such as Olgerdiget in southern Denmark and can otherwise only be compared with other large border defences such as Offa’s wall and Hadrian’s Wall in the UK or the Upper German and Raetian Limes in Germany. The latter of these examples were, however, connected with large developed empires and not with societies at the start of their territorial organisation. None had such a long history of use and was showing so many different architectures.

The extraordinarily good state of preservation of the find material and the structural features, not only of the rampart system but also of the port and the settlement of Hedeby, finds no parallels in Northern Europe. In Europe, as a border landscape serving as demarcation and contact zone between very different cultures Hedeby and Danevirke can only be compared to the Roman limes. Beyond Europe, Hedeby and Danevirke can be compared to the Great Wall, the unique border defence of the Chinese Empires, which exhibits the features of a border landscape on a much larger scale in a much different cultural setting.