Archaeologia Maris Baltici et Septentrionalis

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This blog is maintained by Daniel Zwick M.A. B.A. – currently Ph.D. student at the University of Kiel. It features a range of themes in the field of maritime archaeology and heritage in general and illustrates the progress of my ongoing Ph.D. thesis in particular, which is supervised at the University of Kiel by Prof. Dr. Ulrich Müller,  and externally co-supervised by Dr. Kurt Villads Jensen and Dr. Anton Englert.






The Limes Saxoniae remained a stable cultural frontier zone until the year 1147, when Danish and German princes managed to subdue the Slavic lands east of the Elbe lastingly in a joint maritime-terrestrial campaign. It was the first papally authorised crusading campaign “contra Sclavos ceterosque paganos habitantes versus Aquilonem” – the last pagans of northern Europe. This expeditio was a precedent, followed by many more campaigns against the Slavs, Prussians, Lithuanians, Livs, Estonians and other pagan nations of the Baltic Rim until the dissolution of the last remaining crusader state – the Livonian Confederation – in 1561; a time frame spanning over four centuries, colloquially captured by the umbrella term ‘Northern Crusades’. Most of these campaigns – especially to the Baltic region – required seaborne transport and a high degree of maritime organisation, which is studied in an interdisciplinary historical-archaeological approach. The diachronic theme is examined by a number of case studies, which involve different angles: On the one hand, questions of navigation and orientation are addressed, as exemplified by a re-evaluation of a 13th-century Danish itinerary to Estonia. On the other hand, the capabilities and use of ships are assessed, which supplied the Catholic enclaves in the East with crusaders, settlers and goods. Numerous shipwrecks are re-visited to verify the claims of contemporary chroniclers, with discussions on technical aspects of ship-construction, but also with a focus on early trade links between central Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltics. Another major focus lies on timber trade across the Baltic Sea, shedding light on an often overlooked aspect: The Teutonic Order as economic rather than solely militaristic power. This study is concluded by assessing the local maritime transport geography of a Teutonic Order castle and a nearby – arguably appertaining – shipwreck from a period of political instability and the imminent collapse of the Livonian Confederation.


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