Archaeologia Maris Baltici et Septentrionalis

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Stade | Early medieval oars


Between 2006 and 2009 research excavations were carried out in the early medieval ring-fort of Groß Thun near Stade, colloqially known as “Schwedenschanze” (Swedish sconce) due to the fortification’s misattribution to the Thirty Years War. Test trenches through the timber-earth-wall revealed the extent of the monument, indicating a massive construction of piles with surprisingly many re-used timbers (cf. Schäfer & Scherf 2008, 145). The original height of the wall is estimated with 7-8 metres  (Schäfer 2010, 518). Three of the re-used wooden objects could be preliminarily addressed as either paddles, oars or spades.

Although two of them are asymetrical due to a recess in one side which is suggestive of a (secondary?) use as spade, the location near River Swinge and general shape is highly suggestive of a maritime use. The oars were radially cleft. Especially at the blade tool-marks are still recognizable, where the timber was carefully shaped with an adze or axe.

These objects were intentionally integrated into the river embankment that formed part of the ring wall. Signs of wear and tear – especially the broken off shaft – indicate that they were probably no longer suited for their primary purpose. These finds were dated by a C14-analysis  into the 7th and the 9/10th century, respectively, and thus correlate perfectly with the entire time span in which the fortification was in use (Schäfer, pers. comm.). I was shortly involved in the 2008 season to assist in the excavation and to record the oars, which will be published shortly.


Schäfer 2010: A. Schäfer, Befestigungen des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit in Stade. In: M. Gläser, C. Kimminus-Schneider, M. Schneider, D. Zwick (eds.), Lübecker Kolloquium zur Stadtarchäologie im Hanseraum VII: Die Befestigungen. Lübeck 2010,  517-534.

Schäfer & Scherf 2008: A. Schäfer & W. Scherf, 2008: Neue Erkenntnisse zur frühmittelalterlichen Burg von Groß Thun (Stadt Stade). In: Archäologie in Niedersachsen 11, 145-149.


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