Kaupang revisited: Re-interpreting the built environment and use of space through micromorphological analysis

Barbora Wouters, Karen Beatrice Milek, Dagfinn Skre

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


Kaupang, in sourthern Norway, is a Viking-age urban settlement, craft production and trading centre and harbour dated to ca. AD 800-960. While other towns from this period such as Birka, Hedeby or Ribe have meters of well-preserved stratigraphy, the poor preservation conditions at Kaupang have hindered a good understanding of the settlement structure and phases of occupation. Moreover, it has been difficult to produce robust evidence about the way people lived in this town. Efforts have been made to interpret the activities taking place on the six plots and associated buildings using the objects found in the 2000-2002 excavation campaign. However, problems related to the poor preservation of the site’s stratigraphy presented the excavators with serious challenges related to their interpretations about the range of activities, the function, extent, and internal organisation of the buildings, and the use of space within the town.

The application of micromorphology on a large scale has filled this gap by establishing more detailed interpretations than had been possible based on field methods alone. The analysis of over 70 soil and sediment thin sections have made it possible to redraw the existing plan of the settlement, revealing that almost all the buildings had very similar internal structures and had a primarily domestic function. This suggests that the town was more densely occupied than previously thought. Moreover, new information about the widths of the buildings relative to their plots, and the space syntax analysis of the new settlement plan, has changed the understanding of how the inhabitants moved through and interacted with their built environment and how private and public space may have been perceived.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventAnnual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Sept 20155 Sept 2015


ConferenceAnnual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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