Before Nyborg, there was Gammelborg. But where was Gammelborg? New finds and analyses place Gammelborg near the village of Vindinge not far from Nyborg, and date it from the early Germanic Iron Age (about 500 AD) with continued use throughout the Viking period. Even though Nyborg Castle is over 800 years old, it was once new. As we know, this “new castle” gave its name to the whole town, namely Nyborg. The location of the “old castle” was uncertain until recently, and was surrounded with a certain mystery.
Visible from the air
In written sources from the 1500’s and 1600’s, a spit of land near Vindinge River, near the village of Vindinge, close to Nyborg, was called “Gammelborg” (Old Castle). Nonetheless, experts have been sceptical, and until now, no one has been able to document the existence of a castle or fortress here. Partly based on aerial photos of the area, in which the remains of a circular moat can be seen, the Museums of Eastern Funen engaged in excavations at the site last year in the area of “Gammelborg”. This produced clear evidence of circular earthworks and moat. In addition, in one place along the inner side of the moat, traces of posts were found that once formed a palisade. This has now been dated by carbon 14 dating. After impatiently waiting for the results, the Museums of Eastern Funen have now received the results of the scientific analysis.
A fortress from the Iron Age
The carbon 14 results lead to the conclusion that the earthworks, moat and palisade were part of a total construction built in the early Germanic Iron Age (5th and 6th century). In addition, the results show that the fortress was still in use in the Viking period. Some of the posts in the palisade needed to be replaced in the mid-800’s, in the early Viking times. The village of Vindinge was well-known to the Vikings, according to the historian Svend Aggesen, who wrote in the 1100’s that the Danish king, Svend Forkbeard, landed in Vindinge after being released from his imprisonment by the Joms Vikings in present-day Poland. This story’s believability is strengthened by the discovery of a fortress at Vindinge; it wasn’t just any old village he landed at.
A royal centre
No finds have been made inside the circular earthworks of Gammelborg, which could indicate that it was a fortress where the surrounding population could seek refuge if enemies or pirates threatened them. Many similar constructions, for example on Lolland and Falster (to the southeast) were in use right up to the Middle Ages. In the second half of the 1100’s, work began on many large fortresses or fortified castles throughout Denmark, to strengthen both royal power and the kingdom against enemies from within and without. It was in this connection that Nyborg took over from Gammelborg as the main fortress on eastern Funen.
Analyses from Gammelborg can now be tied together with another fortress in the same area, namely “Rosildevolden”, and the discovery of Arabic coins near Vindinge. All in all, we have a picture of Vindinge as an important town in the Viking period, both in terms of trade and of power.