Mokhovoye

Mokhovoye

Mokhovoye (Моховое; Wiskiauten; Viskiautai) is a settlement in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, located at the south-western corner of the Curonian Lagoon, near Zelenogradsk. It was important in early medieval history as a likely starting point of the Amber Route to the south. Kaup is the name of a hill immediately north of Wiskiauten, where a large burial site with Scandinavian grave goods was found.

History

Archaeological excavations, undertaken in 1899, 1932, and 1979, suggest that a major centre of Old Prussians sprang up there in the early 9th century. Kaup may have been its name, because the place-name is cognate to Old Prussian (and Germanic) terms for "purchase". Marija Gimbutas describes it as "the gateway for the traffic leading to the east via the lower Nemunas basin into the lands of the Curonians, Lithuanians, and other Baltic tribes".

Following the decline of Truso to the south and Grobin to the north in the course of the century, Kaup succeeded them as the principal regional colony of Swedish merchants from Birka. It was superbly sited along the sand-barred shore particularly rich in amber, hidden from potential enemies within a bay "where islands, shoals, and complicated channels made the approach slow and observable".

Kaup flourished as a market town protected by a garrison until the end of the 10th century, when Harold I's son, Haakon, a Dane, raided Samland. This attack, attested by Saxo Grammaticus, probably contributed to the downfall of Kaup, which was again burned to the ground by the Dane Canute the Great during his anti-Prussian raid in 1016. The Norsemen raids ended in the 11th century. They abandoned the Curonian shore for good, but the Prussians continued to occupy the site until the Northern crusades of the 13th century.

Another town, Cranz, was built just north of Wiskiauten, but closer to the Baltic Sea shore. After 1945 the name of the German settlement was Russified as Mokhovoye.

Archaeology

In a wood skirting the modern settlement German archaeologists of the 19th century found a large cemetery, consisting of up to 500 tumuli. Of these, only a few still subsist: continuing activities of amateur Russian archaeologists approach vandalism in that they result in razing of several tumuli each summer. The finds unearthed at Mokhovoye highlight Swedish rather than Danish connections of the medieval Scandinavian colonists.

The tumuli are semi-spherical, less than one meter in height and ranging from five to twelve meters in diameter. A huge boulder was placed on top of each barrow. Some burial mounds were surrounded by stone rings. The Vikings were cremated elsewhere, together with their swords and arrows, before ashes of the dead and their burnt weapons were deposited inside the barrows.

References

General

  1. Кулаков В. И. Кауп. // Становление европейского средневекового города. Moscow, 1989.
  2. Археология СССР (ed. by Boris Rybakov). Том "Финно-угры и балты в эпоху средневековья". Moscow: Nauka, 1987.In-line

External links

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