Talk:Birka

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Oldest?[edit]

I find the statement "Generally regarded as Sweden's oldest town" to be fairly odd, as the article itself states that the settlement was established in the 8th century, while the Uppåkra article describes that town as having already been prominent for centuries by that point. Either one of the articles is way off on the dating, or that sentence is. I guess some people might argue that Uppåkra wasn't located in Sweden at the time, but there wasn't really any Sweden for Birka to be located in at the time either. - Alltat (talk) 13:57, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

Note that Köping(todays Köpingsvik) on the island of Öland is as atleast five times larger than "Birca" and existed before and after it. It´s almost unknown by the public and historians and archeologist hardly never mention it. There have been several small excevations but no large ones i Köping. The findings show that it´s several times larger and much older than "Birca". The problem is that the evidence doesn´t fit into the ruling view on Swedens early history. Especially since Köping is a much better candidate to be Ansgars Birka. So if Köping existed and it did so, then Swedens early history needs to be rewritten. It´s "en het potatis"(a hot potato) that no one wants to deal with, since the establishment have embrassed "Birka" on Björkö and even got it classified as a world heritage. Arneke (talk) 09:12, 10 May 2011 (UTC)

Untitled[edit]

Hmm. I don't know how or if this should be fitted into the article, but I thought I'd throw it up here since it deserves mention: There's a picture of the 17th century map of Björkö from Suecia Antiqua et Hodierna. It was known at that time that Björkö had had some historical significance, but it was not known that it was Birka. (This is mentioned)

What's a bit interesting is that Suecia also has a map of 'old Sweden' with Birka on it, where the location was erroneously guessed to be somewhere up in the middle of Uppland. Maybe we could get a picture of that detail of the map? It'd be a good illustration of the fact that they didn't know where it was. --BluePlatypus 07:53, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

Modern living on Björkö[edit]

Why is there no mention that the island is still used for farming and other information about the current structures on the island? I would like to see information about the small church just east of Birka village, as well as all the modern living that occurs on the island.

Linköping as Birca?[edit]

I remember reading a very convincing Swedish book about Linköping as the most probable Birca, especially based on Linköping's otherwise unexplained high status in early Swedish christianity and missionary work on the Baltic sea. Would anyone remember the name of the book? --Drieakko 05:46, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

I do not know if this is the book you are talking about, but I stumbled on a source that apparently tries to localize Birka in Östergötland. P. Gustavi: Sveavälde. Birka och Vreta kloster. Vadstena 1981.
I have not read or seen the book myself. 217.112.242.181 14:43, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. Sounds the one I had in mind. --Drieakko 18:00, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

Separation of Birka and Björkö articles[edit]

I would suggest separation of Birka and Björkö articles. Björkö article would concentrate on excavation results on the island and Birka article to go through the remaining evidence on Birka, which at the end of the day does not too well match with the Björkö location. Articles would be well linked to each other. Kindly tell me your opinions about this split. --Drieakko 04:56, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

It is true that the connection of Björkö and Birka mentioned in the early medieval sources might not be quite as certain as is often assumed. However, the Viking Age site found on Björkö is commonly called Birka, I think it is an official name for it. Thus I think it would be difficult to describe it under the name "Björkö". Whether it is a correct historical identification or not, for modern people the famous site on Björkö is Birka. Björkö is the isle, not the archaeological site.
Perhaps it is sufficient if those alternative theories of Birka´s geographical locality are described in the article. Mats Dreijer's idea of Birka on the Åland Islands and theories of the so-called Västgötaskolan come into my finnjävel mind. However, these theories might or might not be considered as pseudo-science; a potential POV problem is obvious. 217.112.242.181 10:58, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
Yes, quite right. "Birka" has become the commercial name for the Björkö island excavation site after wide and hasty support for its status as ancient Birca. But I am not looking for as much alternative theories than just a presentation of the original documents about the city. My personal opinion is that Björkö island most likely was not Birca. However, any other excavated site doesn't seem to fit the descriptions too well either. Naturally documents could be described in the same article as well. --Drieakko 11:12, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
  • The Björkö location of Birka is generally accepted as historical fact. Yes, there are dissenting theories, but by far and wide Birka is considered to have been on Björkö. So no, I don't see any reason to split the articles. It's a complete mischaracterization to claim that the evidence doesn't match. The historians have their reasons for believing what they believe, and what they believe, by far and wide, is that Björkö was Birka. --BluePlatypus 15:29, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Still bothered by Björkö and Birca being handled in the same article. I know this sounds like a sacrilege to some editors, but I'd still like to separate them to clearly have historical data and archaelogical finds separated from popular theories. We could not start the current article with Adam of Bremen's words: "Birca was the main Göta town" which would sound very strange when talking about the Björkö settlement. --Drieakko 12:45, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

I don't think divorcing the articles is a good idea. Even UNESCO was duped into believing they are identical. Why should we be the first to debunk the legends? --Ghirla -трёп- 13:25, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

Birka dating[edit]

There seems to be a critical opinion among a group of scholars that dates the earliest phase of the Björkö settlement only in the mid-9th century and its growth to town-size at the end of the 9th century. Finds from the massive graveyards outside the city do not go further back in time than the late 9th century. This questions Björkö's position as the legendary Birka. It does not seem to have been there yet when Ansgar arrived in Birka in 829 and was already destroyed when Adam told about it in the 1060s. Claims about Björkö town being already established in the mid-8th century seem to have originated from the fact that since Ansgar arrived in a full-grown town in 829, it must have been established well before. I have failed to find reliable data dating Björkö town earlier than the mid-9th century. As Björkö town faded away along with eastern trade collapsing around 975, it probably was created when the eastern trade originally took off with the Varangians in control of the Kievan Rus from the 850s onwards. --Drieakko 18:23, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Drieakko, there is no evidence that the Varangians were ever "in control" of "the Kievan Rus" as you term it, but it's not my point. I agree that the dating of the site is dubious but my doubts go further. What do we know about Birka from sagas and other Norse sources? Why scholars assign so much weight to this name, placing it on a par with Hedeby? The article leaves it all in a haze. I've got the impression that Birka as a great medieval emporium was born from the 19th-century nationalist hype, which sought to spot a Viking site in Sweden and to place it on an equal footing with Danish Hedeby. Am I being naive? Many books mention that Birka was preceded by Helgo, an important Vendel Age site located 10 km to the southeast. Do we have an article about it? --Ghirla -трёп- 18:31, 24 November 2006 (UTC)
As Varangians are not the topic of this article, I say no further words about that :) Existence of Birca is completely based on two German accounts, one from the 9th and the other one from the 11th century. Both give plenty of credit to it. The problem rises from the fact that Birca (or any similar location) is missing from the Scandinavian saga space. Especially since the key locations in Uppland area like (Old) Sigtuna and (Old) Uppsala are decently covered in saga sources, silence around Birca is strange, if it too was supposed to be in their close vicinity. To put it bluntly, the Björkö settlement looks like a short-lived ghetto built for foreign traders that flooded into Sweden along with the flow of Varangian goods. It had no political, religious or military importance, but the foreign traders could live there sufficiently safely. I bet no free Viking man lived there. Hedeby was a way more massive construction, and there is a truth in your opinion that the status of Björkö settlement is quite buffed with nationalistic tones that have made it the jewel of the Swedish past. Part of that is the forced connection with Birca mentioned in German chronicles. About Helgö, it existed on a near-by island and was probably a big estate of a powerful Svea family ruling the trade well before Viking Age. It being a "predecessor" of Birca is a very simplified opinion.--Drieakko 18:50, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Speculations need cleanup[edit]

The author of the text wants to promote the idea that Birka was far from Uppsala, based on speculations. This is fraudulent.

The wording "not far" in this section:

"Furthermore we have been told that there are many islands in that sea, one of which is called the Great Estland (Aestland) -- And this island is told to be quite close to the Woman Land (terrae feminarum), which is not far (non longe) away from Birca of the Swedes." (IV 17)

is compared with this section:

"Birca is the main Geat town (oppidum Gothorum), situated in the middle of Sweden (Suevoniae), not far (non longe) from the temple called Uppsala (Ubsola) which the Swedes (Sueones) held in the highest esteem when it comes to the worship of the gods;

It got to be there to prove something... Is it supposed to prove that Birka might be as far from Uppsala as it was to Finland?

First of all, how can any credibility be put into a section that starts with "we have been told". Secondly, have you seen maps from that time? Here are two maps:

Map from ca 1570
Map from circa 1539

Here we can see two early maps and how they estimate the distances between Sweden and Kvenland. Compare that with the distance between Uppsala and Skara.

Now, we can go on speculating forever about this "not far" part, but I am not one of those people who do that on Wikipedia. Speculations must themself be sources by credibile sources, who interprets the text in the same way.

I ask other contributers to comment and make the necessary changes in the article.

Fred-Chess 21:19, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Kindly note that I have no influence on what Adam of Bremen wrote in 1075 about Birca. If his words were sloppy and controversial, we just have to live with that. All his information on Sweden was based on hearsay since he never set his foot there. --Drieakko 21:47, 28 November 2006 (UTC)
I support and appreciate Drieakko's additions of Adam of Bremen's texts. It is always interesting to see the original version with comments on what historians think and feel. History sifted through the POVs of historians is best enjoyed with an eye on the original texts.--Berig 21:55, 28 November 2006 (UTC)
It is interesting, but I don't think it is all necessary for this article. In my opinion, few general readers would bother to read about for example "Telge", and the note that Birka couldn't be located alongside Jumne.
I am quite confident about my point ( I do have some experience on Wikipedia ) , but I'll wait for other's comments before I change anything...
Fred-Chess 22:15, 28 November 2006 (UTC)
I understand your point of view. However, anyone with willingness for a glance only can settle with the preface of the article that sums it up without extra headaches. But Wikipedia should be able to pave the road to get to the bottom as well for those who so wish. There are entire detailed synopses of chapters of TV series in Wikipedia, and we are still not running out of disk space ;) --Drieakko 22:20, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

I share Fred's concerns that the article should not be hijacked towards unsubstantiated speculations. Birka's relationship to Finland cerntainly qualifies as a speculation. On the other hand, I am in favour of quoting primary sources, as long as the quotations are pertinent. When working on Sviatoslav I of Kiev (which was promoted to FAs a few days ago), I consistently defended quoting the Primary Chronicle, but was generally opposed by other contributors and guys from WP:VPP. I posted on WP:RFC a request for uninvolved editors to comment on the issue. --Ghirla -трёп- 08:11, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

A lot of people seem to misunderstand the policy of primary sources, and lash out at any attempt to quote from them. That is, in my opinion, counterproductive. As I understand it, primary source citation is encouraged as a useful tool; the interpretation of those sources, however, should be left to secondary published sources and not to the personal understanding of the reader (unless the meaning is completely plain on its face, which it does not appear to be here).
Adam of Bremen is one of our main sources from the period and should definitely be quoted. The interpretation of Adam's writing, on the other hand, is something that can only be done through reference to secondary sources. Are there reliable articles or books written about Adam's work in relation to Birka? If so, we should cite them. And if there are scholars who criticize Adam's writings and regard them as unreliable vis a vis the location of Birka, they too should be quoted. Briangotts (Talk) (Contrib) 14:50, 29 November 2006 (UTC)
I support Briangotts's argument that in this particular case, primary sources should be cited prominently in this article. Primary sources are not numerous about this place and time, and in such cases scholars usually can do little more than attempt to interpret the source. Disagreements arising from such interpretations must be presented too, but it's also important to give our readers the exposure to the original texts or else the scholarly discussion will look meaningless. Beit Or 21:42, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

Comment[edit]

Who translated this? I'm not quite following where all the "primary material" is coming from as it is in English, but the references don't list it in English. It does have, imo, an excessive amount of material quoted the removes flow from the article, so maybe the reference to the English is listed, but I missed it when it became tedious, the jumping back and forth into the quoted material. I think it would be easier to read to just use primary material as examples of comments, to supplement a larger portion of rich text written for the Wikipedia audience, imo. This may be simply a matter of personal choice, though--I suspect others don't mind reading it like this, and if it is just style, I don't see that it has to be changed to accomodate any one else's personal preferences. Still, who translated? KP Botany 03:34, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

Vita Ansgari is available in public domain in English here. English translation of entire Gesta has not been given to the public domain but the text is available here in Latin. English translation of the selected parts of Gesta is on my responsibility. I am happy to see it replaced by an "official" one, if it someday becomes available for all. --Drieakko 04:28, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Then you should probably note that it is a personal translation of the primary text in the article--if you do, I missed it. I'm having a bit of a problem with some personal translations done on Wikipedia. I discussed one article with a German scientist (the lead researcher) and he was rather surprised by the translation, and provided me with his own translation. Professional translation of modern science (and much of English science comes from German roots, especially chemistry, so it's easier) is not so straight-forward, imo, much less ancient literature, even in Latin. It should also be clear in the article what is being quoted each time. I don't know if there is a Wikipedia policy on translations of primary material.
Again, though, I think the main point that someone wanted an outside view on is the quantity of quoted material--while I don't care for it, I really think that's just my personal opinion, a matter of style. Others may like it this way. If it's not policy, and is in fact, just stylistic choices, no one should be required to change it. KP Botany 05:24, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Noted, and information added to the article references. Like said, if a professional translation appears, let's take it. --Drieakko 05:31, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
"English translation of Gesta is not available in public domain, and the translation of the selected parts is by the community." By what community? By Wikipedia editors? I'll look the article over some more. KP Botany 19:09, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia yes. Anyone with Latin knowledge is naturally welcome to modify it, if needed. --Drieakko 20:04, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Just clarify that in the article, please. Is there Wiki policy on this? Fact is, sometimes that is all that is available. At least it's in Latin, not Old Church Slavonic or something. KP Botany 20:09, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
PS Interesting article. I don't have time to read it through, now, but look forward to doing so soon. KP Botany 20:10, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

Björkö uninhabited during winters?[edit]

Is there academic speculation somewhere whether Björkö was inhabited only in the summertime and abandoned for winters? If the tiny island of Björkö was inhabited also in winter, its population was isolated from the mainland every autumn and especially every spring even for a month. Because of this, the medieval royal residence in Adelsö is known to have been only for summer usage. --Drieakko 10:56, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Birka - Sheep? - a possible and vague hungarian connection[edit]

I was surprised, when I read about one of the relatives of our first hungarian leader (not king) Árpád. This family member was namely Lachyn. Lachyn was the uncle of Almysh ibn Selkej, father of Arpad. Lachyn went into Russian history later, as I. Rurik. When I checked the page on Wiki about Rurik, I found he was born in Birka. It is very interesting that, in hungarian language birka means - sheep. I searched for another articles about Birka, and i found that sheep grazing is one of the oldest traditions in Birka. I dont know, what it means, maybe nothing, but a town with the name like Birka, and a leader like Rurik (who, as i read here in the discussion page, maybe was finno-igric just like hungarians) you should think about the possible consequences of this informations. Djagfar Tarihi in English

Xxlrutin (talk) 15:12, 18 June 2012 (UTC)