Thursday, December 22, 2011
Gotland...thinking this might be our homeland
Remembering my childhood when my mother referred to Gotland as a place our family came from, and remembering a cast plaque she had of Gotland (upper left in photo), I'm thinking that this is probably where our pre-Iron Age relatives came from. They eventually became the Goths (Gutes)/Celts and moved south into Europe.
Gotland is a county, province, municipality and diocese of Sweden; it is Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea. At 3,140 square kilometers in area, the region makes up less than one percent of Sweden's total land area. The region also includes the small islands of Fårö and Gotska Sandön to the north, and some tiny islands, including the Karlsö Islands (Lilla and Stora) to the west. The island of Gotland has an area of 2,994 km², the province has 3,183.7 km² (3,151 km² of land excluding the lakes and rivers). The population is 57,221 with about 22,200 living in Visby, the main town. The main sources of income to the island are tourism, agriculture and concrete production from locally mined limestone.
The island is the home of the Gutes (the tribal name of the Gotlandic people), and sites such as Ajvide show that it has been occupied since prehistory. Early on, Gotland became a commercial center and the town of Visby was the most important Hanseatic city in the Baltic Sea. In late medieval times, the island had twenty district courts (tings), each represented by its elected judge at the island-ting, called landsting. New laws were decided at the landsting, which also took other decisions regarding the island as a whole.
The Gutasaga contains legends of how the island was settled by Þieluar and populated by his descendants. It also tells that a third of the population had to emigrate and settle in southern Europe, a tradition associated with the migration of the Goths, whose name has the same origin as Gutes, the native name of the people of the island. It later tells that the Gutes voluntarily submitted to the king of Sweden and asserts that the submission was based on mutual agreement, and notes the duties and obligations of the Swedish King and Bishop in relationship to Gotland. It is therefore not only an effort to write down the history of Gotland, but also an effort to assert Gotland's independence from Sweden.
It gives Awair Strabain as the name of the man who arranged the mutually beneficial agreement with the king of Sweden; the event would have taken place before the end of the 9th century, when Wulfstan of Hedeby reported that the island was subject to the Swedes.
Then, after the land of the Burgundians, we had on our left the lands that have been called from the earliest times Blekingey, and Meore, and Eowland, and Gotland, all which territory is subject to the Sweons; and Weonodland was all the way on our right, as far as Weissel-mouth.
The region is considered by some historians to be the original homeland of the Goths.
The city of Visby and rest of the island were governed separately, and a civil war caused by conflicts between the German merchants in Visby and the peasants they traded with in the countryside had to be put down by King Magnus III of Sweden in 1288. In 1361, Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark invaded the island. The Victual Brothers occupied the island in 1394 to set up a stronghold as a headquarters of their own in Visby. At last, Gotland became a fiefdom of the Teutonic Knights, awarded to them on the condition that they expel the piratical Victual Brothers from their fortified sanctuary. An invading army of Teutonic Knights conquered the island in 1398, destroying Visby and driving the Victual Brothers from Gotland. In 1409 Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen of the Teutonic Knights guaranteed peace with the Kalmar Union of Scandinavia by selling the island of Gotland to Queen Margaret of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
The number of Arab dirhams discovered on the island of Gotland alone is astoundingly high. In the various hoards located around the island, there are more of these silver coins than at any other site in Western Eurasia. The total sum is almost as great as the number that has been unearthed in the entire Muslim world. These coins moved north through trade between Rus merchants and the Abbasid Caliphate, along the Silver-Fur Road, and the money made by Scandinavian merchants would help northern Europe, especially Viking Scandinavia and the Carolingian Empire, as major commercial centers for the next several centuries.
The Berezan' Runestone, discovered in 1905 in Ukraine, was made by a Varangian (Viking) trader named Grani in memory of his business partner Karl. It is assumed that they were from Gotland.
The authority of the landsting was successively eroded after the island was occupied by the Teutonic Order, then sold to Eric of Pomerania and after 1449 ruled by Danish governors. In late medieval times, the ting consisted of twelve representatives for the farmers, free-holders or tenants. Since the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645, the island has remained under Swedish rule.
The medieval town of Visby has been entered as a site of the UNESCO World heritage programme. An impressive feature of Visby is the fortress wall that surrounds the old city, dating from the time of the Hanseatic League.
The inhabitants of Gotland traditionally spoke their own language, known as Gutnish. Today however, they have adapted a dialect of Swedish that is known as "Gotländska". In the 13th century, a work containing the laws of the island, called "The Gotlandic law" (Gutalagen), was published in the ancient Gutnish language.
Gotland is famous for its 94 medieval churches, most of which are restored and in active use. These churches exhibit two major styles of architecture: Romanesque and Gothic. The older churches were constructed in the Romanesque style from 1150–1250 AD. The newer churches were constructed in the Gothic architectural style that prevailed from about 1250-1400 AD. The oldest painting inside one of the churches on Gotland stretches as far back in time as the 12th century
The knotwork design subsequently named the "Valknut" (part of my runic tatoo on my left forearm) has the most attested historic instances on picture stones in Gotland, which include being on both the Stora Hammars I and the Tängelgårda stones. There are also thousands of mysterious grooves on the island that are suspected of having been used for archaeoastronomy.
The Long Ships, or Red Orm (original title: Röde Orm), a best-selling Swedish novel written by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson, contains a vivid description of Gotland in the Viking period. The story also mentions alot of our other relatives like Forkbeard and Bluetooth. A section of the book is devoted to a Viking ship setting out to Russia, stopping on its way at Gotland and engaging a pilot from the island who plays an important part in their voyage. Gotlanders of the Viking Era are depicted as city people, more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than other Scandinavians of their time, and proud of their knowledge and skills.
at 8:19 AM