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Birka was presumably a trading settlement on the island now known as Björkö, in Lake Mälaren, Sweden. The period of activity in Birka has been estimated at the two centuries until the later 10th century, thus covering most of the Viking Age.

Birka housed about 4,000 people and swelled to about 8,000 during the summer. Its administrative center was supposedly located outside of the settlement itself, on the nearby island of Adelsö. The settlement itself was fortified by a wooden palisade and its harbour guarded by pilings driven into the bottom of the lake, limiting the number of ships able to pass into it.

In the year 830, the Christian missionary Ansgar visited Birka, an event which is recognized as the first attempt to convert the heathen Swedes.

Birka's role as the principal trade center of the Swedes was later taken over by Sigtuna.

Today, Björkö is mostly privately owned, and used for farming. The settlement site, however is an archaeological site, and a museum has been built nearby for exhibition of finds, models and reconstructions.

Brief description

The Birka archaeological site, located on Björkö Island in Lake Mälaren and occupied in the 9th and 10th centuries, and Hovgården, on the neighbouring island of Adelsö, make up an archaeological complex which illustrates the elaborate trading networks[?] of Viking Age Europe and their influence on the subsequent history of Scandinavia. Birka was also important as the site of the first Christian congregation in Sweden, founded in 831 by Saint Ansgar.

See also: Hedeby

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