by Vladimir KULAKOV, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), Head of the Baltic Expedition, Institute of Archeology (IA), Russian Academy of Sciences
Since time immemorial our continent, Europe, has been crisscrossed by trade routes which have made it possible to forge contacts among tribes and peoples of most different regions in Europe (Scandinavia including) and Asia. This is seen in archeological evidence gained in diggings - for one, those begun by Russian archeologists in 1980 on the Amber Coast of the Baltic Sea, at the site of the Каир encampment (at Kaliningrad).
This very site was not a random choice. As shown by old German maps, the 10th century shoreline was different from the present one and offered convenient harbors for the entry and moorage of ships. Merchants came thitherto trade in amber. Significantly, the Arab geographer Idrisi (1100 - 1161 or 1165) made mention of the Baltic town of Gintijaar, meaning "amber", that hypothetically could be connected to the Каир marketplace. The old Scandinavian name still preserved in the place name of a local woodland settlement, torg, can be rendered as a "market", or "fair".
We know that for as long as one thousand years the peoples of Northern Europe and Baltic did a brisk trade in bartering their natural wealth (amber, furs, honey, wax, fish) for wonders brought in from the Orient, first and foremost, silver items (an important consideration since Europe has no deposits of this precious metal). Eastern merchants also offered fabrics, spices, balm and other aromatic fragrances. The Scandinavians called that road of barter trade "Eastern Way" (Austrvag). Special points were set up along this route as halting places where merchants and their men collected tribute from local tribes in the form of marketable goods, items for sale manufactured from local raw materials, repaired their river boats, procured food and water supplies as well as slaves for caravan drivers. And naturally caravans took ... Read more