The excavations of the old hillfort of Valjala are now finised. A beautifully preserved rampart base has emerged from the excavation of about 4 m2. The original width of the rampart had been between 2.5 and 3 m, which represents a fairly substantial fortification. The foundation of the rampart, made of large limestone and ore stones, was covered by a layer of small limestone boulders, which had been preserved up to a height of 1,35 m in the higher part. The original rampart had therefore been considerably higher.

A remarkably large quantity of animal remains for such a small excavation, as well as more than a dozen clay potsherds and burnt clay fillings, were found in the fill. One of the pottery sherds was also located away from the rampart inside the fort.

Although the charcoal deposits are still awaited, it is by now quite clear that this is probably a small fortification dating from the first half of the Iron Age, or perhaps from the middle. Similar regular stone rings, about 35 m in diameter, are known elsewhere in Saaremaa and Läänemaa, and the excavation of the old forthill of Valjala may, apart from analysing the finds, also provide information on their probable period of use.

Osiliana had some research done with the ground-breaking radar on several hillforts of Saaremaa: Kaarma, Pöide and Valjala. It’s too early to talk about concrete results since the data is still in the process of analyzation. Nevertheless, we can say that it has already revealed two earlier walls inside of the outer wall of Valjala that we see today. This means that this wall was strengthened twice. …

Read more about it: here
Watch the news clip (in Estonian): here

The first C14 results of Valjala hillfort are here! Though quite surprising, they are quite telling together with the rest of the found artifacts.

The area inside the hillfort and the area between the wall and outer area were in use in the 12th century. Some results pointed solely toward the 13th century, and most of the artifacts could also be considered to be from the middle of the 13th century or from the later decades. By the C14 results and artifacts, the middle hillfort of Valjala and the surrounding wall existed and were in use during the 13th century. According to the local folklore, the outer wall was carried away for road construction.

The analysis of the results of the 1960s excavations led by Aita Kustin illustrated firmly that the 12th-century buildings inside the hillfort are older than the proximate wall surrounding these. Therefore, this wall must have been raised around 1200 AD or most likely in the later years of the 13th century. Nevertheless, there must have been some sort of less capital wall earlier as well. The same could be said for the outer wall, which was excavated in the summer of 2021. This 3-meter wide wall was most probably built during the first half of the 13th century. 

Hopefully, the excavations ahead in the summer of 2022 can give us some clarity on whether the Valjala hillfort with its two high circling walls existed in 1227 when it was described by the Livonian chronicler Henry, or these massive stone walls were built after 1227. The latter option would have been seen as unrealistic beforehand, but new research has illustrated that several other hillforts of Estonians were also expanded and fortified after the infamous Crusades. As is seen from the documents and parchments, the crusaders and missionaries had very loose power over the local elite of Saaremaa and it seems even more likely that they might have had the interest to expand their hillforts as well. 

Another surprising C14 result came from the piece of coal that was discovered under the outer wall and was dated to the 7th century. Additionally, the excavations at the building which is located a few meters away from the hillfort revealed abundant amounts of ceramic pieces from different periods. The building was in use from the 5th to 6th century, but also in the 12th to 13th century. It is uncertain whether it was also in use between these two periods. 

The research on Valjala hillfort will continue this summer with the ground-penetrating radar and new archaeological excavations.


The video of the excavations at Valjala hillfort in the summer of 2021

Margus Muld

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Saaremaa in the Viking Age. - Mo Saaremaa

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Archaeologists find rare gold bracelet in Saaremaa. - ERR

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For more news (in Estonian): click here!

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