Estonian small towns in the Middle Ages: archaeology and the history of urban defense [Eesti väikelinnad keskajal: linnakindlustuste arheoloogia ja ajalugu]


  • Rivo Bernotas



Town defenses are central elements of townscapes. The defensive purpose of their construction was as important as their significance as a town symbol. The purpose of the current article is to summarize the material gathered from the excavations of the medieval town walls from the Estonian towns of Viljandi, Haapsalu, and Narva, to discuss when they were erected, and to analyze what their place was in Old Livonian and Baltic contexts. Although fortifying the towns seemed to have been quite widespread in Old Livonia, the similar trend was not followed in adjacent areas such as in Scandinavia. According to the information discussed in this article, it might be concluded that the average development from rudimentary urban settlement to walled medieval town in the Estonian territory took around 50–100 years. The town walls were erected in the Estonian territory probably in the fourteenth century. The tendency to dispense the towns into typologies on the basis of the landlord does not seem to find much support. It might be suggested, that walling the towns in the Old Livonian area was a phenomenon of Western European culture represented by German settlers, rather than a widespread tendency around the Baltic. Keywords: urban archaeology, town walls, medieval fortifications, medieval Estonia Rivo Bernotas (b. 1982) is a PhD student at the University of Turku. Correspondence: University of Turku, 2 Henrikinkatu, FI-20014 Turku, Finland; E-mail:


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