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HISTORY

History of Danish royal castle ‘to be rewritten’

Denmark's biggest royal castle, Vordingborg, is set for an updated history after an archaeological dig shed new light on a key figure in its past.

History of Danish royal castle 'to be rewritten'
The 'Goose Tower' at Vordingborg Castle. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Hubertus45
 
The castle, located on the southern coast of Zealand facing across the Baltic Sea towards Germany, was originally built in the 12th century by King Valdemar the Great. 
 
Valdemar used it as a base for raids on Germany and, later under Valdemar's son Valdemar II the Victorious, Estonia.
 
The castle was then expanded during the 14th century by the third Valdemar, Valdemar the Younger.
 
The three Valdemars have since been considered the original lords of the castle and given credit for making it one of the most impressive sights in the country.
 
But recent archaeological work has now revealed that much of the fortification work was carried out by Valdemar the Great's eldest son King Canute VI, who reigned between the first and second Valdemars.
 
“Traditionally, Valdemar the Great is seen as the founder, with Victorious and Younger later expanding the castle. Other kings of the period are not given a lot of credit, but our excavations have revealed that Canute VI has played a greater role than previously thought,” Lars Sass Jensen, medieval archaeologist and research assistant at Aarhus University, told Jyllands-Posten.
 
During their excavations, Jensen's team discovered wood that they were able to exactly date to the years 1189-90, 1195 and 1198-99 – years in which Canute ruled the castle and Denmark.
 
“He didn't just build over the castle, he expanded it continuously. He was, in other words, a king that invested heavily in the site as well as in its political function as a base for Baltic Sea expansion,” Larsen said to Jyllands-Posten.
 

VIKING

How a Viking king inspired one of our best-known modern technologies

A Swede and American tell the story of how they hatched the idea for the moniker 'Bluetooth' over beers.

A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth
A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

At the end of the 1990s, Sven Mattisson, a Swedish engineer working at telecom group Ericsson, and Jim Kardach, an American employed by Intel, were among those developing the revolutionary technology.

In 1998, at the dawn of the “wireless” era, the two men were part of an international consortium that created a universal standard for the technology first developed by Ericsson in 1994.

But prior to that, they had struggled to pitch their wireless products. Intel had its Biz-RF wireless programme, Ericsson had MC-Link, while Nokia had its Low Power RF. Kardach, Mattisson and others presented their ideas at a seminar in Toronto in late 1997.

“Jim and I said that people did not appreciate what we presented,” Mattisson, now 65 and winding down his career at Ericsson, recalled in a recent interview with AFP.

The engineer, who had travelled all the way to Canada from Sweden for the one-hour pitch, decided to hang out with Kardach for the evening before flying home.

“We received a lukewarm reception of our confusing proposal, and it was at this time I realised we needed a codename for the project which everyone could use,” Kardach explained in a long account on his webpage.

‘Chauvinistic story’

To drown their sorrows, the two men headed for a local Toronto bar and ended up talking about history, one of Kardach’s passions. “We had some beers… and Jim is interested in history so he asked me about Vikings, so we talked at length about that,” said Mattisson, admitting that his recollection of that historic night is now somewhat foggy.

Kardach said all he knew about Vikings was that they ran “around with horned helmets raiding and looting places, and that they were crazy chiefs.”

Mattisson recommended Kardach read a well-known Swedish historical novel about the Vikings, entitled “The Long Ships”.

Set in the 10th century – “a chauvinistic story” about a boy taken hostage by Vikings, says Mattisson – one name in the book caught Kardach’s attention: that of the king of Denmark, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

A Bluetooth adapter from 2004. Photo: Stefan Gustavsson/SvD/TT

Unification

An important historic figure in Scandinavia in the 10th century, the king of Denmark’s nickname is said to refer to a dead tooth, or, as other tales have it, to his liking for blueberries or even a simple translation error.

During his reign, Denmark turned its back on its pagan beliefs and Norse gods, gradually converting to Christianity.

But he is best known for having united Norway and Denmark in a union that lasted until 1814.

A king who unified Scandinavian rivals – the parallel delighted those seeking to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.

And the reference to the king goes beyond the name: the Bluetooth logo, which at first glance resembles a geometric squiggle, is in fact a superimposition of the runes for the letters “H” and “B”, the king’s initials.

Low-cost and with low power consumption, Bluetooth was finally launched in May 1998, using technology allowing computer devices to communicate with each other in short range without fixed cables.

The first consumer device equipped with the technology hit the market in 1999, and its name, which was initially meant to be temporary until something better was devised, became permanent.

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