Sailing and trade have always played a vital role for people living by the Wadden Sea. The many natural harbours and the advantageous location, with access to the major trading centres of Western Europe, meant that the Wadden Sea became the natural hub for Scandinavian trade in prehistoric Denmark. In later centuries, inhabitants of the Wadden Sea made a living as seamen, hunters, and fishermen, until the Port of Esbjerg became a centre for offshore oil and gas companies.
Prehistoric trading centres
From early on, shipping played a vital role in the Wadden Sea area, and brought with it an international exchange of goods, culture and ideas. Estuaries made it possible to ship goods to and from areas further inland, which was preferable compared to difficult and inefficient land-based transport. Places inland, where ships could reach fords, often became centres of trade. Archaeological finds, for example from Dankirke near Vester Vested, bear witness to early trade with foreign peoples. Many of the trading centres became towns later on. The oldest example of this transformation is Ribe, which began as an international trading station until the Vikings made it a permanent trading centre in 710.
Imported building stones for churches
Shipping made it easier to transport large and heavy materials across long distances. Transport by land was often by foot or with the help of unsteady animal-drawn vehicles, while ships at the time could transport much bigger cargos much faster. This had an affect on the construction of churches in the area. Many of the churches in the Wadden Sea area were built of a type of limestone in the Romanesque style between the 12th and 13th centuries. The limestone was imported from areas along the Rhine.
The emergence of market towns
During the Middle Ages, the King gave exclusive rights