Colorful New Finds at Iron Age Site in Ørland, Norway

An apparently wealthy Iron Age settlement has been found in Ørland, Norway. Archaeologists in Norway have long suspected that Ørland may yield notable new finds—the site is between three notable bodies of water—but they have not had access to the site. This situation has recently changed. New facilities have been ordered to make room at the Ørland Main Air Station for recent acquisitions by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (Luftsforsvaret) and Norwegian laws requires that an archaeological survey must be conducted before construction can begin.

The suspicions of archaeologists were confirmed when the digs began and a settlement from around 500 CE was discovered. Both the size of the site and the workforce used for the dig are notable—the area to be examined is sizable and around 20 individuals will be working in the field. Archaeologists have 40 weeks to work at the site.

The site has already yielded a variety of notable finds, including colorful glass items. Gemini reports:

"Synne H. Rostad operates a standing sieve to sift out smaller bones and objects from the dirt." Photo by Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum, via Gemini press release.

This, Ystgaard says, is a bonanza, because the size of the area allows archaeologists to see how different longhouses, garbage pits and other finds relate to each other.

“We’re really able to put things in context because the area is so big,” she said. The size of the dig also means there are lots of archaeologists at work, and for a long time.

... the team has also found lots of old animal and fish bones – mainly because the soil in the area is made from ground-up seashells, which isn’t very acidic. Normally, soil in Norway tends to be more acidic, and eats away at bones.

“Nothing like this has been examined anywhere in Norway before,” Ystgaard said.

There are enough bones to figure out what kinds of animals they came from, and how the actual animal varieties relate to today’s wild and domesticated animals, she said. The archaeologists have also found fish remains, from both salmon and cod, and the bones from seabirds, too.

The middens have also provided others surprises.  One was a delicate blue glass bead and several amber beads, too, suggesting the former residents liked their bling. Another was the remains of a green drinking glass that was characteristic of imports from the Rhine Valley in Germany.

This last is also a testament to how well off the former residents of this area were, Ystgaard said. “It says something that people had enough wealth to trade for glass."