Articles and Artifacts: June 2016

Articles and Artifacts (AA) is a new column here at dedicated to covering academic developments in ancient Germanic studies—recent publications, archaeological finds, new translations, and the like. AA is authored by Joseph S. Hopkins.

AART's rendering of Naust, the firm's proposed expansion of the Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway. Image: AART.

Design Selected for Oslo Viking Ship Museum Expansion

There exist two Viking Ship Museums in the world: one in Oslo, Norway and the other in Roskilde, Denmark. While both ships house famous Viking Age ships, the museums also feature a variety of other finds.

The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo will soon be dramatically expanding. Danish architect firm AART's design, Naust, will encompass the iconic structure of the original Viking Ship Museum while contrasting it with a a contemporary design structure to the grounds.

Some discussion can be found in the Danish edition of The Local's report here. For information and more renderings from AART, see the firm's site here.

Danish Police and Archaeologists Examine Possible Viking Age Arson

The Copenhagen Post's digital arm reports that archaeologists and police in Denmark are investigating an ancient case of arson, perhaps at a site once owned by Viking Age king Harald Bluetooth. According to the report:

Archaeologists have found what they call “clear evidence” that a fire at the recently discovered 1,000-year-old Viking castle Vallø Borgring near Køge was deliberately set.

So they have asked police to supply a fire safety investigator to help them unearth clues to solve the 1,000-year mystery. The fire was set at the fortress’s eastern and northern gates.

Read more at the Copenhagen Post's article here.

Freja. John Bauer, 1882-1918. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

A Newly Found Grave Offers Clues to Heathen Female Social Status 

The status of women among the pre-Christianized North Germanic peoples presents a variety of mysteries. A recently discovered Viking Age tomb discovered in southwest Denmark dating from around the middle of the 10th century may help clear up the fog of time a bit.

From the article (italicized text is's amendment, non-italicized is per article):

It’s very special that the man and woman’s graves are marked by the same tomb or palisade. It’s unusual that we’re able to establish that the man and woman were equals with such certainty,” says [archaeologist Henriette] Nielsen.

Other Viking graves found in Denmark indicate that there were many women of high social status, says archaeologist Henriette Lyngstrøm from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Women may easily have been very powerful. Many women were buried in rich clothes with many expensive grave gifts, which all indicate a high position [in society]. These women were not buried in an inferior way to men,” says Lyngstrøm.

She has seen examples of shared graves before, but the way that the men and women are laid in this grave does indeed indicate a powerful couple, she says.

The article also discusses a potential line of architectural influence extending from Viking Age travels outside of the North Germanic region. For more information, see Science Nordic's article here.

Team Rainbow Power Finds Huge Viking Age Gold Hoard in Denmark

Three amateur archaeologists by the name of Team Rainbow Power have found a massive gold hoard in a field in Denmark. Found in Vejen Municipality, archaeologists suspect that the deposit may have been ritual in nature. The find may be the largest gold hoard found in Denmark to date. For more information and images of some of the find, see the Danish edition of The Local's article here.

Sverris saga Detail Confirmed by Archaeologists

A portion of the skeletal remains and a Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage archaeologist at the site. Image:

Sverris saga, like many other sagas of its saga genre (sagas of kings), follows the life and times of a 12 and 13th century king of Norway, Sverrir Sigurðarson. The saga seems to have been partially written while Sverrir was alive.

Archaeologists in Trondheim, Norway appear to have confirmed a detail present in the saga by way of a 13th century skeleton found in a castle well—just as referenced in the saga text.

t's a pretty interesting situation that highlights the important relationship between archaeology and our modern understandings of Old Norse texts. For more information, including more background on the topic, see the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage's press release here and Past Horizons's article on the topic here.

Amateur Archaeologist to Receive Anglo-Saxon Coin Find Share 

An amateur archaeologist who discovered a notable Anglo-Saxon coin hoard in 2014 is set to receive a significant sum for his discovery. From's report:

An amateur archaeologist who found more than 5,000 Anglo Saxon silver coins is set to get a share of the hoard’s £1.35m value.

Retired Paul Coleman found the coins in the village of Lenborough, Buckinghamshire, with his metal detector in 2014.

The coins, which depict the heads of King Ethelred the Unready and King Canute, were found wrapped in a lead sheet, leaving them well preserved.

The hoard, which is believed to have been buried towards the end of Canute’s reign in 1035, contains coins from more than 40 different mints around England and provides a rare source of information on the circulation of coinage at the time.

Winter 2015-2016 Issue of RMN Newsletter Now Available

The Winter 2015-2016 issue of RMN Newsletter, a peer-reviewed publication from the University of Helsiki, is now available for download. RMN Newsletter is a free, open-access, and bi-annual journal focusing on retrospective methods: the use of evidence from one era to shine light on another. This special issue, the Ecology of Metre, features several original articles on the topic, as well as material such as event and conference reports.

Disclosure: Joseph S. Hopkins is an assistant editor for RMN Newsletter.