March has been pretty fruitful for news in ancient Germanic studies. From a new Birka-type Viking Age crucifix found on the Danish island of Funen, to a new translation of newly discovered fragment of an account of a Gothic invasion of Greece, to the implications of a curious belt buckle found in a Viking Age grave in Jutland, and finally to new images of a Viking Age hoard found in Scotland, there's plenty to talk about here.Read More
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:
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."
A hiker in Haukeli, Norway has discovered a Viking Age sword. The grip has decomposed, but the sword otherwise remains in fantastic condition. A future excavations is planned at the site. As reported by thelocal.no:
“Jostein Aksdal, an archeologist with Hordaland County said the sword was in such good condition that if it was given a new grip and a polish, it could be used today.
‘The sword was found in very good condition. It is very special to get into a sword that is merely lacking its grip,’ he said.
‘When the snow has gone in spring, we will check the place where the sword was found. If we find several objects, or a tomb, perhaps we can find the story behind the sword,’ he said.
He said that judging by the sword’s 77cm length, it appeared to come from 750-800AD.”
The sword is to be sent to the University Museum of Bergen, where the artifact will be preserved.
Seljord Folkehøgskule, a Norwegian Folkehøgskole in the remote and mountainous area of Seljord, Norway, has received international media attention for offering a class on “vikings” (outlets include for example, Time.com and the internet extensions of the Guardian and Russia Today). The course is nine months long and seems primarily focused on crafts, with some time spent in York, England, a major trade center controlled by the Norse during the Viking Age.
According to Arve Husby, head teacher of the school, the program has also received a significant response from potential students, perhaps motivated by modern popular culture:
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to our Viking course,” said Husby. “I think it appealed because there’s a real interest from TV shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings. Plus we’re in a proper Viking location, surrounded by what many people call ‘Norway’s most beautiful mountains’ – we call them ‘hills’ – and overlooking Lake Seljord, where the Seljord monster is supposed to reside, like Norway’s Loch Ness. So Seljord is just as it would have looked in Viking times.”
For more information regarding the program, see Seljord Folkehøgskule's official site for the course:
The Langeid Sword, a unique Late Viking Age sword discovered in 2011 in Langeid, Norway is on display to the public for the first time at the Historical Museum in Oslo, Norway. The sword is dated to the end of the Viking Age and bears a variety of curious symbols: a mixture of Latin (or Latin-inspired) characters, spirals, and cross-like ornaments. A battle-ax and a variety of coins, including a coin from England, were found at the burial site.
The burial site in which the sword and axe were found is also notable, both of which may have their origin in England. Post holes make it clear that the grave was sheltered with a roof, a construction apparently displaying status. While the grave is evidently pagan due to the presence of grave goods, the oldest runestone known in Norway to refer to Christianity was discovered relatively nearby. (which, notably, refers to Cnut, who ruled over England and much of Scandinavia). As a result, the grave may present an archaeological snapshot of pagan burial practices directly before Christianization in the region.
Initially the subject of a modern homicide investigation, a skull discovered by two walkers in Bergen, Norway has been found to have belonged to a Germanic Iron Age woman. As the skull was found alone, the skull may be the result of ritual, perhaps the result of a sacrificial custom of some sort. Via thelocal.no:
“‘Only a skull has been dug up and there’s no sign of other body parts. This may indicate a decapitation,’ Asle Broen Olsen, at University of Bergen’s Section for Cultural Heritage Management told NRK. ‘It was hardly a part of legal practice. It was more a religious practice, where the person who was sacrificed had not done anything wrong, but was selected to be sacrificed to the gods.’
Bergen police were disappointed last week when they realised that the discovery would not help clear up any of their outstanding missing person cases.”