1,700-Year-Old Roman Bronze Vessel Discovered in Norway
Archaeologists do not every day have the opportunity to discover ancient objects in central Norway.
Sometime in the Gaula River valley, southern Trøndelag, scientists report that about 150-300 CE a person died in the place now called Gylland.
The remains were laid in a bronze vessel after the body was cremated. This was then covered or wrapped in birch bark before being buried under several hundred kilos of stone.
Now archaeologists from the NTNU University Museum lifted a stone slab and almost lost their breath from excitement when they saw what lay below it.
“We’d gone over the spot with the metal detector, and so we knew that there was something under one of the stone slabs in the burial cairn,” says archaeologist Ellen Grav Ellingsen, who filmed the discovery with her mobile phone when the rock was lifted away.
“When I saw what was lying there, my hands got so shaky that I could hardly film. This is a find an archaeologist is lucky to experience once in their career!” says Ellingsen.
“The cauldron from Gylland belongs to a type of bronze vessel that goes by the name østlandskjele. The name is related to the fact that many vessels of this type are found in graves in Eastern Norway.
This kind of vessel was manufactured in Italy or in the Roman provinces of the Rhine region and came to Scandinavia as a result of either trade or an exchange of gifts.
The vessels were mass-produced and possibly intended for export to the Scandinavian area. In Scandinavia, they often ended up as burial urns.
Although they were mass-produced, this bowl is a rare find,” Norwegian SciTech News reports.
“The last find of a bronze bowl in central Norway was in the 1960s. Nationally, we know of about 50 vessels of this particular type,” says Moe Henriksen, an archaeologist, and the project manager for the excavation in Gylland.
Imported goods like bronze vessels and glass jugs were reserved for society’s upper classes. The discovery in Gylland testifies to the power and prosperity in this region in Roman times.
The bowl was in bad shape and it’s likely that the pressure from the stones compressed it.
“The bowl is now being examined more closely in NTNU’s conservation laboratory. An x-ray of the vessel shows that it doesn’t contain any metal objects,” says Moe Henriksen.
“But the remains of organic material, like combs and bone needles, may still be hidden in the soil inside the bowl. In the next few weeks we should know whether other objects accompanied the deceased into the grave,” she adds.
Heddal stave church is the largest in Norway, and according to a legend it was built in three days by five farmers
It is one of the northernmost and most beautiful countries in the world, well-known for fjords, mountains, and midnight sun. But in addition to these natural beauties, Norway is the home of the largest stave church in the world, the Heddal stave church.
Located in Nottoden, Norway, Heddal was built at the beginning of the 13th century.
Architecturally, it is a triple nave stave church and has been restored several times through the centuries. The first restoration took place between 1849 and 1851 as an effort to save the crumbling church from ruin.
However, a hundred years later, a second effort was necessary to undo the damage done by the clumsy first restoration. This last repair is in most part responsible for the interior today, although it was also heavily influenced by the period of the Lutheran Reformation in 1536-1537.
Stave churches were once widespread across northwestern Europe, but Norway is almost the only country that has preserved these buildings into the modern age.
There are only two surviving medieval stave churches that are not on Norwegian soil: one in Hedared, Sweden, and one in Karpacz, Poland. The latter was originally Norwegian but was relocated in 1842.
Stave churches are named for the Old Norse word stafr, now stav in modern Norwegian.
The stafr represents a type of timber framing, or more accurately, the load-bearing posts made from ore-pine.
There are two other similar types of churches named for their structural elements: the post-church and the palisade church. However, these are often also called stave churches.
In addition to its architectural significance, the Heddal church’s construction is surrounded by legend. According to this legend, the church was built in only three days.
The story says that five farmers from Heddal decided that their municipality needed a church and forged a plan to build it. An unknown stranger encountered by Red, one of the farmers, was hired to build the church.
However, the stranger set three conditions, of which at least one had to be fulfilled before he finished construction: he asked the farmer to fetch the sun and the moon from the sky, forfeit his lifeblood or guess his name. If none of the terms were met, the stranger would kill the farmer. Red thought he would have plenty of time to fulfill the third condition, so he accepted the stranger’s terms.
After the deal had been agreed, the construction started. The timber and the stone were delivered on the first day. On the second day, the frame of the church was finished.
On the third day, Red was nervously walking in the fields around Heddal, trying to figure out the stranger’s name and save his life. Suddenly, he heard a song coming from a nearby rock.
As he walked closer, he heard the words of the song, sung by a beautiful voice:
“Hush-hush little child, tomorrow your father Finn will bring you the moon and the sun. or he will bring you a Christian heart, so pretty toys for my little child to play a part”
Red then realized the stranger was actually a troll that lived in the rocks, and his name was Finn.
He went back to Heddal, only to find the church construction finished. With five doors and 64 small roofs, the church was built without a single nail being used.
As Finn and Red walked inside the church together, where Red indicated one of the pillars and said, “This pillar, my good Finn, is not straight.”
After hearing his name, the furious troll punched the pillar and ran up a hill. He then threw three rocks towards the church, but none hit the building. Locals say that the rocks missed the church because the bell was ringing at the time.
Norway’s Saint Olaf Uncovered: Archaeologists Believe They Have Discovered the Shrine of the Lost Viking King.
Archeologists believe that in the ruins of a church in Trondheim, Norway, they discovered a shrine devoted to the Viking king Olaf Haraldsson.
The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) Team of archeologists has found the church foundations where King Olaf II is thought to have been buried after he was canonized.
Olaf II Haraldson reigned in the 11th century, from 1015 until 1028 AD, and today is largely credited for spreading the Christian religion throughout Norway.
Olaf was driven into exile by the Danish King Canute and was slain in battle upon his return to Norway, just north of the city of Trondheim, where his forces fell to the enemy Danes and a rebellious group of Norwegian nobles.
Olaf was proclaimed a saint and was buried in St. Clement’s Church in Trondheim, but as his cult grew larger and larger, his body was eventually moved to the Trondheim cathedral.
Sometime after, historians believe that St. Clement’s church was destroyed, its location lost –until now.
Researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) may have discovered the original foundations of St. Clement’s Church, and even believe that they have identified the lost shrine of the martyred King.
They uncovered a stone slab which they claim had been the foundation of the altar where the King’s coffin once rested.
Researchers have also found skeletons at the site, believed to be the remains of the church graveyard, but they were likely buried many years after Saint Olaf.
Medieval historical accounts attribute a number of miracles to the dead king, such as his coffin being dug up to reveal not only his well-preserved appearance but even the continuous growth of both his hair and fingernails after his death.
These marvels and the historical significance of Olaf’s reign, during which he united a fractured kingdom under Christianity, all led to his canonization in 1164, and he was eventually proclaimed the patron saint of Norway.
Today, he is immortalized on the country’s coat of arms, represented by the ax held in the lion’s arms.
Anna Petersén, the excavation’s director, said ‘This is a unique site in Norwegian history in terms of religion, culture, and politics,” Mail Online reported.
‘Much of the Norwegian national identity has been established on the cult of sainthood surrounding St Olaf, and it was here it all began.’
Three giant Viking swords stand buried in a stone in Hafrsfjord, Norway, recalling a mythic struggle for unity
By now, many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the classic story of the Lady of the Lake by Sir Thomas Malory and how she gave Excalibur to King Arthur, or the story told in Merlin’s poem by Robert de Boron about the magic sword in the stone that could only be drawn by the rightful ruler of the land.
They differ in some aspects, but both speak of the same Arthurian legend and a mighty sword that could only be swung by a man worthy to hold it in possession.
This story about a powerful weapon identified with a single hero is as old as time. Whereas in this specific legend it was Excalibur for King Arthur, ancient Greek mythology speaks of many magical swords.
Other legendary blades include Crocea Mors, the sword belonging to Julius Caesar, which was considered to hold supernatural powers, and for Attila the Hun it was the Sword of Mars. Most recently, in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it is the Lightbringer, the sword of Azor Ahai.
“In this dread hour, a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”
While all these stories tell of individuals who drew their swords out of fire or a stone to aid mankind in times when it was needed the most, a statue in Norway speaks of a time when groups and individuals put their petty differences aside and even buried them, so they could put an end to bloodshed and stand united under the same flag.
Little is known of the particular event, but what information that exists points to a great battle that took place in 872 on one of the fjords in Norway.
The Battle of Hafrsfjord, as it is known today, was the result of a long-lasting conflict between three different factions and their leaders in Western Norway, among whom was Harald Fair Hair (Harald Hårfagre), son of Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson.
“The Saga of Harald Fairhair” (Heimskringla) is a Scandinavian saga that was written two centuries after the event. According to the story, the Hordaland-Rogaland and Agder-Thelemark factions were advancing with their troops towards Hafrsfjord, they were met there by the strong force of Harald Fair Hair, who was on a mission to unite the Norwegians who up until then lived in small tribes and villages.
The Norwegian tribes led a warring life, constantly fighting with one another. According to the legend, Harold, who was in love with Gyda, the daughter of King Erik of Hordaland, had to convince her of his love and devotion by uniting the tribes and thus putting an end to all the fighting between them once and for all.
He was the son of a king who wanted to marry the daughter of a rival one, and she was the daughter of a king who despised the man who wanted her hand. So marriage was not an option if peace between the two was not reached.
Harold, prior to the battle, had taken rulership over several small kingdoms in Vestfold and continued with his conquest believing that negotiating peace from a position of strength would bring more fruition to his noble cause, and a better chance to negotiate the terms with the father of his loved one.
But as he was growing in strength and force, the other kings allied against him and planned a secretive attack. News spread from the south that Erik of Hordaland, King Sulke of Rogaland, Earl Sote, the King of Agder and brothers Hroald and Had the Hard from Thelemark had joined forces and were headed towards the mainland with a large fleet.
This was a clear indication that an imminent attack was on the way and there was no space for a peaceful resolution. As a result, Harald assembled his troops and intercepted them at Hafrsfjord, where a great battle was set in motion, in which many, including King Eirik, lost their lives.
In the midst of all the dead bodies spread around the battlefield, Harald was the last man standing and his troops fortunate to see the light of day.
Many fled to the nearby Icelandic islands, and everyone left on the land came to live united under the rulership of King Harald Fair Hair, the first King of Norway.
His mission was completed. Harald got to marry Erik’s daughter, but at a devastating cost. This story is more of a romanticized legend than of actual historical evidence, and complete peace and unity took probably hundreds of years to be achieved. However, this battle is considered the greatest contributor to the unification of Norway into one country.
Three giant Viking swords are now forever embedded in solid stone on a Nordic hill in Hafrsfjord, and stand tall against the sun as a reminder of an ancient battle that eventually unified the kingdoms of Norway and its people into one nation.
The swords were forced through the solid rock so that they can never be removed and such a battle never to occur again. They stand for peace, unity, and freedom, and the place where they are impaled is near the city of Stavanger in the Rogaland region.
The memorial itself is named “Sverd I fjell” (swords in rock) and was constructed in 1983 by sculptor Fritz Røed upon the request of King Olav V. It consists of three bronze swords, each higher than 30 feet. The highest represents the sword of King Harald Fair Hair, while the other two symbolize the opposing factions
It stands proudly as a tourist attraction, and a historical reminder for Norwegians never to draw a weapon again against fellow countrymen.
New archaeological findings show that Vikings “imported” from the Celts
Archeologists expected beer or other brewing materials to be found, but they found something more valuable.
It was supposed to be a simple, routine expansion work at Byneset Cemetery, adjacent to the medieval Steine Church in Trondheim, Norway.
As in several other European countries, Norwegian law requires archeological studies to precede such works — and in this case it paid off in spades.
Archaeologists have discovered a trove of Viking artifacts, including one which is of a foreign origin: they come from Ireland, researchers say.
Jo Sindre Pålsson Eidshaug and Øyunn Wathne Sæther, both research assistants at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) University Museum, say that what really drew their attention was a small brooch — a Celtic, gold-plated silver fitting from a book.
“This is a decorative fitting,” Eidshaug said of his discovery. “It almost looks like it’s gilded. It’s a kind of decorative fitting, I would guess.”
It might have been part of a bigger, religious ensemble, or a stand-alone book fitting. Right now, any such claims are little more than speculation. But what’s interesting is how it got there.
It’s no secret that Vikings roamed Europe’s seas, plundered the coast of England for centuries. Crossing over to Ireland, while not easy, was certainly possible for the skilled seamen. But even so, finding Celtic items in Viking sites is not common, with only a few similar sites previously discovered.
In archaeology, this is technically called an import. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it was bought or traded for, and again — taking into consideration the well-known habits of the Vikings.
“Someone very politely called this an Irish import, but that’s just a nice way of saying that someone was in Ireland and picked up an interesting item,” said museum director Reidar Andersen, who was also at the site.
This isn’t to say that the item was definitely stolen. Whether or not the Vikings’ voyages to Ireland were peaceful or not is anyone’s guess right now.
“Yes, that’s right. We know that the Vikings went out on raids. They went to Ireland and brought things back. But how peacefully it all transpired, I won’t venture to say,” he said.
The site itself holds great promise for the future. Archaeologists also came across a belt buckle, a key, and a knife blade, so they have high hopes for upcoming digs.
The church itself dates from the 1140s and used to be connected to a large, old farm estate from the time of the Vikings, which will also be studied next year.