Friday, December 29, 2017

Archaeologists in Search of Beer End Up Discovering Valuable Viking Trove

Ancient Origins

A team of archaeologists searching to find beer and other brewing materials, ended up discovering something way more valuable; a trove of amazing Viking artifacts, including an out of place Celtic fitting from a book.

Surprising Discovery Shocks Archaeologists
This was supposed to be another day at work for the team of archaeologists exploring the Byneset Cemetery, adjacent to the medieval Steine Church in Trondheim, Norway. However, they ended up discovering something way more valuable than the beer brewing stones from the Viking Age they were looking for. The team of archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) University Museum discovered a trove of valuable Viking artifacts. “We started the project with slightly lower hopes for what we might find than what's recently emerged,” Museum’s director Reidar Andersen, who was present at the site when the trove was unearthed, said as Phys Org reports.

 Jo Sindre Pålsson Eidshaug and Øyunn Wathne Sæther, research assistants at the NTNU University Museum, also expressed their surprise when they discovered the trove during their excavations.

Excavation site was adjacent to the Steine Church, Trondheim, Norway. (Image: Raymond Sauvage, NTNU University Museum.

Viking Trove Includes an “Imported” Irish Object Coincidentally, the director of communications for the museum, Tove Eivindsen, happened to be there at the moment of the discovery and was particularly surprised by a find that appears to be of Irish origin,

“The find is probably a gold-plated, silver fitting from a book. It appears to be Celtic in origin, and might have come from a religious book brought here during the Viking Age that disappeared several centuries ago, and that hasn't been seen by anyone since then – but for now everything is speculation,” he said as Phys Org reports.

Mr. Andersen added, “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."

Raymond Sauvage from NTNU's Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, and the project’s director for these excavations, agreed with Mr. Andersen, as he’s not quite sure if the foreign item ended up being part of the Viking trove in a peaceful manner, “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 according to Phys Org. He also added that the discovery is really rare and you won’t find it everywhere in Scandinavia, as there are only a few areas where people had the resources to go out on such voyages.

The item which is deemed a "Viking import" from Ireland. Image: NTNU University Museum

Archaeologists, however, used the scientific term for a foreign find as this one and referred to it as an “imported object.” They explained that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was bought or traded for, taking into consideration, of course, the well-known tactics of the Vikings.

 Site Holds Great Promise for the Future
According to the archaeologists the site will probably offer more finds in the near future. The team also unearthed a belt buckle, a key and a knife blade, so they hope now to uncover even more precious artifacts in future digs. As Phys Org reports, the church dates from the 1140s and used to be connected to a large, old farm estate from the time of the Vikings, "Steine Church was built in the 1140s," Sauvage said, explaining that the archaeologists also found a link to Nidaros Cathedral.

Ultimately, Sauvage mentioned that the archaeological mission was originally planning to do a sampling of layers containing brewing stones, but the site proved to hide below way more significant and valuable items than they believed before the excavation works began. For that reason the dig was significantly expanded, and now artifacts dating as far back as 700 AD have been unearthed. The excavation works were funded by Trondheim’s municipality and lasted for five weeks during the summer of 2017, while the cemetery expansion started on 16 October.

Top image: A fitting, probably from a book. The style is typical of Celtic and Irish areas and dates from the 800s. Silver with traces of gilding. Image Credit: Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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