Category Archives: NORWAY

Stunningly Well-Preserved Arrows With Feathers Revealed By Melting Ice Sheets In Norway

Stunningly Well-Preserved Arrows With Feathers Revealed By Melting Ice Sheets In Norway

A spectacularly preserved arrow from the Iron Age — complete with its iron arrowhead, sinew wrappings and aerodynamic feather fletching — is now in the hands of glacial archaeologists in Norway.

Stunningly Well-Preserved Arrows With Feathers Revealed By Melting Ice Sheets In Norway
Archaeologists used warm water to melt the ice and snow around this Iron Age arrow found in Norway.

It’s rare for arrow fletching to preserve, as the delicate feathers that help guide the arrow in flight usually decay over time.

The arrows of Ötzi the Iceman, who died about 5,300 years ago in what is now the Italian Alps, also have preserved fletching, although their condition isn’t as good as that of this newly discovered 1,700-year-old arrow, the archaeologists said.

“I think it is perhaps just the Ötzi-find which has preserved fletching on arrows, but his arrow fletchings are nowhere as well preserved as some of ours,” Lars Pilø, an archaeologist at the Department of Cultural Heritage, Innlandet County Council, Norway, co-director of the Glacier Archaeology Program, told Live Science in an email. 

However, “his are older too, by several thousand years, so this is not to diss Ötzi’s arrows,” Pilø said.

The archaeologists found the 31.5-inch-long (80 centimetres) arrow during a survey at an undisclosed site in the Jotunheimen mountains in southern Norway in 2019, the glacial archaeology group Secrets of the Ice announced on Twitter on April 28.

“It is probably the best-preserved arrow we have found so far,” said Pilø, who is also editor of the Secrets of the Ice website. For instance, the sinew, wrapped around the front end of the arrow shaft to reduce the risk of fracture on impact, is still “wrapped tightly” and in place, he said. The remains of the thread and tar used to craft the arrow are also present.

It’s unusual for feathers to have not degraded completely.
The archaeologists discovered this 4,000-year-old Stone Age arrow lying in a meltwater pond.

“No wood species determination has been made, but the shafts of this type tend to be made in pine,” Pilø added. “Hopefully, it will be possible to find out which birds the feathers come from, what animal the sinew came from, etc.”

The team decided to forgo radiocarbon dating, as they would have to destroy part of the arrow when taking a sample to test its carbon isotopes (variants of the element carbon). They would rather the entire arrow stay intact for when it goes on display in a museum, he said.

But, because this style of the arrow is well known, it’s fairly easy to date. “The shaft type is known from Danish weapon sacrifices found in bogs, and the arrowhead is also a well-known type from graves in southern Norway,” Pilø said, so it’s likely that this weapon dates to between A.D. 300 and 600.

At that time, hunters would have gone into the mountains and used arrows like this one to shoot reindeer, he added.

This arrow is one of eight that Secrets of the Ice found during the 2019 survey.

The archaeologists hope to find more artefacts soon, as Norway’s glaciers are melting due to climate change. In one instance, the team found an arrow at the edge of the ice at one site in 2013. “The location of this find is now 100 m [328 feet] from the ice,” Pilø said.

Who Was the Exceptionally Powerfully Built Viking Buried in the Gokstad Ship?

Who Was the Exceptionally Powerfully Built Viking Buried in the Gokstad Ship?

Ever since the publication of a scientific article in 1883, “everyone” has known that the skeleton found in the magnificent Gokstad ship in Eastern Norway belonged to Olaf Geirstad-Alf, the legendary Viking king of the House of Yngling. In recent years, however, research has shown that this must be wrong.

The clinker-built Gokstad ship dating back to the year 890 AD is currently on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Dendrochronological datings show that the Gokstad ship was built about the year 890 AD, i.e. the height of Norwegian expansion in the British Isles, and in the year 901, it was buried in the so-called “King’s Mound” (Gokstad Mound) in Vestfold, Eastern Norway.

The vessel largely is constructed of oak and is 23.22 meters (76.18 ft) long and 5.18 meters (17 ft) wide. On each side, there are sixteen oar holes, and the ship was built to carry thirty-two oarsmen. With a steersman (the ship’s owner) and lookout, the crew consisted of thirty-four people but could carry a maximum of seventy men with some equipment.

The Gokstad ship was both flexible and fast with a top speed of more than 12 knots (14 mph) propelled by the sail of about 110 square meters (1,200 square feet). Recent tests have shown that the vessel worked very well with both sail and oars, and it may have been used for trade, Viking raids and explorations. There have not been found any thwarts, and the oarsmen probably have been sitting on chests that also contained their personal equipment.

Model of the Gokstad Viking ship.

Grave Findings

When the Gokstad ship was excavated, sixty-four shields were discovered (thirty-two on each side) and every second was painted in yellow and black. In the front part of the ship, there were discovered fragments of white wool fabric with sewn red stripes that probably were parts of the sail. Behind the mast, a burial chamber was discovered with the remains of a beautifully woven carpet decorating the walls. Inside the burial chamber, there was found a made bed containing the buried person.

In addition to the Gokstad ship itself, there were among other objects found a gaming board with gaming pieces made of horn, fish hooks, harness fittings of iron, lead and gilded bronze, kitchenware, and six beds, one tent, one sled and three smaller boats. There were also discovered a large number of animal bones that had belonged to twelve horses, eight dogs, two northern goshawks and two peacocks.

Animals in the Gokstad ship grave.

When the excavation took place in 1880, it soon became clear that parts of the grave goods had been plundered in ancient times: there were no jewellery or any precious metals in the grave, nor any weapons that in the Viking Age were an important part of a warrior’s grave goods preparing him for his journey to the Afterlife. Just south of the Gokstad burial mound, a major trading centre has recently been discovered. The items excavated tell different stories and document the close connection between Vestfold and the rest of the world at the time. Weights found in the trading centre show that hectic trading activities took place at about the same time as the Gokstad ship burial.

Human Bones

In 2007, bones from a human skeleton found in the grave were thoroughly examined by Professor Per Holck at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo.

The examination proved that the bones had belonged to a man who died in his 40s. He was between 178 (5ft 10 in) and 184 centimetres tall (6ft), something that was significantly taller than the average height of the period (165 cm / 5ft 5in) and the Viking was exceptionally powerfully built. The man in the Gokstad ship grave has mainly eaten terrestrial food [food coming from land and not the sea, like meat and corn] showing that he has belonged to the Norse community’s social elite.

Professor Holck found clear marks of five or six different cuts from an axe, knife and sword: one on each of the thigh bones, two or three on the left and one on the right calf bone. It is likely that the Gokstad man did not survive these injuries, something proved by the fact that there are no signs that his wounds have healed.

Cut on the leg (tuberositas tibiae), probably from a sword.

Although none of the injuries has been fatal (perhaps with the exception of a cut on the inside of the right thigh bone, which may have damaged the femoral artery), it cannot be excluded that this particular Viking has had other cuts that did kill him, for example in the head (only parts of the skull was discovered).

Aiming for the enemy’s legs was a common fighting technique in the Middle Ages. The legs were not covered by chain mails and were vulnerable, a fact documented from many examples in Norse sagas.

Professor Holck concluded that there must have been at least two people, with three different weapons, who have killed the Gokstad man, and that the cuts indicate that he most likely was wearing armour and killed in battle.

Not King Olaf Geirstad-Alf

The theory is that the skeleton from the Gokstad mound has belonged to Olaf Geirstad-Alf (Old Norse: Ólaf Geirstaða Álfr, the elf of Geirstad) was already described in a scientific article by anatomy professor Jacob Heiberg back in 1883, and the man’s identity has since been widely accepted. In the first section of the Heimskringla King’s Sagas written down in 1225 by Snorri Sturloson, Olaf  «Geirstad-Alf» Gudrødsson is mentioned with a couple of lines: Olaf was a petty king in Vestfold, and the half brother of Halfdan the Black (c. 810 – c. 869 AD). Olaf was allegedly Halfdan’s nineteen years older brother, and thus probably born around the year 800. Since the ship’s grave can be dated back to the year 901, about half a century after Olaf Geirstad-Alf’s death, researchers can safely say that this is not Olaf’s grave.

The Gokstad burial mound in Vestfold, Eastern Norway.

However, who was the exceptionally powerfully built Viking found in the Oseberg grave chamber?

If we take a close look at the large and versatile Oseberg ship and the rich discoveries, and how the person in the grave was killed – it is quite certain that this was a powerful and respected Viking warrior from Vestfold. The peacocks discovered show that this was a man with an international network and that he did belong to the Norse upper class. Perhaps the birds were a gift from an English king or trophies he brought back home from a Viking raid in Spain?

In Medieval Europe peacocks, a bird species originally brought back from Asia, were considered a symbol of power among kings and aristocrats. Maybe the Gokstad man was a powerful Viking petty king, earl or chieftain who had accumulated enormous wealth abroad?

However, he may also have been an elite warrior, a berserker, one of the king’s loyal elite soldiers who received the funeral he deserved when he was killed in battle. If he was killed in Dublin, London, York– or in Novgorod (Russia), and was brought home to be buried, we do not know. Either way – it is certain that the human bones buried in the Gokstad ship did not belong to King Olaf Geirstad-Alf.

Stunning Roman-looking sandals found deep in the snow in the Norwegian mountains

Stunning Roman-looking sandals found deep in the snow in the Norwegian mountains

Global warming is leading to the retreat of mountain glaciers. Incredibly well preserved and rare artefacts have emerged from melting glaciers and ice patches in North America, the Alps, and Scandinavia.

Stunning Roman-looking sandals found deep in the snow in the Norwegian mountains

Team Secrets of the Ice has been searching for clues about the past in the Norwegian mountains for 15 years, and during this time the scientists have made many unusual discoveries.

One of the most interesting finds the team found is the surprising Roman-looking sandal they found buried deep in the snow in a dangerous Norwegian mountain pass.

The Lendbreen ice patch suffered an incredible melt in the fall of 2019. Finds appeared on the surface of the ice, showing that the melt had reached ice layers not previously touched by melt.

The Lendbreen ice patch in Norway’s Jotunheim Mountains, about 200 miles northwest of Oslo is located high in the mountains of southern Norway.  In the 1800s, the area was dubbed the Jotunheim Mountains, or the home of the Jötnar, the fearful giants in Norse mythology.

The Horse Ice Patch.

Lendbreen has provided the most archaeological finds of any ice patch in Scandinavia and possibly the world.

Among the most significant finds are the hundreds of pre-historic cairns, which are stone structures that signalled to the travellers where the route went, a lost Viking settlement, an iron horseshoe, as well as a 1700-year-old tunic.

Espen Finstad and his team have visited the area on several occasions and their latest finds were recently summarized in a new report.

Did Ancient Romans Visit The Norwegian Mountains?

Would there always have been snow here? Most likely, Finstad says. The amounts would have varied, but in summer or winter, this was no place for flimsy shoes.

A reconstruction of the shoe was made by conservator Vegard Vike at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.

“I do a lot of hiking in the mountains, and you know, I find myself thinking, why would you wear that shoe up here… it’s just very, open. Full of patterns and holes. But it was there. We found it on the ice”, says Finstad.

“He suggests googling roman shoes for images of similar footwear. The shoe found in the Norwegian mountains is dated to 200-500, so the end of the Roman Empire,” Science in Norway reports.

“It looks almost like a sandal. It’s pretty astonishing, we’re up here at almost 2,000 meters, and we find a shoe with fashion elements, similar to those found on the continent at the time,” Finstad says.

Remains of textiles were found at the Horse Ice Patch. Perhaps something like this was worn inside the shoe?

“We have found quite a number of shoes in the ice, from the Early Bronze Age to the Medieval period,” glacial archaeologist Lars Pilø tweeted about the Horse Ice Patch shoe. “Why did people lose their footwear in the snow? They probably didn’t – the shoes are worn out and probably thrown away as rubbish. Well, we don’t think this shoe is rubbish.”

There was a lot of ice melt in 2019. We were busy rescuing finds from the Lendbreen pass and other sites. Just before winter snow arrived, we received an exciting photo from the Horse Ice Patch pass from a mountain hiker. Isn’t that an Iron Age shoe? We rushed to the pass.

“It’s easy to joke about a roman tourist who didn’t quite understand much about the country he was visiting”, Finstad says.

“But in any case, I believe the people who walked these routes most likely knew what they were doing. They would have worn something inside this shoe that made it work. Perhaps scraps of fabric or animal skin”.

As the ice melts, scientists hope to uncover many more ancient items that may offer clues to those who visited the Lendbreen ice patch in ancient times.

New Huge Viking Ship Discovered By Radar In Øye, Norway – What Is Hidden Beneath The Ground?

New Huge Viking Ship Discovered By Radar In Øye, Norway – What Is Hidden Beneath The Ground?

A new Viking Age ship has been discovered by archaeologists in Norway during a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey. This exciting find reveals a huge Viking boat buried beneath the ground in Øye, in Kvinesdal.

The Øye Viking Age ship was discovered by archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU)

This archaeological discovery is highly significant not only because Viking ship burials are rarely found, but also due to the fact that Kvinesdal was once the home to one of Southern Norway’s largest known burial sites from the Iron and Viking Ages.

Archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) said the ancient boat was spotted while researchers conducted geophysical surveys in the area as part of the road-building project E39 led by Nye Veier.

The surveys are a part of the research project “Arkeologi på Ney Veier” (Archaeology on new roads). Based on preliminary reports, archaeologists estimate the Viking boat to be between 8 to 9 meters long.

Several ancient burial mounds have been observed in the vicinity of the Viking ship.

Niku researchers inform that in addition to the boat burial there are traces of several other burial mounds.

At present, it is still unknown how much of the Viking boat remains. Excavations must be carried out and hopefully, the new road project will not interfere with archaeologists’ work.

As previously explained in Ancient Origins, Viking burials were very complex which is the reason why so few boat burials have been unearthed.

When a great Viking chieftain died, he received a ship burial. This involved placing the deceased on the ship, sailing him out to sea, and setting the Viking ship on fire. People could watch flames dance high in the air as they embraced the mighty warrior on his way to the afterlife.

By modern standards, it might sound crude, but Viking burials were intended to be a spectacular ritual. Viking funeral traditions involved burning ships and complex ancient rituals.

Based on discovered archaeological evidence it seems that the funeral boat or wagon was a practice reserved for the wealthy.

This type of burial was not common however and was likely reserved for sea captains, noble Vikings, and the very wealthy. In Old Norse times, boats proper boats took several months to construct and would not have been wasted without a valid cause or a suitable amount of status.

Another option was that the Vikings was burned, and cremation was rather common during the early Viking Age. Ashes were later spread over the waters. The vast majority of the burial finds throughout the Viking world are cremations.

Archaeological discoveries such as the finding of the magnificent Gokstad Viking ship discovered in 1880 offer more insight into the world of the Vikings. When scientists re-opened and examined the grave in 2007 we could finally learn more about the man who became known as one of the most famous Vikings in Norway – the Gokstad Viking Chief and his remarkable ship.

New Huge Viking Ship Discovered By Radar In Øye, Norway – What Is Hidden Beneath The Ground?
The Gokstad Viking ship 1880 when was discovered.

The Gokstad ship was built in about 850, at the height of the Viking period. In those days there was a need for ships that could serve many purposes, and the Gokstad ship could have been used for voyages of exploration, trade, and Viking raids. The ship could be both sailed and rowed. There are 16 oar holes on each side of the ship. With oarsmen, steersmen, and lookout, that would have meant a crew of 34.

In recent years there have been exciting reports of unearthed Viking Age burial ships in Sweden and Norway. The giant Gjellestad Viking ship burial in Norway found some years ago has given a unique opportunity to see the world through the eyes of the Vikings.

The discoveries were made by archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) with technology developed by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro).

– We are certain that there is a ship there, but how much is preserved is hard to say before further investigation”, Morten Hanisch, county conservator in Østfold said at the time.

The reconstruction of the Gjellestad Viking ship burial site.

Later, scientists using modern technology put together an outstanding virtual tour of the Gjellestad Viking ship burial site, allowing viewers to see what the place looked like in ancient times.

The new radar discovery in Øye is promising and hopefully, researchers will be able to unearth and examine the remains of the Viking ship. Once they accomplish this, we will learn more about the boat and its history. Maybe remains of a Viking Chief will also be found.

Ancient Hunting Blinds Found in Norway

Ancient Hunting Blinds Found in Norway

If you want to kill a reindeer with a bow and arrow you have to get as close to the animal as you possibly can. You probably can’t be further away than 10-20 metres. Which is difficult, with an animal that will flee at the smallest sound or movement.

Ancient Hunting Blinds Found in Norway
As glaciers and ice patches in the mountains melt due to climate change, items of the past reveal themselves. The Secrets of the Ice programme monitors 65 sites in Innlandet county, and have recovered thousands of items from the past. This rare iron arrowhead was found at Sandgrovskaret in 2018.

The mountains and ice patches in Sandgrovskaret didn’t provide hiding places for the hunters, so they had to construct some. 40 such so-called hunting blinds – a rock wall shaped like a half-circle that hunters would hide behind – were found when glacial archaeologists visited the site four years ago.

“This was a big hunting location”, archaeologist Espen Finstad says to sciencenorway.no.

Hunting blinds are stone-built structures made to hide the hunters so as not to scare the reindeer away. They are a regular feature on the reindeer hunting sites surveyed by Secrets of the Ice, both at the ice and further down the mountains. The hunting blind in this picture was used for shooting towards reindeer on the snow and ice in the background. On hot summer days, the reindeer seek relief from pestering insects by walking onto the snow and ice.

Hunted in the mountains and lived in the valley

The mountain in question is 1800-1900 metres above sea level, so the hunters wouldn’t have been living here.

“Most likely they lived down in the valleys, but clearly had large hunting stations higher up in the mountains”, Finstad says.

People have hunted here for thousands of years.

“In the Stone Age, they would have lived in simple settlements, and during the Iron Age they would have had grand long houses down in the valley”, Finstad says.

Some such settlements were discovered by glacial archaeologists about a year ago, dating back to the Viking Age and Early Medieval period.

The Secrets of the Ice team at Sandgrovskardet (from the left): Espen Finstad, James Barrett, Mathilde Arnli, Elling Utvik Wammer, Øystein Rønning Andersen and Erlend Gjelsvik

Manipulating reindeer with sticks

The archaeologists also found 32 so-called scaring sticks at Sandgrovskaret, which were used in the reindeer hunt.

“Some of these were lying in a line, indicating where a type of psychological fence for reindeer once stood”, Secrets of the Ice write in a post on their Facebook page.

Scaring sticks are the most commonly found from the melting ice in Innlandet. Some sites have hundreds, others just a few. In total, more than 1000 such sticks have been recovered.

And they were used, as the name suggests, to scare the animals into position.

The sticks are usually about one metre long, with a movable object attached to the top, like a thin wooden flag that would flap in the wind.

“You would bring a bunch of these sticks to the mountains, and depending on weather and wind and where the reindeer are found, you would calculate how best to make them move toward the hunting blinds, and place lines of these sticks along the ice”, Finstad explains.

The movement from the sticks would make the reindeer worried and move in the opposite direction. It was a way of manipulating the animals to walk in the direction where you were waiting for them with your bow and arrow”, Finstad says.

Bones and arrows

Five arrows were found, a nice little collection, Finstad says.

Three of them have preserved iron arrowheads. One of them is of a rare type, and it’s the first find of this type of arrowhead on the ice. It is previously known only from a single grave found in the county, which dates to around AD 550-600. The other two arrowheads are well known from Iron Age burials.

The other two arrows were very long – up to 1 metre – but did not have arrowheads. These are from earlier periods, likely 800 BC based on the shape.

Bones and antlers from reindeer were collected but have yet to be dated using DNA analysis.

At another site, which was kept secret for some time, the glacial archaeologists once found a total of 68 arrows dating from the Stone Age to the Medieval Period. It was a prehistoric arrow bonanza, according to the Secrets of the Ice blog.

The rare arrowhead is the first of its kind found on the ice.
This iron arrowhead is of a well-known type from Iron Age burials in the lowlands. It has a flat tang and a long blade, and dates to AD 300-600. The photo also shows the broken remains of the wooden shaft.

Perfect conditions, in 65 sites

The first traces of finds at Sandgrovskaret were seen in 2013.

“We were there just to explore the conditions and could see some materials that had been uncovered from melted ice. Over the years we returned sporadically and saw more items”, Finstad says.

A larger mission was then planned for 2018. The archaeologists spent a week in the challenging environment, surveying the site systematically, documenting the hunting blinds, and rescuing as many finds as they could. The report from this mission was just published.

But the ice may have melted more since. At Sandgrovskaret, and other locations. Glaciers are sensitive to climate change, and a recent mapping showed that Norway’s glaciers in total have shrunk about 14 per cent over the past six years. Many smaller ice patches have nearly disappeared.

The Secrets of the Ice project has a total of 65 sites in Innlandet county where there are finds, spread out over Jotunheimen, Dovrefjell and Breheimen.

“These are great distances”, Finstad says.

“We have a window of opportunity from August and until the snow falls, where more items might surface and we can go rescue them. So every year we have to plan and prioritize”, he says.

There have been finds from melted glaciers in other parts of Norway, but no other project can boast as many as Secrets of the Ice – spanning from the Stone Age and up until the Plague in the 1300s.

“These are the highest mountains in Norway with several thousand years old ices, be they glaciers or ice patches. There has been plenty of reindeer here throughout the centuries, and short distances between the mountains and valleys where people have lived. So both the conditions for preservation as well as the cultural history setting in this area means that there has been a lot of activity here and that things have been left behind and preserved”, Finstad explains.

Sandgrovskardet has six individual ice patches, five of which have archaeological finds. The ice patches seen in this photo amass a total of about 170 000 square metres. The highest peeks were most likely not covered with snow in the past either.
One of the cairns, which has partly fallen down, from the ancient mountain trail at Sandgrovskaret.

Forgotten mountain trails

The surveys at the Sandgrovskaret site also revealed an ancient mountain trail. According to local history, this was used all the way up to the 19th century. What the archaeologists don’t know, is how far back the use of the mountain trail goes. The trail is marked by a number of so-called cairns, little man-made piles of stone used to mark the path.

“It’s impossible to say based on these cairns how old the trail is”, Finstad says.

At another site, however, Lendbreen in Jotunheimen, the melting ice revealed a forgotten mountain pass, as well as a number of artefacts dated back to the Iron Age. Here the archaeologists know that the pass was since forgotten and not in use. In total, the archaeologists have discovered approximately 800 artefacts left behind by people who were there centuries ago, sciencenorway.no wrote about this pass.

Remains of sledges, dead animals, clothing and household items melted out of the ice in the pass. Many of the artefacts found, including a knife and a mitten dated to the Viking Age, are very well preserved. Radiocarbon dates of the finds in fact confirmed that the trail was most intensely used around 1000 years ago, during the Viking Age.

“The lost mountain pass at Lendbreen is the greatest discovery of the Secrets of the Ice program”, according to archaeologist Lars Pilø.

Medieval Runes Discovered in Norway

Medieval Runes Discovered in Norway

An ongoing excavation in the Medieval Park in Oslo found objects with runic inscriptions just before Christmas.

Just before Christmas, archaeologists Solveig Thorkildsen and Ingeborg Hornkjøl, both with the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, NIKU, found two rare objects. A stick inscribed with runes, a so-called rune stick, and a bone, also inscribed with runes, was discovered a few days apart during an ongoing dig at the Medieval Park in Oslo.

Earlier in December, a unique knife handle depicting a king with a hunting falcon on his arm was found in the same place. The findings have been done just about halfway through the excavation.

This large bone may be the rib of a cow or a horse. Further examinations are needed in order to determine the origins.

Runes high on the wish list

“My heart was pounding. Finding runes was at the top of my wish list for this dig,” Solveig Thorkildsen says in an article on niku.no. It was Thorkildsen who found the large bone, probably a rib, which was inscribed with runes on both sides. The rune stick was found by Ingeborg Hornkjøl. It was found in a deep ditch where water was constantly seeping in. The water had washed out a piece of wood, which Hornkjøl thought looked a bit different.

“I thought to myself this cannot be true, this is not true, it’s not true! But it was true!” she says to niku.no.

The rune stick is a piece of wood that is inscribed on three sides, both in Norse and Latin.

The rune stick has inscriptions in both Latin and Norse, on three sides.

Interesting finds

NIKU asked Kristel Zilmer to interpret the runes on the two objects. Zilmer is a professor of runology at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo.

“These are two interesting findings that expand our knowledge about runes, writing and written language in the towns of the Middle Ages,” she says to niku.no.

The context of the runic inscriptions is often unknown, according to Karen Langsholt Holmqvist, who recently defended her PhD on graffiti from the Middle Ages. As the context is often vital for understanding the meaning of the inscriptions, runes from the Middle Ages can be quite difficult to interpret in the 21st century. Zilmer writes in an email to sciencenorway.no that preserved runes often are very short pieces of text. A few typical phrases and expressions are repeated in many such inscriptions.

“The object itself also gives us a few possible keys for interpretation,” she explains.

The inscribed bone is an example of this.

“Working on interpreting runes in today’s day and age isn’t automatically as impossible as it may sound,” according to Zilmer.

“The greatest problems occur where the inscriptions are damaged, where the runic letters are difficult to read or where the inscriptions simply appear as meaningless. But other than that we can get quite a bit of information from the inscriptions themselves, the object they appear on and the context of the find,” she writes.

No sure interpretation yet

Old objects are often tainted by time. The rune stick is damaged, and some of the inscriptions are likely lost.

Nonetheless, Zilmer has managed to interpret several words.

On one of the broadsides, there are two Latin words: manus and Domine or Domini.

Manus means hand, and Dominus means lord or God. The words are found in a known Latin prayer: ‘In Manus Tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum’, meaning ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit’. These are words traditionally attributed to Jesus as he was crucified.

Difficult without a microscope

The short side of the stick may be a continuation of the prayer, Zilmer explains. The first rune is difficult to pin down without a microscope. So far it can be read in different ways.

“It will be easier to establish what the more or less likely interpretations are when I can study this in a microscope,” Zilmer writes.

It is possible that it says “it is true”. If so, then the prayer is similar to one found in the Urnes stave church: ‘Hold thy sacred Lord hand over Brynjolvs spirit. This is true”.

The female name Bryngjerd is also inscribed. Perhaps the rune stick is about Bryngjerd who has given her life to the service of God?

“Many runic inscriptions from the Middle Ages contain simple religious quotes that expressed important messages in a Christian society,” Zilmer explains.

Probably from a large animal

The runic bone is most likely from a large animal such as a horse or a cow, according to NIKU. It will however have to undergo more examinations before this can be determined for certain. Zilmer has also found the inscription of «basmarþærbæin», for which she believes there are two possible interpretations. The first is that this could be the name or the nickname of a person. The other is that the rune describes the bone itself, the object on which the runes are inscribed.

The four last runes, bæin, mean bone in Norse.

Below are3d animations of the two objects. Examine them by zooming and rotating them as you please.

https://skfb.ly/o8oRD

https://skfb.ly/o8oTH

Oslo-people from the Middle Ages

Kristel Zilmer believes that the runic finds in Oslo can teach us more about people who lived in Oslo during the Middle Ages. We know a bit about what people in the Middle Ages thought, felt and found interesting, thanks to the old sagas. The sagas, however, were written in monasteries by people who could write far better than the average person. Runes were on the other hand-carved into items by a much broader section of the population. The newly found runes are from the Middle Ages, according to Zilmer. Characteristics of the runic shapes reveal this.

The question remains whether the context of the finds can give us a more exact dating of the objects. As per the king on the knife handle which was found a few weeks ago, his hairstyle revealed the age.

Viking Longhouses Detected Near Norway’s Gjellestad Ship

Viking Longhouses Detected Near Norway’s Gjellestad Ship

Norwegian archaeologists said Monday they have found a cluster of longhouses, including one of the largest in Scandinavia, using ground-penetrating radar in the southeastern part of the country — in an area that researchers believe was a central place in the late Nordic Iron Age.

The longhouses — long and narrow, single-room buildings — were found in Gjellestad, 86 kilometres (53 miles) southeast of Oslo near where a Viking-era ship was found in 2018 close to the Swedish border.

“We have found several buildings, all typical Iron Age longhouses, north of the Gjellestad ship.

Viking Longhouses Detected Near Norway’s Gjellestad Ship

The most striking discovery is a 60-meter (197-foot) long and 15-meter (49-foot) wide longhouse, a size that makes it one of the largest we know of in Scandinavia,” archaeologist Lars Gustavsen at Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research said in a statement.

The importance of Gjellestad during that time period wasn’t immediately known. But the body, known by its Norwegian acronym NIKU, said it was working on finding that out.

This autumn, archaeologists covered 40 hectares (about 100 acres) south, east and north of where the Gjellestad ship was found with the radar system, and one of the next steps are archaeological excavations, NIKU said.

The surveys are the first part of a research project called “Viking Nativity: Gjellestad Across Borders” where archaeologists, historians and Viking age specialists have examined the development of the area during the Nordic Iron Age that began at around 500 B.C. and lasted until approximately A.D. 800 and the beginning of the Viking Age.

“We do not know how old the houses are or what function they had. Archaeological excavations and dating will help us get an answer to this,” said Sigrid Mannsaaker Gundersen, another archaeologist.

They have also found several ploughed-out burial mounds in nearby fields.

“We are not surprised to have found these burial mounds, as we already know there are several others in the surrounding area,” Gustavsen said. “ Still, these are important to know about to get a more complete picture of Gjellestad and its surroundings.”

The text in this video is in Norwegian, but the images give an idea of the georadar examinations as well as the findings.

Archaeologists Extract 1,300-Year-Old Wooden Ski From Norwegian Ice

Archaeologists Extract 1,300-Year-Old Wooden Ski From Norwegian Ice

The long-lost ski of a pair used more than 1,300 years ago has been discovered on a Norwegian mountain top. The first ski was uncovered in 2014 and seven years later, the Digervarden ice patch melted enough to reveal its wooden counterpart – together they make the oldest pair of skis ever to be found.

On September 26, a team of Norwegian archaeologists led by the Secrets of Ice program hiked three hours up Mount Digervarden to the spot where the first ski was discovered.

Using GPS position and photos taken from the initial visit, the researchers located the second ski under the ice, which they chipped away with an axe and melted with boiling water to break the artefact free.

Archaeologists Extract 1,300-Year-Old Wooden Ski From Norwegian Ice
The second ski was better preserved than the first, perhaps because it was buried more deeply in the ice.

The Digervarden ice patch is in Reinheimen national park, located in Nordberg, Norway. It is a popular archaeological site that has revealed several ancient treasures once used thousands of years ago.

However, the reason these forgotten items are surfacing is due to climate change melting the once-solid ice sheets. The newly discovered ski is 187 cm long and 17 cm wide, 17 cm longer and 2 cm wider than the first ski found in 2014.

Archaeologist Lars Holger Pilø, who was part of the excavation, wrote in a blog post that the preservation of the new ski is much better, which may be due to it being deeper in the ice.

The skis may have belonged to a hunter or traveller.
Close-up view of the repaired foothold of the 1,300-year-old ski Espen Finstad / Secrets of the Ice
In November 2020, Pilø and his colleagues found a trove of artefacts on a mountainside in Jotunheimen in Norway. The items included nearly 70 arrow shafts (pictured), shoes, textiles and reindeer bones

‘That may account for some of the differences in dimensions between the two skis,’ Pilø shared.

The long wooden plank features three twisted birch bindings, a leather strap and a wooden plug through the hole in the foothold.

The ski found in 2014 only had one twisted birch binding and a leather strap through the hole.

Both skis have a hole through the tip.  

There are slight differences in the pair, one being that the back end of the new ski, while the one found in 2014 is straight. Interestingly, the new ski shows signs of repairs and a piece of the back end is missing that could still be frozen in the ice.

‘Whether it broke when lost or while inside the ice may be possible to say at a later stage based on a careful study of the edge of the break,’ Pilø shared in the post.

‘The skis are not identical, but we should not expect them to be. The skis are handmade, not mass-produced.

‘They have a long and individual history of wear and repair before an Iron Age skier used them together and they ended up in the ice 1300 years ago.’

In November 2020, Pilø and his colleagues found a trove of artefacts on a mountainside in Jotunheimen in Norway. The items included nearly 70 arrow shafts, shoes, textiles and reindeer bones. 

The heads were made from a variety of materials — iron, quartzite, slate, mussel shell and even bone. 

Several still had the twine and tar used to affix them to a wooden shaft.