Wreckage of sunken WWII battleship found off Norway
CBS News reports that the 571-foot German warship Karlsruhe was found under 1,600 feet of water off the coast of Norway by the power company Statnett with multibeam echo sounders and a remotely operated vehicle.
The ship, equipped with nine cannons and three triple turrets, led the invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940, but was struck by a British submarine torpedo on its return trip.
The site of the wreck was unclear for the next 80 years. Nora Buli reports to Reuters, experts from the country’s state-run power grid operator, Statnett, identified a sunken vessel situated near one of the company’s underwater cables as the long-lost ship.
Statnett engineers spotted the remains of 571-foot cruisers during a routine survey via sonar in 2017, according to Arnfinn Nygaard from the Norwegian broadcast networks NRK.
But the ship’s identity remained a mystery until late June, when photographs captured by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) revealed its hull, gun turrets and telltale swastikas resting some 1,500 feet beneath the waves, per a statement.
Researchers identified Karlsruhe based on the shape of its hull and such details as the positions of its gun turrets, reports Reuters. The wreck is located just under 50 feet away from a power cable installed in 1977.
“You can find Karlsruhe’s fate in history books, but no one has known exactly where the ship sunk,” says Frode Kvalø, an archaeologist at the Norwegian Maritime Museum, in the statement.
“Moreover, it was the only large German warship that was lost during the attack on Norway with an unknown position. After all these years we finally know where the graveyard [of] this important warship is.”
Built-in the late 1920s, Karlsruhe was repurposed—and redecorated—by the Nazis during World War II.
It successfully supported Germany’s attack on Norway but fell victim to a British submarine when departing the port of Kristiansand. After crew members evacuated the hobbled ship, the Germans scuttled it themselves.
The newly rediscovered cruiser sank at the very start of the Nazis’ invasion of Norway, which saw the country’s government and king seek refuge in Britain, where they remained until the German surrender in 1945, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
In the statement, Kvalø notes that large warships tend to turn around when sinking due to their high centre of gravity.
Karlsruhe, however, “stands firmly … below sea level with cannons pointing menacingly into the sea.”
The archaeologist adds, “With the main battery of nine cannons in three triple turrets, this was the largest and most fearsome ship in the attack group against Kristiansand.”
Per NRK, the Norwegian Coastal Administration will now monitor the ship, as it may still contain upward of one million litres of fuel, as well as other potentially harmful chemicals.
According to a statement released by the Arctic University of Norway, archaeology student Tor-Kjetil Krokmyrdal has discovered a Viking trade center in northern Norway on the coast of the island of Hinnøya. Jewelry, weights, coins, and items related to forging iron and shipbuilding and repair have been recovered. The ninth-century site is the first of its kind to be found in the region.
The archaeologist, Marte Spangen, who supervises Krokmyrdal in her work in this area, says that this discovery means that researchers need to reconsider the way societies and trade functioned in this region during the Viking Age and in the early Middle Ages.
We know from earlier that Vågan in Lofoten functioned as an important financial center for Northern-Norway in the Middle Ages, but through objects found with a metal detector and other forms of analysis, Krokmyrdal has shown that trading was going on in Sandtorg as early as the 800s.
A curious name
How did a master’s student make such a discovery?
“I have worked on this for a few years”, Krokmyrdal points out.
It’s been his hobby for several years to search for metals, alongside his full-time employment working with logistics at the postal company Post Nord. He explains that it all started with a book many archaeologists are familiar with, Olav Rygh’s analysis of Norwegian farm names.
Sandtorg literally means «market or trading place at Sand». No archaeological evidence could actually prove this to be right, but it made Krokmyrdal curious. At first, he did not find anything at Sandtorg, but it turned out that he was searching too low, and that the areas he was examining had been underwater during the Viking Age. Once he moved higher in the terrain, the discoveries started rolling in.
“That’s when I signed up for the master programme in archaeology”, Krokmyrdal says.
Travelers spent the night at Tjelsund
Even as late as our near-past, strong currents would often force travelers to wait in Tjelsund before they could continue their journey. «Tjeld» is a reference to the verb «tjelde», which means to spend the night in or under the boat once it’s been pulled up on land.
The Sandtorg Farm lies by the strongest current and has probably been a natural place to stop for travelers. Its location and historical sources make it plausible that a chieftain at the farm Sand on the other side of the straits controlled the shipping going through the strong currents in Tjelsund, and might have demanded tariffs of those travelling through the straits as early as the Early Iron Age.
This developed into the trade during the Viking Age, or as Krokmyrdal wants to call it, exchange of goods, a term that covers both the trade of money and the trading of goods and services. This gives the farm name Sandtorg meaning as «the market of the Sand Chieftain».
Imports from the great beyond.
The discoveries Krokmyrdal has made with his metal detector shows that the trade may have entailed repairs or building of ships, something that is also mentioned in the sagas in reference to the Sand Chieftains. Krokmyrdal has found both jewelry, weights, coins, and so-called silver payment at Sandtorg.
He has also found objects that have been imported from the British Isles, Finland, and the continent. The merchants of the Hanseatic League as we know, traded a lot with countries abroad and brought exotic objects all the way to Northern Norway.
“The most exotic thing I found was something of oriental origin – a kind of jewelry that has been used on a belt or a strap – that came north along with Arabic coins”, says Krokmyrdal.
But what he reckons is his most important discovery, were the large amounts of iron that was lying near the beach during that time. This suggests that there must have been an iron forge, and maybe even a boatyard at Sandtorg.
Krokmyrdal himself was not at all surprised with his discoveries, both because of the source that explained the meaning of the toponym, and other sources that suggested that this was a trading place. Peter Dass mentioned in his writing that the traders “sat closely together in Tjelsundet”.
“The location is also very strategic in terms of trade. The current at Sandtorg is really strong, and all the travellers would have to wait until the current turned before they could continue their journey”, he explains.
What more natural then than to offer travelers a couple of goods and some time off in the form of “shopping”?
Thus, it looks like trading was being done at Sandtorg from the 800s and all the way up to the 1950s. There might have been more traders there earlier, but from the 1500s trade was regulated by laws that demanded those who ran trade be city residents. They were only to trade during summer and stay in town during winter. Since those times, there was only one trader around at Sandtorg.
“It is not common for master’s students to do their own fieldwork, and even more uncommon that they bring forth their own material”, says Krokmyrdal’s supervisor Marte Spangen, who is impressed by the master’s student.
Spangen believes that Krokmyrdal’s work is important in several ways; the discovery of a trading place in Viking Age Northern Norway, which includes the discovery of coins and objects a long way from home, means that researchers will have to re-think how societies and trade functioned in this region during the Viking Age and the Early Middle Ages. She believes the discoveries will make people more aware of how useful metal detectors can be in discovering these kinds of localities that have not left any visible traces of cultural heritage on the surface.
“Krokmyrdal has also made specific discoveries that may change how we understand different networks of exchange and what kind of ironwork has been going on in Northern-Norway”, Spangen says.
She adds that the traces of a possible boatyard is truly unique in a Norwegian context and something that requires further studies. The examined area is a protected area, and Krokmyrdal has had special permission from the Directorate for Cultural Heritage to conduct metal detection in the area for his master’s thesis.
“It is quite remarkable for a master’s student to make such important discoveries”, Spangen adds.
The latest science approaches have been used by historians from Cardiff University and the University of Sheffield to provide new insight into life during the Norman Conquest of England.
Until now, the story of the Conquest has primarily been told from the evidence of the elite classes of the time. But little has been known about how it affected everyday people’s lives.
A variety of bioarchaeological methods were used in the research team, which included academics at Bristol University, to associate human and animal bones recovered from sites across Oxford, along with ceramics used for cooking.
Their results suggest only short-term fluctuations in food supplies following the Conquest which didn’t adversely affect the population’s overall health.
There is evidence the Norman invasion led to more controlled and standardized mass agricultural practices. Pork became a more popular choice and dairy products were used less. But on the whole, a diet dominated by vegetables, cereals beef, and mutton remained largely unchanged.
Dr. Elizabeth Craig-Atkins of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology said: “Examining archaeological evidence of the diet and health of ordinary people who lived during this time gives us a detailed picture of their everyday experiences and lifestyles.
Despite the huge political and economic changes that were happening, our analysis suggests the Conquest may have only had a limited impact on most people’s diet and health.
“There is certainly evidence that people experienced periods where food was scarce. But following this, an intensification in farming meant people generally had a more steady food supply and consistent diet. Aside from pork becoming a more popular food choice, eating habits and cooking methods remained unchanged to a large extent.”
Researchers used a technique called stable isotope analysis on bones to compare 36 humans found in various locations around Oxford, including Oxford Castle, who had lived between the 10th and 13th centuries.
Signals from the food we consume are archived as chemical tracers in our bones, allowing scientists to investigate the quality and variety of a person’s diet long after they have died.
The team found that there wasn’t a huge difference between the health of the individuals, who were alive at different points before and after the Conquest.
Levels of protein and carbohydrate consumption were similar in the group and evidence of bone conditions related to poor diet — such as rickets and scurvy — were rare. However, high-resolution analysis of teeth showed evidence of short-term changes in health and diet in early life during this transitional phase.
Isotope analysis was also used on 60 animals found at the same sites, to ascertain how they were raised. Studies of pig bones found their diets became more consistent and richer in animal protein after the Conquest, suggesting pig farming was intensified under Norman rule. They were likely living in the town and being fed scraps instead of natural vegetable fodder.
Fragments of pottery were examined using organic residue analysis. When food is cooked in ceramic pots, fats are absorbed into the vessel, allowing researchers to extract them.
The analysis showed that pots were used to cook vegetables like cabbage as well as meat such as lamb, mutton, or goat across the conquest. Researchers say the use of dairy fats reduced after the Conquest and that pork or chicken became more popular.
Dr. Richard Madgwick, based in Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: “To our knowledge, this is the very first time globally that human osteology, organic residues analysis and isotope analysis of incremental dentine and bone have been combined in a single study.
“It is only with this innovative and diverse suite of methods that we have been able to tell the story of how the Conquest affected diet and health in the non-elite, a somewhat marginalized group until now.”
The dietary impact of the Norman Conquest: A multiproxy archaeological investigation of Oxford, UK, is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Vikings blacksmith tools and weapons found in the grave, ca.800 A.D Norway
Last autumn, farmers Leif Arne Nordheim borrowed a backhoe from his neighbor to remove some pesky flagstones from his garden in Sogndalsdalen on the southwestern coast of Norway.
Lifting the last flagstone revealed tools — a hammer and tongs — which Nordheim first assumed were of relatively recent manufacture.
When he found a bent blade, he realized it was likely archaeological and called in the county Cultural Department.
Archaeologists from the University Museum of Bergen soon followed and an excavation of the find site ensued.
The find turned out to be far greater than originally realized, and the ancient blacksmith tools were impressive enough already.
Archaeologists unearthed a large collection of forging tools and weapons, including three hammers of different sizes, two anvils, blacksmith tongs, coal tongs, a rake to remove coals, a tray used to add coals, a chisel, a scythe, a sickle, a drill, pieces of a grindstone, nails, a single-edged sword, an axe, two arrows, and a knife.
Underneath the tools and products of the blacksmith trade archaeologists found more personal items: a razor, beard trimming scissors, tweezers, a frying pan, and a poker.
The deepest layer of excavation contained ashes, charcoal, and small bone fragments. The pieces of bone haven’t been identified yet, but archaeologists believe they are human remains, likely the blacksmith owner of the marvelous tools above.
Between the ashes and bones fragments, researchers found the objects that the deceased was probably wearing when his body was cremated: beads and a bone comb.
In total, the excavation yielded about 60 artifacts and 150 assorted fragments. Forging tools have been found in graves before, but this is an exceptionally rich collection for a blacksmith burial. Indeed, it’s the richest burial, blacksmith or not, found in the area in years.
“We think that the blacksmiths’ contemporaries wished to show how skillful he was in his work by including such an extensive amount of objects. He might have forged many of these tools himself.”
“The grave gives the impression that this was a local blacksmith and he enjoyed a high status in his society beyond being his trade,” says [co-leader the excavation Asle Bruen] Olsen.
The design of the axe and some of the other metal objects dated them to the 8th or 9th century A.D. Subsequent radiocarbon dating confirmed the date of the burial to be around 800 A.D.
The artifacts are currently being conserved by experts at the University Museum of Bergen. Once they’re stabilized they will go on display, possibly in a dedicated exhibition.
In western Norway Archaeologists have found unusual elongated dice and board game pieces from the Roman Iron Age.
Norwegian archeologists agreed last month to dig up the remains of a small cairn of the early iron age in western Norway. Dotted with monuments and grave mounds, the scenic location overlooking Alversund played an important role in Norwegian history.
The site at Ytre Fosse turned out to be a cremation patch. Amidst the fragments of pottery and burnt glass, archaeologists found a surprise: rare Roman Iron Age dice and board game pieces.
“It’s amazingly exciting. Such findings were not found in Norway and Scandinavia many years before. The special thing here is that we have found almost the whole set including the dice,” said Morten Ramstad from Bergen University Museum to NRK.
A status symbol
Archaeologists also found the remains of what was likely a powerful person. The nearby Alverstraumen straight was an important point on the sea route between the north and south of Norway. This was named Nordvegen, the northern way, from which Norway takes its name.
The bone debris, carefully decorated pottery, and burnt glass indicate the person cremated here was likely of high status. But it’s the gaming pieces that highlight this more than anything else.
“These are status objects that testify to contact with the Roman Empire, where they liked to enjoy themselves with board games. People who played games like this were local aristocracy or upper class. The game showed that you had the time, profits, and ability to think strategically,” said Ramstad.
The gaming discovery
The pieces are of a very rare type, known to be from the Roman Iron Age, dated to around AD 300. The haul included 13 whole and five broken game chips along with an almost completely intact elongated dice.
The dice are marked with number symbols in the form of point circles and have the values zero, three, four, and five. Less than 15 of these have been found in Norway. Similar dice were found in the famous Vimose weapon-offering site at Fyn in Denmark.
Strategic board games
The gaming board at Vimose was also preserved, so we have some idea of what board games may have been played during the period in Scandinavia. Inspired by the Roman game Ludus latrunculorum, board games seem to have been a popular hobby amongst the Scandinavian elite of the time.
These games are an early relative of the more famous board game Hnefatafl played during the Viking Age. The strategy game was likely played for enjoyment or even strategic training on long ocean voyages. Hnefatafl pieces found recently on Lindisfarne suggest Vikings travelled with the game.
“Finding a game that is almost two thousand years old is incredibly fascinating. It tells us that the people then were not so very different from us,” said Ramstad.
The results from the Ytre Fosse excavation should contribute to more precise data on the chronology of dice and gaming pieces in Early Iron Age Norway. With further study, we could learn more about the significance and social impact of gaming during these times.
“This excavation connects Norway to a larger network of communication and trade in Scandinavia. At the same time, the findings can help us to understand the beginnings of the Iron Age in Norway,” said archaeologist Louise Bjerre.
The findings will now go to the University lab in Bergen to be preserved. Archaeologists hope that the bones and objects from will in time be exhibited to the public.
Archaeology in western Norway and beyond
The University of Bergen’s Department of Cultural History aims to research, collect, conserve, and communicate. Their Bergen museum exhibits objects from prehistory, Norwegian folk art, church art, and ethnographic items from across western Norway.
The museum’s collections also include the archaeological finds from medieval Bergen, located at Bryggens museum.
Second Viking Ship Burial Detected on Norway’s Edoya Island
The georadar study completed on Edoya Island off the coast of Western Norway revelated a second burial of the Viking ship, according to Archaeology Org. Oslo, Norway.
On the tiny island, the ship burial was discovered known as the Edoya ship. Manuel Gabler of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) said the data indicates an object about 24 feet long and three feet wide had been placed inside a circular structure thought to be a round stone cairn.
Never heard of Edøya? That’s not a big surprise, for the island is just 7.5km2 (2.9 square miles) in size. Yet this tiny island in Møre og Romsdal county was an important centre of power in the Viking Age.
Along with its larger island neighbours Smøla, Ertvågsøya and Tustna, Edøya is now sure to come under the spotlight like never before.
A second Viking boat grave
The georadar data clearly shows a second boat burial. Manuel Gabler from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) explains:
“In the process of interpreting the data, we discovered a clear circular and reflective structure. In the middle of that structure, we see a 7.3 metre long and approximately 1-meter wide anomaly. “We interpret it as a boat tomb under a round stone cairn.”
Although the grave is considerably smaller than the first find, it can’t be described as small. NIKU’s Knut Paasche, who was a guest on the Life in Norway Show recently, explains:
“If a 7.3-metre long anomaly represents the bottom of a boat and the upper board aisles have rotted away, the original boat will have been a few metres longer. It’s likely to have needed four pairs of oars.”
Burial mounds and remains of houses
In the report, archaeologists revealed more of Edøya’s secrets. North of the boat grave, another round anomaly appears albeit without a boat structure. The team believes this fragmented anomaly is where a burial mound has been ploughed over.
Around 50 metres further north, the georadar data revealed traces of two more graves, measuring 11 and 19 metres in diameter. Two more anomalies to the north-west of the boat grave appear to be remains of houses.
“We see a curved, rectangular structure of approximately 12 by 5.9 metres. In the central part of the house is a large reflective anomaly, which may be the remains of a floor or hearth,” said Gabler. There are other round anomalies nearby that together form a rectangular structure.
County conservator Bjørn Ringstad believes the houses and boat graves could well come from different time periods: “The houses that have been traced may well be from the older Iron Age, circa 300-600 AD. The tombs may be from the younger Iron Age, circa 600-900 AD. The findings nevertheless show that there was a close connection between the residences and the burial ground at Edøy.”
Similar to a previous find in Møre og Romsdal
According to the experts, the boat is likely more than 1,000 years old. “This is probably a somewhat similar boat tomb from the Viking Age, from the 900s to the one found in Surnadal in 1994,” said Ringstad.
The grave was excavated the following year by archaeologists from NTNU in Trondheim and Møre og Romsdal county. Within the boat’s imprint, the team found fine weaponry including swords, spears, and arrows. The new find at Edøya is about the same size.
Edøya: A Viking Age powerhouse?
The discoveries strengthen the belief that Edøya was a centre of power during the Viking Age.
“Ship burial finds still belong to the rarities of Norwegian archaeology. In general, ship burials are reserved for the top layer in society, so the ship grave at Edøy is a clear proof of a local power elite,” added Paasche. He believes the house remains are not large enough to have been part of the chieftain’s seat, but could still represent parts of a larger farm structure.
The full report (only available in Norwegian) is available for download from NIKU here. Based on the results of the project, further archaeological investigations in and around the region are likely.
Norway couple find Viking grave under floor of their house
A Norwegian couple got quite the shock when renovating their old family house near Bodø in northern Norway this month.
After removing the floorboards and some sand with the intention to install insulation, the couple discovered several rocks. They continued digging and spotted something glittering in the light.
“It wasn’t until later that we realised what it could be,” Mariann Kristiansen from Seivåg near Bodø told Norway’s state broadcaster NRK of the find. “We first thought it was the wheel of a toy car.”
Naturally, they were curious, and then they saw something round glinting in the light. They knew that it had to be old because the house had been built in 1914 and the floorboards had not been moved since. The house has been in the same family for over a century.
After some further digging, the couple found an iron axe head and some other metallic objects, that were all obviously old. ‘It wasn’t until later that we realized what it could be” Mariann Kristiansen, one of the owners of the house, told The Local .
The couple contacted the local authorities and experts from the local Nordland county government came to inspect the finds. Martinus Hauglid told the couple that they had most likely found a grave from the Iron Age in Norway. This was the era when the Vikings ruled in Scandinavia and terrified most of the known world.
The archaeologist told The Local that the couple had found an “ax dated between 950 and 1050 AD”. The bead of glass, which was revealed to be blue dates from the same period.
It is believed that the stones found underneath the flooring came from a burial.
The stones were likely part of a cairn. In this type of burial, a mound of stones and rocks are erected over the deceased which was a very common burial practice in the Iron Age.
A number of similar cairns were found in the Lendbreen Mountain Pass in Norway when a glacier melted. This was an important trade route in the Middle Ages .
Martinus congratulated the couple on their find and stated that they had done a good job, by reporting things so soon. The archaeologist said that it was the first instance of a Viking grave being found under a private dwelling in his 30 year career.
Archaeologists have begun an investigation of the grave. Forbes reports that under Norwegian Law any human artifacts or “activity before 1537 are automatically preserved”. The items found by the couple have been transported to a museum for conservation and safekeeping.
End of the Viking Age
Martinus is quoted by Forbes as stating that the finds under the floorboards date back to a time “when Norway transitioned to Christianity to become one kingdom”. This was the time when kings like Olaf Tryggvason , attempted to dominate the many chiefdoms and create a centralized state.
Some of these monarchs sought to impose Christianity on the pagan Norse as part of their efforts at state-building and this led to many civil wars. The grave could help researchers to better understand this crucial period in Norwegian history which saw the demise of the Viking Age.
It appears that the original builders of the house, over a century ago, were not aware that they were building a private residence on a grave. It is quite possible that they unearthed items and simply discarded them. This raises the possibility that some Viking-era grave goods were lost or destroyed during the construction of the family home.
For the First Time in a Century, Norway Will Excavate Viking Ship Burial
Smithsonian Mag reports that Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, announced that the 65-foot Gjellestad ship will be excavated in order to protect what is left of it from being destroyed by fungus.
Archaeologists are racing against the clock to save the remains of a buried Viking ship from a ruthless foe: fungus.
If the project is successful, the 65-foot-long (20 meters) oak vessel — called the Gjellestad ship — will become the first Viking ship to be excavated in Norway in 115 years, said Sveinung Rotevatn, the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment.
“Norway has a very special responsibility safeguarding our Viking Age heritage,” Rotevatn told Live Science in an email. “Now, we are choosing to excavate in order to protect what remains of the find, and secure important knowledge about the Viking Age for future generations.”
The ship is buried at a well-known Viking archaeological site at Gjellestad, near Halden, a town in southeastern Norway. But scientists discovered the vessel only recently, in the fall of 2018, by using radar scans that can detect structures underground. The scans revealed not only the ship but also the Viking cemetery where it was ritually buried.
The team determined that the Gjellestad ship was built between the end of the eighth century and the beginning of the 10th century.
The vessel was likely made for traveling long distances at sea, said Sigrid Mannsåker Gundersen, an archaeologist with the Viken County Council.
At the time, archaeologists were hesitant to excavate the ship, because buried wet wood can be damaged when exposed to the open air, Live Science previously reported. After a test excavation in 2019, however, archaeologists learned that they would have to dig up the ship soon or lose it to decay.
The narrow trench they excavated showed that the ship was very decomposed. “Only the imprints of the planks — or ‘strakes’ — were left, together with the iron nails,” Mannsåker Gundersen told Live Science in an email. “The only part that was still solid wood was the keel.”
But even the keel is in bad shape; an analysis showed it is infected with fungus and very brittle, likely from periods of drought.
“To rescue whatever wood is left before it is too late, and to gain as much information about the ship and the grave as possible, it is important to excavate now,” Mannsåker Gundersen said.
Archaeologists hope to find some preserved wood, “but even if there are only smaller amounts of organic material left, the excavation will provide valuable information about the ship and the grave,” Mannsåker Gundersen said. “A lot can be made out of imprints, objects, and different analyses of the soils and materials left.”
The excavation is scheduled to start in June, barring any complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The process will begin with archaeologists stripping off the topsoil and then sieving that dirt, just in case it holds any archaeological treasures that were ploughed by farmers over the centuries.
Then, the team will set up a tent to protect the ship’s remains and begin removing the earth that filled the ship after its burial.
At the same time, the archaeologists will document every layer of the remaining wood and take 3D scans of it, said Christian Løchsen Rødsrud, an archaeologist at the Museum of Cultural History in Norway.
Some of the ship’s remains will be visible only as imprints in the ground; these will also be 3D-scanned, Løchsen Rødsrud told Live Science in an email.
“The wooden remains of the ship will have to be kept wet during excavation.” Later, the remaining wooden objects and ship parts will be preserved with polyethylene glycol — a substance that can give rotten wood solidity and strength, he added.
It’s likely that the ship was made both for sailing and rowing, “although we still don’t know for certain if it had a mast,” Mannsåker Gundersen said. “This is one of the questions we hope will be answered during the excavation this year.”