Archaeologists Find Evidence of an Ancient Trading Site from Norse Legends
Archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Museum have found an ancient silver button and set of balance scales along with other artefacts during an excavation in mid-Norway, possible solving a centuries-old mystery about a Viking-age trading area mentioned in Norse Sagas. It looks like another case of ancient myths and legends being based on real events and places of our past.
The incredible discovery was made at two separate boat graves in an area in Nord-Trøndelag County. Archaeologists were hunting for signs of the ancient trading centre depicted in the Sagas before works to expand Norway’s main north-south highway got underway, when they found a series of artefacts including beads, swords and imported jewellery, all of which help to suggest that the area was home to a major trading place.
The silver button made of braided silver threads appears to have originated in the British Isles, suggesting that the person in the grave had a high status. The unique construction of the balance scales also suggests that it came from the west – not from Norway, and naturally suggest trading activity.
“These finds got us thinking about the descriptions in the Sagas that describe Steinkjer as a trading place,” the researchers wrote of their findings in Vitark, an academic journal published by the University Museum. “The Sagas say that Steinkjer, under the rule of Eirik Jarl, was briefly even more important than Nidaros, before Olav Haraldsson re-established Nidaros as the king’s residence and trading city.”
Nidaros, now the modern city of Trondheim, was Norway’s capital during Viking times and played an important role in international trade throughout the Middle Ages. But it was in the Norse Sagas that mention was made of a major trading place in Steinkjer that was even larger than Nidaros.
Another clue that archaeologists may have stumbled across the mythological trading city was the fact that 254 amber beads – a commonly traded item – have been found throughout the area of Steinkjer. Twenty-two examples of a special kind of Viking-age sword associated with trade were also found in Steinkjer, the most of any area in Nord-Trøndelag. All of these concentrations of finds support the location of a major trading place in Steinkjer as mentioned in the Norse sagas.
It is remarkable that despite numerous archaeological discoveries revealing that the so-called myths of our ancestors were based on reality, we continue to look back at these ancient legends as mere fairy tales.