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Representative image shows the reconstruction of a Viking Hall at Lofotr Viking museum, Borg, Norway. Source: Jon Olav Eikenes/CC BY 2.0

Harald Bluetooth Era Viking Hall Discovered in Denmark

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When archaeologists in Denmark identified the foundations of a huge Viking hall they knew they’d hit archaeological paydirt. But they didn’t expect that this building would be the largest Viking hall discovered in over a decade.

Archaeologists at North Jutland Museums have announced their discovery of a huge Viking hall. Excavation leader and archaeologist from the museums, Thomas Rune Knudsen, said the discovery of this large Viking hall was made while a detached house plot was being subdivided.

According to a report in The Viking Herald, a rune stone located nearby in Hune Kirke is dated to the late 10th century AD. At this time, Harald Blåtand "Bluetooth" Gormsson was King of Denmark and Norway (c. 958 – c. 986) and he famously introduced Christianity to Denmark. The rune stone speaks of a local ruler called Runulv den Rådsnilde, and it’s thought the huge hall probably belonged to this vassal of King Bluetooth.

The site in North Jutland where the Viking hall is being excavated. (Nordjyske Museum)

More To Be Discovered Beneath Mulch

Knudsen said this discovery represents “the largest” Viking Age hall discovered in Denmark in more than a decade. Furthermore, he added that the site archaeologists “have not seen anything like it before” in North Jutland. Measuring about 40 meters (131 ft) long and 8-10 meters (26.24 to 32.80 ft) wide, the roof of this “prestigious hall” was supported by 10-12 rectangular oak posts measuring up to 90×50 centimeters (35.5 x 20 in) across.

Being so voluminous, the archaeologists suspect that not only did the hall serve as a place for carrying out day to day agricultural functions, but it was probably also a gathering place “for political meetings and large Viking guilds (get-togethers)" according to the archaeologist. And, the building has so far only been partially excavated, said Knudsen, who suspects there are “several houses hidden under the mulch to the east”.

This runestone at nearby Hune Kirke has been dated to 970-1020. (Nordjyske Museum)

Reading Ancient Carved Stone History Books

Near Hune, in the grounds of Hune Kirke (church), a rune stone dated to 970 AD - 1020 AD (Late Viking Age) measures one and a half meters (5 ft) high and reads "Hove, Thorkild, Thorbjørn set their father Runulv den Rådnilde's stone." Knudsen said the rune stone and hall represent “the same social class and both belong to society's elite." According to the museum the long hall is thought to have belonged to Viking Runulv den Rådsnilde's family.

The design of the building is similar to King Harald Blåtand's ring castles, including Fyrkat at Hobro and Aggersborg at Aggersund, and for this reason the hall has been provisionally dated to the late 9th century/early the 11th century. But while the archaeologists currently ‘believe’ the hall belonged to the family of Viking Runulv den Rådsnilde, this is based only on the presence of the rune stone nearby.

Aiming To Put Rådsnilde's Meeting Hall In Context

Next year, the second half of the hall will be excavated and plans are being made to remove a section of turf for radiocarbon dating, which will effectively pin down exactly when this building was in use. But to get a better picture of what this hall might have looked like when functional in the Late Viking period you might look towards the recreated Viking hall on Borghøyden heights in Norway.

According to the Lofotr Museum, between 1983 and 1989 a major joint Nordic excavation project was carried out on Borghøyden heights which discovered “a chieftain’s seat from the early Iron Age.” Buried among the remains of several ancient buildings the main excavation site, Borg I (the Chieftain’s House) and Borg II (buildings from the 1000s), were both excavated and mapped.

The Largest and Longest Viking Hall On Record

In the 1980s, Borg 1 “The Chieftain House” was described as “the largest” Viking hall ever to be found from the Viking period. This vast place of gathering measures 83 meters (272 ft) long and 9.5 meters (31 ft) wide, and the reconstructed building is 9 meters (30 ft) high representing “the longest Viking Age building ever found”.

At this site in 2009 and 2010, a large cooking pit site was uncovered dating back to between 400 BC to 700 AD, determining that this Viking seat was a center of regional power back in the Iron Age. Considering this hall at Borg, archaeologists at Runulv den Rådsnilde’s farm hall must be excited about next year's excavations, as they too might dig up earlier Iron Age artifacts.

Top image: Representative image shows the reconstruction of a Viking Hall at Lofotr Viking museum, Borg, Norway. Source: Jon Olav Eikenes/CC BY 2.0

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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