Home Renovations in Norway Unearth Viking Burial

A local couple found an iron axe head and glass bead that archaeologists say may date to the ninth century

Viking burial
Experts are now conducting a full excavation of the property. Nordland County Council

A Norwegian couple’s home renovations have revealed what archaeologists suspect is a 1,000-year-old Viking grave, reports David Nikel for Forbes.

The pair were pulling up the floorboards of their house near Bodø in northern Norway when they discovered a glass bead, an axe head and several other iron objects, report Preben Hunstad and Sondre Skjelvik for local newspaper Bodø Nu.

Experts recruited to identify the artifacts dated them to the ninth century A.D.—close to the beginning of the Viking Age, which lasted from roughly 800 to 1100 A.D. At the time, Norway was beginning to adopt Christianity and become a unified kingdom, Nordland County archaeologist Martinus Hauglid tells Bodø Nu.

The Vikings were a war-like, seafaring Scandinavian people known for raiding and pillaging sites across Europe, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Also called Norseman or Northman, the Vikings were mostly Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.

Mariann Kristiansen and her partner discovered the glass bead after removing dirt and sand from beneath their floorboards. Kristiansen tells Truls Naas of Norwegian broadcast station TV 2 that her partner initially thought the bead was part of a toy.

“It wasn’t until later that we realized what it could be,” says Kristiansen to Andreas Nilsen Trygstad and Benjamin Fredriksen of Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. “We first thought it was the wheel of a toy car.”

Once the couple realized the significance of their find, they phoned local authorities. Archaeologists from the nearby Tromsø Museum arrived to investigate the next day, reports Forbes. If the artifacts are definitively dated to the ninth century, they will be automatically preserved, as Norwegian law mandates the safeguarding of any artifacts or monuments that show traces of human activity prior to 1537.

Hauglid tells the Local that the iron axe head likely dates to between 950 and 1050 A.D. The dark-blue glass bead is likely just as old. The couple found the array of 1,000-year-old funerary items beneath stones that “probably represent a cairn,” or mound of stones erected as a memorial or landmark, says Hauglid.

The house-turned-archaeological site is now being fully excavated; the glass bead and iron artifacts have already been taken to the University of Tromsø for closer inspection, according to Forbes.

Viking burial sites are not uncommon in Norway, but as University of Tromsø archaeologist Jørn Erik Henriksen tells NRK, “This is the first time I have experienced … something like this [that] appears under a house.”

Excavations have already yielded several new artifacts, including unidentified bones and an iron arrowhead. Henriksen tells NRK that he thinks the site may be a “waste pit” of the type often found near Iron Age burial mounds.

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