Category Archives: NORWAY

Archaeologists Uncover One of the Largest Viking Longhouses in Scandinavia

Archaeologists Uncover One of the Largest Viking Longhouses in Scandinavia

Using ground-penetrating radar, scientists were able to find the Iron Age settlement and learn more about its place in Viking culture

An aerial shot shows of the site where the Viking longhouse was discovered.

Not far from where a Viking ship was unearthed in Norway three years ago, archaeologists have located one of the largest Viking longhouses ever discovered in Scandinavia, reports the Associated Press (AP). The buried structure is nearly 200 feet long and 50 feet wide.

Using ground-penetrating radar, a team led by Lars Gustavsen of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) detected the longhouse along with a cluster of others in Gjellestad, about 50 miles southeast of Oslo.

“We have found several buildings, all typical Iron Age longhouses, north of the Gjellestad ship,” says Gustavsen in “The most striking discovery is a 60-meter-long and 15-meter-wide longhouse, a size that makes it one of the largest we know of in Scandinavia.”

An archaeological team headed by Lars Gustavsen of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) has discovered what may be the largest ever Viking longhouse built in Scandinavia.

The longhouses—large communal structures commonly featured in Viking settlements—are part of what is believed to be a larger community established in the Iron Age, which dates from around 1200 to 600 B.C.E. Archaeologists found a total of five longhouses of varying sizes while using ground-penetrating radar to map the ancient village, writes Shanti Escalante-De Mattei for .

“We do not know how old the houses are or what function they had,” says Sigrid Mannsåker Gundersen, one of the archaeologists on the team, in the same statement. “Archaeological excavations and dating will help us get an answer to this.”

An earlier survey found a 130-foot-long building that may have been used for ancient rituals or as a feasting hall, reported Ida Irene Bergstrøm of Science Norway in 2022.

Researchers believe the presence of the large longhouse could indicate how wealthy and important Gjellestad was during the Viking era. They also discovered several plowed-over burial mounds in farm fields just north of the site.

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

Located next to a large fjord, Gjellestad may have been an important base of operations for early Vikings. In the 2022 Science Norway article, archaeologist Camilla Cecilie Wenn said the region appears to have been a significant site of power.

“It’s really exciting to do a dig, one house, one ship,” said Wenn, leader of the Gjellestad excavation team. “But it’s when you see it all in a bigger context that society starts to appear.

“When you see the Gjellestad Viking ship in a wider frame, you can start appreciating the site as an important place of power for the Viking region, and not least on a national scale,” she said. “Only a handful of places in Norway are comparable.”

Gustavsen and his team plan to continue their research of the site in hopes of learning more about its importance, including how significant the village was to Viking development.

“Finding these longhouses confirms that Gjellestad was a central place in the late Iron Age,” he says in the statement. “Our hope is that within the next years, we will understand the relationship between the ship, the buildings and the rise of central places much better.”

Melting Ice Has Uncovered Hundreds of Ancient Viking Artifacts and a Previously Unknown Trade Route in Norway

Melting Ice Has Uncovered Hundreds of Ancient Viking Artifacts and a Previously Unknown Trade Route in Norway

A trove of Viking artifacts have come to light thanks to a warming climate, proving that a mountain pass served as an important trade network.

Members of the Secrets of the Ice team surveying the Lendbreen pass

A trove of about 800 Viking artifacts, some frozen in an icy mountain range in Norway for more than 1,000 years, have come to light as a result of global warming.

The revelations prove that the mountain pass served as an important part of a trade network with the rest of the Viking world and that it was likely used to transport goods such as cheese, butter, reindeer pelts, and antlers between farms.

“The Viking age is one of small-scale globalization: They’re sourcing raw materials from all over,” Søren Michael Sindbæk, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, who was not involved in the study, told Science. “This is the first site where we have good chronology and the finds to illustrate that.”

In a melted ice patch on the mountain slopes of Norway’s Innlandet County, archaeologists found a leather shoe, a woolen mitten, and a tunic. There were also feathered arrowheads, horseshoes—and a horse snowshoe—walking sticks, a piece of a sled, kitchen utensils, and even droppings from Viking packhorses.

Along the path they found stone cairns that would have marked the way, with a stone shelter built near the top of the ice patch. Collectively, these artifacts suggest that travelers were commonplace in the mountains, despite their remoteness and the harsh weather conditions.

Horseshoe from the 11th to mid-13th century, found at Lendbreen in 2022.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but high mountains sometimes did serve as major communications routes, instead of major barriers,” study co-author James Barrett told Science. “It’s easy to travel at high elevations, once you get up there and there’s snow on the ground.”

The discoveries are part of the burgeoning field of glacial archaeology, made possible as climate change shrinks ice flows around the world. Norway’s Glacier Archaeology Program, led by Innlandet County Council and the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo, began research in the area in 2022, joining similar programs in other countries in researching the field.

The Norwegian “Secrets of the Ice” findings were published last week in the scientific journal Antiquity. The paper declared the Lendbreen ice patch on the Lomseggen ridge, which has been melting rapidly since 2022, to be the “first such ice site discovered in Northern Europe.” Previous finds of a similar nature had only been made in the Alps.

An archaeologist with one of the stone cairns marking the mountain pass at Lendbreen. The light-colored rocks in the background were covered with snow and ice until recently.

“Past travelers left behind lots of artifacts, frozen in time by the ice,” wrote the lead archaeologist, Lars Pilø, on the project website.

“These artifacts can tell us when people traveled, when travel was at its most intense, why people traveled across the mountains and even who the travelers were.”

“It was clearly a route of special significance,” the journal noted. The pass was in use between the years 300 and 1500 AD, and most active around the year 1000. Its use declined with the Little Ice Age, around 1300, and the Black Death, around 1400.

The Lendbreen tunic, which dates to the year 300, is the oldest piece of clothing ever found in Norway.

The first major evidence that humans ventured across inhospitable mountain passes was the discovery of Ötzi the Tyrolean Iceman in the Italian Alps in 1991. The snow and ice had preserved the man’s body for 5,300 years, allowing scientists to study the bacteria in his gut. What they found helped track the movements of pathogens, and by extension, human migration.

The find “really flipped a switch,” Stephanie Rogers, a geoscientist at Auburn University, told the New York Times. “What was that person doing up there?… if we found something in this place, we are going to find something in other places.”