Jan 10, 2007
Gilded glass beads found in the dig. Photo: Jonas Haarr Friestad (Click for larger image)
The unseasonably warm weather might make meteorologists, climate researchers, and even the odd man and woman on the street a tad nervous. But field archaeologists, digging through what would normally be frozen solid earth covered in a thick layer of snow in the middle of the Norwegian winter, might be excused for thanking God, or Odin (http://bitsofnews.com/images/graphics/odin_large.jpg), the king of the old Norse gods, for the helping hand.
On the second of January, scientists from the archaeological museum in Stavanger, Norway made a major discovery of what is believed to be a Viking burial site at Frøyland in the western parts of Norway. The grave sites excavated so far date back to the 8th and 9th century and are very well preserved.
When the scientists started the excavations a week ago they didn't need to dig to deep before they uncovered three graves not far apart.
In one of the three graves, a noble woman's grave, the archaeologists found amongst other things four pieces of jewellery, pearls, gilded glass beads, a knife and and a number of other household utensils.
"I'm surprised, no shocked and I have never seen anything like it in my 28 years as an excavator," said the senior archaeologist, Olle Hemsdorff, working at the site. "The very size, quality and craftsmanship of these jewelleries are stunning," he continued.
So far more than 100 items have been unearthed and carefully brought to the Archaeological Museum in Stavanger for registration and further processing. Amongst those items was a brooch made of bronze with bear heads at each end and a bowl shaped brooch for women from the Merovingian times, usually worn in pairs to fasten an over-dress or apron.
Some of the items, when they were lifted from the ground, even had traces of textiles, from the clothing they had originally been fastened to, which is highly unusual. Due to the high acidity in the soil in the western part of Norway, most perishable substances dissolve rather rapidly in the ground, leaving only the materials least prone to decay and corrode
Many of the most eye-catching finds were made by volunteers from the local metal detectorist club (http://www.rygenedetektorklubb.com/). More often than not, the relationship between archaeologists and detectorists is a tad strained. Detectorists have been accused, and some times justly so, of going rogue with their equipment and a shovel, and digging a "test-pit" or two under cover of darkness.
It was also discovered that the grave site was littered with rivets, of the sort used to hold together the planks in the hull of Viking ships, showing that this was a boat burial, where the deceased was placed in a boat pulled ashore and covered with a mound. Hemdorff said they're expecting to make more find in the days ahead.
The archaeologists were originally looking for bronze and iron age remains, when they stumbled upon the graves.
The finds were made in Frøyland, in Time, in the shire of Rogaland, about twenty kilometres south of the city of Stavanger, and ten kilometres from the coast. The name of the estate, Frøyland, is undoubtedly based on the name of the Norse god Frøy (Frey), a fertility god, and the brother of Frøya (Freya) the goddess of love.
A stone phallic symbol had been removed from the farm in the past. And the museum is now frantically searching for clues as to its whereabouts.
So far they have found three graves, that of the woman, a man, buried with his spear by his side, and a child. The two first graves were both boat burials. The site had once been marked with a mound, since removed. But despite more than 105 years of ploughing, the graves themselves seem to be intact.
Early last century there were reports that locals had found and removed axes, swords, pot-shards and the skeletal remains of both humans and horses. But the archaeologists are hopeful there are more finds yet to be made in the area.