Exciting finds involving buried Viking artifacts have been unearthed in Scandinavia in recent weeks.
In the Danish town of Hune, a Viking hall was found earlier this week that may have belonged to nobility during the reign of Harald Blåtand “Bluetooth” Gormsson, king of Denmark and Norway, announced the North Jutland Museums (NJM) archaeology department.
“We only had the opportunity to excavate part of the hall, but there are probably several houses hidden under the mulch to the east. A hall building of this nature rarely stands alone,” said Thomas Rune Knudsen, excavation leader and archaeologist at NJM (translation via Google Translate).
The structure can be tentatively dated to the late Viking Age, Knudsen said, as early as the 9th century or as late as the start of the 11th century, as it is designed similarly to the ring fortresses of King Bluetooth, who ruled circa A.D. 958–986.
NJM speculates that the hall belonged to the Viking family of Runulv den Rådsnilde, a local nobleman under Bluetooth. If so, it is likely that this site once housed one of the region’s most substantial families from the Viking Age.
The potential connection to Rådsnilde stems from the previous discovery nearby of a rune stone that was dedicated to the nobleman. The rune stone was dated to the late 10th century A.D., when Bluetooth was king.
“It is difficult to prove that the found Viking hall belonged to the family of Runulv den Rådsnilde, but it is certainly a possibility,” Knudsen said. “If nothing else, the rune stone and hall represent the same social class, and both belong to society’s elite.”
The hall featured a roof supported by 10 to 12 oak pillars and measured up to 130 feet long by about 28 to 30 feet across.
Knudsen said the structure was a prestigious building intended for more than everyday use, theorizing that it was probably where important Viking guilds and political groups got together.
“This is the largest Viking Age find of this nature in more than 10 years,” Knudsen added. “We have not seen anything like it before here in North Jutland, even though it has only been partially excavated.”
Digging on the Viking hall is expected to resume when weather permits.
The grave, found beneath a plot of land slated for home construction, contained Viking artifacts believed to be over 1,200 years old. The items included a Celtic brooch, a sickle, knives, and horse tack such as a bell and a possible bridle, according to Silje Hauge, an Oslo archaeologist at Byantikvaren, the city’s antiquities authority.
Archaeologists speculate the items were likely buried along with the ashes of the deceased under a large wooden shield in the 8th century.
“This kind of cape brooch was used by men. Along with the discovery of a shield boss it suggests that the deceased was a man,” Zanette Tsigaridas Glørstad, an archaeologist and associate professor at the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History, told Science Norway.
A “shield boss” is a metal piece in the center of a wooden shield. Although the wood of a shield often disintegrates over time, the round metal shield boss usually remains.
Vikings customarily cremated their deceased on a bonfire. Glørstad said no unburnt bones were found, meaning no DNA can be derived from the remains, so only time will tell what information researchers are able to determine from them about the deceased.
Approximately 60 graves with remains dating to the Viking Age have been found in Oslo. However, the majority were uncovered around 1900 when the town expanded, and Glørstad said this is the first artifact-filled grave to have been excavated by building crews rather than archaeologists.
Note: This article was updated on January 3, 2023, to include additional information.