A Norwegian archaeology student has found a remote Viking settlement that will change the history of Viking Age Norway. The intrepid discoverer, Tor-Kjetil Krokmyrdal, is a Norwegian master ’s student from the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) who recently published details of his unexpected discovery of a Viking trading station in his archaeology master ’s thesis. The student’s paper specifically reveals the location of a previously unknown Viking trading station at Sandtorg farm in Tjelsund, between the towns of Harstad and Narvik in northern Norway.
According to Science Norway , the investigative student explored the ancient site and discovered jewelry, coins, and pieces of silver used for payment, along with many objects imported from the British Isles and Finland, Arabic coins and Asian jewelry, which together are causing professors of Norwegian archaeology to “rethink Viking activity in northern Norway.”
Viking Traders of the Far North
Norwegian archaeologists knew there was concentrated Viking fishing and agricultural activity in the north of Norway amidst the dramatic mountains surrounding the power centers on the islands of Lofoten, an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, in northern Norway. But the discovery of these Viking objects much further east, dating to the early years of the Viking Age around the 9th century, suggests the Viking Age in northern Norway was much more extensive, and older, than researchers had previously believed.
According to a Forbes report, archaeologist Marte Spangen , who supervised Krokmyrdal’s thesis research, says that her student’s discoveries make Sandtorg the oldest trading place to have been found to date in the north of the country. This means that from now on researchers must “rethink how societies and trade functioned in this region in the Viking Age and the Early Middle Ages.”
A Curiosity-Inspired Investigation
Krokmyrdal’s search for the lost Viking site was inspired by his curiousity as to why the site was named “Sandtorg.” In Norwegian the suffix “-torg” means market or trading place, but no records exist of such a place at that location. The student’s early research had taken him to a dead end. However, after his research determined that this particular section of land was submerged during the Viking Age he changed his tactics, and with his trusty metal detector in hand he quickly began discovering Viking Age artifacts.
Science Nordic reports that the Viking farm is located near strong sea currents, which means that the location might have served Vikings as a natural resting place, and it is highly possible that this was a prized shipping lane controlled by a local chieftain. Krokmyrdal speculates that that local chieftains would have charged tariffs to docking ships and might have taxed the traders. However, the student explains that these theories require further investigation.
Mapping the Legacy of the Northernmost Norsemen
After leaving their homelands in the 790s, at the beginning of the Viking Age, Viking traders explored west as far as Newfoundland in the New World, East to the Volga River and down as far as Constantinople in the south. However, when longships filled with Viking explorers left Norway they didn’t all just go raiding, looting and pillaging, as pop-culture would have you believe. Many of them set out to discover and open new trade routes to establish alternative sources of income for the generations to come.
It will take more archeological research in the remote northern territories of Norway to find conclusive evidence, but it looks like these ancient oceanic traders were perhaps shipping furs, amber, iron and walrus tusks back and forth between the far north of their own territory and other Viking trading centers in Norway. Having capitalized on their own northern intercostal shipping lanes, thanks to Viking trading stations such as this one, in the decades to come the sons of the builders of Sandtorg set out and populated Ireland, Scotland, England, France and the New World, making this an important discovery for the history of rise of the Vikings.
Top image: Artifacts discovered by Tor-Kjetil Krokmyrdal at Sandtorg farm, believed to have once been a Viking trading station, include objects of Eastern origin (on the left) and from the British Isles (on the right). Source: Julie Holme Damman, The Arctic University Museum of Norway and Tor-Ketil Krokmyrdal .
By Ashley Cowie