Homeowners in Setesdal, southern Norway, have discovered Viking warrior burial in the backyard. Oddbjørn Holum Heiland was digging a bit to start building an extension he and his wife Ann are planning to build when he came across an oblong rock just under the grass and topsoil. He continued walking, and in the next bucket full of topsoil, he noticed an iron object that looked very much like a sword. Because it was the blade of a sword. When he poured the earth out of the ladle, the hilt of his sword fell out of him. A little Google search revealed that the shape of the sword suggests that it was made by the Vikings.
Heiland stopped digging and alerted the county to his potential find. The next day, district archaeologist Joakim Wintervoll and Jo-Simon Frøshaug Stokke from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo came to see the sword in person. They confirmed that it was a Viking and that Heiland probably dug up the tomb in his backyard.
The two parts of the sword found make up a sword 70 cm long, and the blade is 5 cm wide at its widest point.
“But the hilt tells us it’s a Viking Age sword,” explains Winterwall.
The hilt of the sword is a fashion item, and the style of the hilt found in Setesdal places it around the late 800s and early 900s.
“We have dates of different styles of hilts from year zero, so we have a pretty good idea of how these hilts changed from the Early Iron Age to the Middle Ages,” Winterwall says.
The house dates from 1740, so the grave was hidden under a few inches of turf for a thousand years and complete accident, the construction of the house just missed. The grave also contains a spear, gilded glass beads, a brooch and a belt buckle, which was probably also originally gilded. This is an undamaged complete collection of luxury inventory. The buried must have had a high status. There is no evidence that the grave was ever a mound, but the large oblong stone that covered the grave may have been standing initially, but later collapsed. In this case, it would be clearly visible against the background of the landscape. If it had been intentionally laid horizontally as a tombstone, its location would have been of great importance to the people living there at the time.
Previously, only 100-150 meters from the grave there was a group of small farms. According to the archaeologist, it is reasonable to assume that these farms existed at that time, and maybe even earlier.
“As we see, you bury those who owned the land next to the farm, and often in a place that is clearly visible from nearby roads. Then the people passing by will see the grave and know that the people living here have ancestors who have lived here for a long time. These are our relatives; we claim this land and have done so for generations. This is the function of the visible grave,” says Stokke.
No human remains have yet been found and archaeologists are not hopeful they will find them when excavations resume next week, especially since cremation was common at the time and only fragments of charred bones, if anything, can be found today.