20 April 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists may have Found a Viking Age Marketplace in Norway

Archaeologists from the University of Stavanger have identified the possible remains of a marketplace from the Viking Age on a Norwegian farm.

The farm is located at Utstein on the island of Klosterøy, which lies off the southwestern coast of the nestled off the southwestern coast of Norway. The 1.7-square-kilometer island lies on the south side of the Boknafjorden in the Rennesøy island group.

A picturesque island Klosterøy is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to Norway’s best-preserved medieval monastery, among other attractions.

In September 2023, the team conducted surveys using state-of-the-art ground-penetrating radar technology, and they found strong evidence of human activity beneath the surface of the island. The scan results revealed the presence of several man-made structures, including pit houses and the foundations of three piers or boathouses, suggesting a bustling hub of commerce and trade during the Viking Age.

The radar surveys, conducted as part of the “Power’s Harbor” research project, were spearheaded by Professor Håkon Reiersen and his team from the Museum of Archaeology.

The archaeologists drive over a possible pit house. Photo: Grethe M. Pedersen, AM, UiS
The archaeologists drive over a possible pit house. Photo: Grethe M. Pedersen, AM, UiS

Metal detector sweeps revealed additional evidence, including artifacts such as coins and weights commonly used in trade. This discovery would be a unique archaeological breakthrough for the region if confirmed.

Kristoffer Hillesland from the University of Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology, highlighted the prevalence of pit houses across Scandinavia during the Viking Age, often serving as workshops for craftsmanship.

 Pit houses, with floors excavated below ground level, were common throughout Europe, especially in Scandinavia and Iceland. Experts believe these structures, equipped with chimney vents, served as artisanal workshops, providing relief from the summer heat and winter cold.

The case for a long-standing marketplace at Utstein became stronger when it was combined with evidence from metal detectors and other cultural sites.

These results, which were examined by archaeologists and specialists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, emphasized the necessity of more investigation.

Grethe Moéll Pedersen, an archaeologist involved in the project, said: “While many indicators suggest that this may be a marketplace, we cannot be 100 percent certain until further investigations are conducted in the area to verify the findings.”

University of Stavanger

Cover Photo: The Georadar car passes over the Utstein Gard field in Klosterøy. Photo: Grethe M. Pedersen, AM, UiS

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