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Artifacts unearthed at the site include jewelry, coins and pieces of silver.
By Alex Fox
A graduate archaeology student has discovered a previously unknown Viking trading post in northern Norway, report Torgeir Skeie and Laila Lanes for Norwegian broadcast network NRK.
As detailed in his newly published master’s thesis, Tor-Ketil Krokmyrdal of the University of Tromsø—the Arctic University of Norway used a metal detector to locate objects dated back to the Viking Age at the Sandtorg farm in Tjelsund, located between Harstad and Narvik. Per David Nikel of Forbes, the artifacts include jewelry, coins and pieces of silver used as currency, as well as objects likely imported from the British Isles, Finland and mainland Europe.
The array of items suggests the Sandtorg site was once an important site for the exchange of goods, making it the first Viking-era trading hub ever found in northern Norway, according to NRK.
Prior research has established that Vågan, a municipality in the nearby district of Lofoten, was a key economic center during the medieval period, but the newly uncovered artifacts indicate that extensive trade occurred in Sandtorg as early as the ninth century A.D. Located near a powerful ocean current, the village would have been a logical destination for nautical voyages.
“The location is … very strategic in terms of trade,” says Krokmyrdal in a statement. “The current at Sandtorg is really strong, and all the travelers would have to wait until the current turned before they could continue their journey.”
Krokmyrdal decided to pursue archaeology after his hobby of combing the countryside with a metal detector began turning up intriguing finds. His investigation of the Sandtorg farm came down to its name: The Norwegian suffix –torg means market or trading place, notes Forbes, but no records or previously unearthed archaeological evidence pointed toward the existence of a trading post at the site.
The Sandtorg farm near Tjeldsund in northern Norway. New archaeological studies of the site suggest it was an early Viking trading post. (Tor-Ketil Krokmyrdal)Initial searches proved fruitless, but Krokmyrdal’s luck changed when he realized the areas in which he was concentrating his efforts would have been underwater during the Viking Age, per the statement. Once he shifted focus to higher ground, the finds came quickly.An Asian decoration worn on a belt or a strap and Arabic coins were among the most exciting discoveries, Krokmyrdal tells NRK.
In addition to these far-flung finds, the metal detector survey yielded large quantities of iron that suggest metalwork was conducted at the site. The graduate student also posits that the Vikings may have built or repaired boats and ships at Sandtorg.
“This discovery means that from now on, researchers need to rethink how societies and trade functioned in this region in the Viking Age and the Early Middle Ages,” says Krokmyrdal’s thesis advisor, archaeologist Marte Spangen, in the statement.
This article was originally published in Smithsonian Magazine on July 24, 2020.