by Rupert Millar
Norwegian archaeologists on a recent dig were delighted to find that instead of the expected ‘brewing stones’ at a Viking site they had evidence of Norway’s links to the Celtic Dark Age.
The team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) University Museum were digging at Byneset Cemetary next to the medieval Steine Church near Trondheim when the artifacts were uncovered.

The archaeologists had been called in to assess the area before the cemetery was expanded, as is required under Norway’s cultural heritage laws, as it is known that there used to be a large farm estate in the area near the church in the 8th and 9th centuries AD.

The team was apparently expecting to find ample evidence of Viking era ‘brewing stones’ that are often found in great abundance in rural areas but came up with some far more prized items instead.

The chief find was the silver, gold-plated fitting almost certainly from a book that, judging by its design, is highly likely to have been from a Celtic area – possibly Ireland.

Quite how the book got to Norway is open to question. Although much is made in more modern times of the more peaceful, trade-inclined ways of the Dark Age Scandinavians, their propensity for violent and bloody pillaging is no myth.

Raymond Sauvage from NTNU’s Department of Archaeolgy and Cultural History, commented: “We know that the Vikings went out on raids. They went to Ireland and brought things back. But how peacefully it all transpired, I won’t venture to say.”

Also uncovered at the site were a key, a belt buckle and a knife. Along with other finds at the dig, the status of the farm and its owner is now thought to have been rather considerable because, said Sauvage: “You don’t make discoveries like this everywhere. There are only a few areas where people had the resources to go out on such voyages.”

Furthermore, the digging has brought up finds from before the height of the Viking Age (roughly 780AD-980AD) pointing to an occupation and use of the farm for longer than previously thought.

“We started the project with slightly lower hopes for what we might find than what’s recently emerged,” said museum director Reidar Andersen.

Brewing stones

Many Viking sites are absolutely covered – in some areas as much as a metre deep – in small, fire darkened stones that are commonly found with animal bones in old refuse pits.