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Medieval and Viking-Age artifacts discovered in Norway

#Medieval and Viking-Age artifacts discovered in Norway

A very rare Byzantine coin is among dozens of medieval and Viking-era objects discovered in eastern Norway last year. Officials with Innlandet County Municipality have released details of items found by metal detectorists, including buckles, seals and pieces from swords.

Around 700 coins have now been found with by metal detectors in recent months – they date from the Roman period to 1650, with the most spectacular being a gold histamenon in excellent condition. Minted during the reigns of Basil II and Constantine VIII, sometime between 977 and 1025 AD, it shows the joint Byzantine emperors on one side and Jesus holding a book on the reverse.

Byzantine coin discovered in Norway -Photo by Martine Kaspersen, Innlandet county municipality

The coin was discovered along the beach of a lake in Vestre Slidre, a mountainous region in Norway. Officials plan to do a more extensive search of the area later this year. Other coin finds from the Middle Ages include:

Penny minted under Harald Hardrada (1047-1066)

Penny minted under Harald Hardråde (1047-1066), found in Dovre municipality. Photo by Cultural History Museum / Innlandet County Municipality

Coins minted by Harald Hardrada are the oldest Norwegian coins. It is green-coloured due to its high copper content. Many of its details are hard to see, but it does show a double cross with three points in two opposite cross angles.

Silver denarius, minted under Charles the Bald (840-867)

Silver denarius, minted under Karl the Skallede (840-867), found in Stange municipality. Photo by Frank Robert Ludvigsen / Innlandet County Municipality

On one side of the coin is ✠CARLVS REX FR. FR is short for FRANCORUM, i.e. King of the Franks. On the other side is the Frankish KRLS (Karolus) monogram in the middle. The coin also lists its mint site ✠METVLLO, which is the town of Melle in France, known for its silver mines and large-scale minting in the Viking Age.

Penny minted under Olav III (1066-93)

Penny minted under Olav Kyrre (1066-93), found in Hamar municipality. Photo by Øivind Moe / Innlandet County Municipality

This shows a helmeted king in the form of a bust to the left. He holds a cross sceptre. On the back one can see a double cross. The wording is difficult to decipher, but it is not unusual for the writing on earlier Norwegian coins to make no sense.

Volga-Bulgarian dirham

Volga-Bulgarian dirhem, found in Stange. Photo by Per-Arne Henriksen / Innlandet County Municipality

Some of the coins come from Asia and the edges of Europe. For example is this coin, which is an imitation of a dirhem. It was produced in the Volga-Bulgarian area, which was located in the east of the European part of Russia. Minted under Mikaìl b. Ja`far, it is dated to approximately the year 940. Interestingly, its last owner was using it as a pendant.

Penny minted under Eirik Magnusson (1280-1299)

Penny minted under Eirik Magnusson (1280-1299), found in Hamar municipality. Photo by Øivind Moe / Innlandet County Municipality

Discovered in Hamar municipality, the coin depicts on one side Norway’s national coat of arms and the inscription ✠ ERIC MAGN က REX က NORVEG. On the reverse there is a double cross with a lily in the cross angles. The inscription is : CRVX . SCA IhV . XPI : Crux Sancta Ihesu Christi (Holy Cross of Jesus Christ).

You can see more coins here.

Medieval objects found in the region

Pearl spreader

Pearl spreader found in Stange municipality. Photo by Ola Hågensen / Innlandet County Municipality

This object lacks clear parallels in the archaeological material. It is believed to be a pearl spreader – a link in a complicated necklace with pearls. At the bottom there have been three rings, but only one has been preserved. It likely dates from the Viking Age.

A combination Cross/Thor’s Hammer

Cross/thor hammer found in Ringsaker municipality. Photo by Kenny Hansen / Innlandet County Municipality

Dating from the end of the Viking Age, this item is very rare: Only three other such hammers/crosses have previously been found – one in Iceland and two in Norway.

Palmette fibula

Palmette fibula found in Ringsaker municipality. Photo by Vegard Høystad-Lunna / Innlandet County Municipality

This is a very rare find of a so-called palmette fibula. It is made of silver with niello and is gold-plated. The motif is the Tree of Life surrounded by snake-like animals. It dates to the last part of the Viking Age or High Middle Ages.

Sword fittings

Sword fittings found in Gran municipality. Photo by Tore Jøranlid / Innlandet County Municipality

Part of a sword fitting in silver, decorated with great animal ornamentation. The fitting was once part of the hilt for a sword. The animals on the decoration show that it originates from the Merovingian period (550–800 AD).

Limoges figure

Limoges figure found in Ringsaker municipality. Photo by Vegard Høystad-Lunna / Innlandet County Municipality

A figure showing the Virgin Mary, it was found near the ruins of a medieval church. Dating from the High Middle Ages, it was produced in Limoges in France and originally sat on a cross or a saint’s casket.

Monastic Seal stamp

Seal stamp found in Ringsaker municipality – photo by Kenny Hansen / Innlandet County Municipality

Seal stamp from the Gråbrøder monastery (1239–1532) in Kalundborg, Denmark. Pointed oval shape 4.2 x 2.6 cm and 2.5 mm thick. At the top of the back there is an eye to thread a cord through. The seal stamp has been damaged in that the upper part to which the eye is attached has been broken off. This part is soldered on using silver.

On the front, a monk is depicted with a chalice on an altar. This motif is framed by a stylized church. Along the edges is written: S(igillum) fr(atrv)m minorvm Kalendeborg, which translates to “Seal for the Little Brothers in Kalundborg”.

You can see more objects here.

Iron Ingots

Perhaps a thousand years ago, these iron ingots were buried to hide them for later. Photo by Mildri Een Eide / Innlandet County Municipality

Another find reported to officials in Innlandet County is a set of 32 Viking-Age iron ingots. However, these were actually found back in the 1980s. They were then forgotten until Grete Margot Sørum came across them while cleaning her parents’ house.

The ingots have now been sent off to the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo for further study. Anne Engesveen, an archeologist for Innlandet County Municipality, comments, “Old finds that are handed in to the archaeologists provide new knowledge about the history of the Inland, so a big thank you to Grete Margot Sørum.”

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