In the case of Goran Olsen, a Norwegian hiking in Haukeli, on the border of Telemark and Hordaland, an outdoorsman’s paradise in a country that has plenty of them, what was under the rocks was this sword.
CNN reports that he:
…stumbled across a 1,200-year-old Viking sword while walking an ancient route.
The find, which dates from approximately 750 A.D. and is in exceptionally good condition, was announced by Hordaland County Council.
County Conservator Per Morten Ekerhovd described the discovery as “quite extraordinary.”
“It’s quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking age that are so well-preserved … it might be used today if you sharpened the edge,” he told CNN.
Outdoorsman Goran Olsen made the unusual find when he stopped for a rest in Haukeli, an area known for fishing and hunting about 150 miles (250 kms) west of capital, Oslo.
The rusted weapon was lying under some rocks on a well-known path across a high mountain plateau, which runs between western and eastern Norway.
This story seems almost too good to be true. How many hikers, hunters, and outdoors lovers must have trod that Viking path? The Viking roads, which traveled the mountains the hard way, from crest to crest, are well known to (and widely enjoyed by) today’s Norwegians. Mr Ekerhovd thought that the sword was so well-preserved because the area alternates with being snow-covered for six months and rather dry for the rest of the year. He could only speculate on the sword’s provenance. Did it belong to a fallen traveler, taken by accident, disease or weather? Or was it somehow uprooted from a Viking burial site (they didn’t all go out to sea in flaming ships, or the museums of Norway would be missing many of their most fascinating artifacts)? It’s unlikely anyone will ever know.
Which is almost as unlikely as finding the sword in the first place.
The sword, which was found without a handle, is just over 30 inches long (77 centimeters) and made of wrought iron. From its type, archaeologists estimate it to be from around 750 A.D. — making it approximately 1,265 years old — but warn that this is not an exact date.
Swords like this were status symbols in Viking times because of the high cost of extracting iron, Ekerhovd said, and it’s likely this blade would have belonged to a wealthy individual.
Haukeli is nearly at (just west of) the geographic center of a triangle with vertices at Bergen, Oslo, and Stavanger. In the Medieval Warm Period the Viking chiefs saw their greatest power both at home and abroad.
The sword is not what you usually think of when the term “Viking sword” is bandied about. It has a straight back and a curved point. This implies a single edge, unlike the classic double-edged Viking weapon. Indeed, Norwegian archaeologists seem to think it was a Western weapon, perhaps acquired by capture or trade, and, either way, a marker of a significant chieftain.
The best Viking swords were made of crucible steel, something that the great seafarers may have gotten from Central Asia, as it wasn’t invented in Europe until the 18th Century, and required technology capable of heating metal to 3,000ºF (about 1,700C). This is a more typical Iron Age weapon.
Next spring, there may be an archaeological expedition to the site to seek any other artifacts, or even a gravesite that is speculated to have been the source of the sword. In the meantime, the authorities have a good relationship with the metal-detector hobbyists in the area, so they expect to be notified of any finds the detectors turn up over the winter. In the meantime, the new sword will probably go to the Bergen Museum to be conserved properly, and be further studied by experts!
Thanks to the user that tipped us off about this find! And here’s a thought: how many more Viking Age swords, spears and other weapons are still out there to be found?