Unique Viking marketplace may have been found in Norway

Published 25 February 2024
- By Editorial Staff
The ground penetrating radar vehicle drives over the fields at Utstein Gard on Klosterøy.

Archaeologists believe they have found a medieval Viking market in the protected heritage site of Utstein Gard. If true, the discovery is unique in this part of Norway.

The island of Klosterøy in southwestern Norway is known for its rich cultural heritage, including Utstein Monastery, the country’s best-preserved medieval monastery.

Last fall, archaeologists conducted ground-penetrating radar surveys of the privately owned Utstein Gard and made several new discoveries. These included the structures of what are believed to be pit houses and three foundations for piers or boathouses. Metal detectors were also used to find various coins and weights. The findings suggest that there may have been a market on the site.

– We have received numerous metal detector finds from Utstein in recent years, including items associated with trade such as weights and coins. One of the things we wanted to investigate with the ground-penetrating radar was whether there could be additional traces of trade activity. I am therefore not surprised that the results now indicate that Utstein was indeed a marketplace in the Viking Age and early Middle Ages, says Professor Håkon Reiersen from the University of Stavanger in a press release.

Traditional surveys needed

Pit houses are buildings in which the floor is excavated below ground level. Such houses were used in several places in Europe and were particularly common in Scandinavia and Iceland. Archaeologists have also found possible traces of newly discovered burial mounds, cooking pits, cultivation layers (agricultural soil layers), and settlement traces. Again, this strongly supports the archaeologists’ hypothesis that the site is indeed a marketplace, but one cannot be entirely sure at this stage.

– While many indicators suggest that this may be a marketplace, we cannot be 100 per cent certain until further investigations are conducted in the area to verify the findings, says Grethe Moéll Pedersen, archaeologist at the University Archaeological Museum. Ground-penetrating radar has proven to be a useful tool for us, but it cannot completely replace traditional archaeological excavation methods.

There are currently no concrete plans for further research. In order to carry out a research project in the area in the future, the archaeologists will need both funding and the consent of the landowners.

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