Archaeologists confirm a saga

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Excavations in Trondheim of a well from the 1100s have allowed archaeologists to confirm the story behind a saga from the time. Excavation leader Anna Petersén of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) says she’s overwhelmed by what she and her team have found.

Here's where the well that's now been excavated had been lying at Sverresborg in Trondheim, for centuries. PHOTO: NIKU/Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research

Here’s where the well that’s now been excavated has been lying at Sverresborg in Trondheim, for centuries. PHOTO: NIKU/Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research

“In all my years in archaeology, this is one of the most amazing excavations I’ve seen,” Petersén told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday.

The project involved a well from the Middle Ages at Sverresborg in Trondheim, a fortress in an important city through all of Norway’s long history.

“Now the original well construction from the 1100s has been revealed, and what we found makes it possible to confirm that the events in the saga have occurred just as it was written,” Petersén said.

The saga involves the story of warriors who seized the fortress of King Sverre in 1197. According to the so-called Sverres saga, they reportedly threw the body of a rival so-called Birkebeiner fighter into the well, and then threw stones on top of him, plugging the well as they also plundered the fortress, burned all houses inside it and burned all of King Sverre’s ships.

In 2014, the archaeologists found the remains of an 800-year-old body in the well, believed to be a man in his 30s or 40s. Now, after removing large quantities of dirt and stones in recent weeks, they have found the stones that were thrown after him, and can see how his skeleton has been lying through the years.

“It’s a fantastic picture from when the body was thrown into the well,” Petersén told NRK. “I don’t think there’s any other known example of the discovery of an individual who can be tied to an event from as far back as 1197.” She thinks it’s unique that written sources can now be confirmed through archaeology, and that it’s now possible to understand how the fortification itself functioned.

While some of the body’s bones were recovered in 2014, archaeologists had to give up extracting all of them. The rest of the skeleton’s remains were due to be brought out of the well on Thursday.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund