Archaeologists discovered several Iron Age Viking longhouses, according to a statement by the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research. The discovery was made by a team working on a project intended to map the presence of Vikings in Gjellestad, a village thought to be a place of great importance during the Iron Age, which lasted roughly from 1200 B.C.E. to 600 B.C.E.
“Finding these longhouses confirms that Gjellestad was a central place in the late Iron Age,” said Lars Gustavsen, a Ph.D. candidate who is helping lead this project.
Out of the five identified using ground-penetrating radar, the largest measured 196 feet in length, making it one of the largest known longhouses in Scandinavia. A typical longhouse from the Iron Age is believed to have measured 65–98 feet in length. The size of a longhouse corresponds with the wealth and influence of its owner, only further proving that this site was one of great importance. Exactly who occupied that hall, however, is yet to be confirmed.
“We do not know how old the houses are or what function they had. Archaeological excavations and dating will help us get an answer to this” said Sigrid Mannsåker Gundersen, an archaeologist on the team, in the same statement.
There’s plenty of evidence to look through, however. On the same site, several burial mounds were found, along with a ship that was discovered in 2018. Referred to as the Gjellestad ship, the seafaring vessel was intentionally placed beneath that field, in a practice know as a ship burial, which was reserved for the most important nobles in viking society. As part of a ship burial, a pleasure boat would be commandeered or otherwise constructed and brought onto land. The deceased would be placed upon the boat, along with offerings, and the whole structure would be buried.
The Norwegian government has allocated $1.5 million in funding for the expedited excavation of the ship, as it is one of the few surviving examples of the practice and is currently degrading quickly, due to a fungal infestation. With this investment, the team hopes to uncover a wealth of information about the upper echelons of Viking society in the Iron Age.
“Our hope is that within the next years, we will understand the relationship between the ship, the buildings and the rise of central places much better,” said Gustavsen.