Iron Age settlement found under Viking king’s resting place

Archaeologists excavating the site of the church of St Clement in Trondheim, Norway, discovered traces of an Iron Age settlement beneath the building’s remains. The church is believed to be the shrine of 11th century saint-king Olaf II Haraldsson.

Details of the excavation area (by Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research)

Researchers believe that the settlement discovered beneath the excavated remains wooden church serving as a shrine to Norway’s most iconic saints, King Olaf II Haraldsson, was a thriving market place around 1000 years ago. Archaeologists conducting a second phase of excavations at the site identified rich remains of an Iron Age settlement, most likely belonging to a Viking Age market place, sealed under thick deposits of natural sand that have been formed by a flooding of the river Nidelva. The Norse term for a market place was “kaupang”.

Base of the altar (by Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research)

According to the researchers, the oldest of the two churches is constructed with heavy posts dug down from the upper horizon of the sand. Archaeologists plan to remove the remains of the upper church in order to find more posts and postholes relating to the previous building in the sand.

Skull resting on the foundations (by Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research)

The wooden church served as the shrine and burial place of the saint-king but as the number of pilgrims grew, the saint’s body was moved to a larger church and eventually to Trondheim’s cathedral, and St Clement’s was destroyed and its location lost until re-discovered by archaeologists last year. Researchers believe to have found a stone found at one end of the former building that could be the foundation of the altar on which the Viking king’s coffin was lain. A number of skeletons have been found at the site, believed to be part of a graveyard, established at the church in the centuries that followed Olaf’s death, with graves stacked on top of one another.

Excavation site (by Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research)

(after Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research & Daily Mail Online)

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