The Nordic Region includes several countries and islands. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Aland are all steeped in ancient history. Constant new discoveries prove that there’s still much to learn from this corner of the world. From mysterious settlers and circles to the graves of saints and ships to bloody battles, Nordic soil will keep archaeologists digging for a long time.
10. Hiking Viking
In 2015, Goran Olson decided to take a breather while hiking in Haukeli in Norway, a popular place among outdoorsmen. Sitting down, he made an extraordinary find under some rocks: a Viking sword. Unbelievably, the weapon had remained undiscovered for over 1,000 years, despite being on a well-trodden trail. The sword was missing its handle and looked a bit rusty, but archaeologists were elated when Olson handed the artifact over to the University Museum of Bergen. Despite the damage, it’s still in exceptional condition.
For something from the Viking Age, the sword is both rare and a valuable contribution. The high mountain pass where it resurfaced is packed with snow for at least half the year. This helped preserve the wrought iron blade and could have caused misfortune to its owner. It’s likely that the individual had an accident or succumbed to the weather while traveling the same ancient route that Olson did. Iron swords were difficult to manufacture, which made owning one a status symbol. Roughly dating to AD 750, the 76-centimeter (30 in) sword would have belonged to a rich Viking.
9. Miracle King’s Church
Here’s something you don’t hear every day: A Viking marauder became a saint. Olaf Haraldsson was born around 995, raided as a youth, and turned over a new leaf in 1013, when he was baptized as a Roman Catholic. Wanting to unite Norway, he became king in 1016 and established the Church of Norway a few years later. Olaf sought safety in Russia when Canute I, the king of England and Denmark, added Norway to his kingdom. Olaf died during battle, trying to retake the throne in 1030. He was buried in Trondheim.
Within a year, locals claimed that the dead king caused miracles. Church teachings tell of how when the royal grave was opened and Olaf’s corpse was found unnaturally well-preserved, the local bishop made Olaf a saint. His body was moved to St. Clement’s Church. The pope officially recognized Olaf’s sainthood in 1164.
Archaeologists believe that they’ve located his final resting place. In 2016, they discovered the stone foundations, a sacred well, and a rectangular rock platform that could be the high altar constructed over St. Olaf’s final grave.