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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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A True Viking Saga

Monday, August 15, 2016

Trenches Norway Trondheim wellWell excavation, Trondheim, NorwayA skeleton found at the bottom of an abandoned well in Trondheim, Norway, seems to confirm a tale of defeat and destruction told in an ancient Norse saga. In 1197, a faction of the Norwegian aristocracy known as the Baglers attacked Sverresborg, the castle stronghold of the Viking king Sverre. The story of the siege—including the “killing” of the castle’s well by throwing the dead body of one of the king’s men into it—is well known, but its veracity has been questioned. “Sverre’s saga has very detailed descriptions of the battles between the king and his main enemy, and it’s also rich in references to places and people,” says lead archaeologist Anna Petersén of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research. “The human remains in the well indicate that the saga is trustworthy. The proven relationship to events described in Norwegian history makes this discovery unique, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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