Trøndelag as a region is dominated by the Trondheimsfjord, an area rich in agricultural land and in a sheltered location, with excellent communications by both water and land. The fjord itself would have made the coastline easily accessible for communities based in the inner parts of Trøndelag, while several large valleys connect the fjord with central Sweden. The location of numerous monumental burial mounds, affluent graves, cult and court sites within the region, suggests that the Trondheimsfjord was an area of complex economic and social development in the Viking period, with well-established contacts both westward and to the east. During the high and later medieval periods, Trøndelag was significantly smaller than it is today, and the region was divided into eight fylkir (counties), comprising Inntrøndelag and Uttrøndelag (Figure 1). The northern area of modern Trøndelag was part of the county of Namdalen, while Fosen, the coastal area of southern Trøndelag, formed an element of Nordmøre county. However, this division is likely to have been formed well before the high medieval period, suggesting a well-established and organised power structure in the late Viking Age (Skjevik 1997, 185-7).
Snorre Sturlasons' Heimskringla, a collection of sagas about the Norse kings of Norway, refers to a number of strong and powerful chieftain centres in Trøndelag, especially from areas within the Trondheimsfjord. The Jarl of Lade, situated close to the modern city of Trondheim, was, according to the saga of Harald Fairhair, among the most powerful families in Norway during the early part of the Viking Age (Røskaft 2003, 105). Trondheim, or Nidaros to use its early name, was a royal foundation of the late Viking Age, on the site of a trading centre that had grown at the mouth of the river Nid (Solberg 2000, 320). Several other chieftains and local centres in Trondheimsfjord are also mentioned in the Heimskringla, such as Egge and Mære in Steinkjer, Melhus outside Trondheim and Værnes in Stjørdal (Røskaft 2003, 96-142). Also of great significance is that the martyred king and later patron saint of Norway, St Olaf, lost his life in AD 1030 at the battle of Stiklestad near Verdal in Inntrøndelag. Given the importance and wide-ranging contacts of this region, it may be no coincidence that communities in Trøndelag appear to have had strong links with the British Isles during the Viking Age.
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