This review of Insular grave finds from Trøndelag has shown that there is significantly more material from this region than has previously been recognised. Imported items include both religious and secular objects of great rarity, value and beauty. In terms of the quantity and quality of Insular artefacts from Norse graves, Trøndelag can be shown to match several of the 'traditional' areas of Viking contact in Western Norway. The artefacts conjure up a picture of a life where overseas voyages, probably both raiding and trading, played an important part for many communities within the region. Within their societies, the Trøndelag Vikings' affiliation with Ireland and Britain was visually displayed through the use of exclusive dress ornaments, for example the outstanding ring brooches from Snåsa and Nes, and by foreign exotica brought home for festive use on the high table, as illustrated by the drinking and serving equipment from Steinvik, Gjeite and Skei. The diverse corpus of Insular imports - together with their Scandinavian imitations - can be seen as evidence of the creation of a marked 'Insular milieu', which had a definitive and lasting influence on the daily life and the mentality of the Scandinavian population (Wamers 2011, 97).
The earliest evidence of contact between Trøndelag and the British Isles is represented by a group of especially richly furnished women's graves dating to around AD 800, or perhaps slightly earlier. The archaeological material from these burials and their nearby surroundings indicates that the communities around the Trondheimsfjord had the necessary political organisation, contacts and economic resources needed to organise overseas ventures during the initial phase of the Viking Age. Previous work on early Insular material from Norway has, however, been broad and synthetic (e.g. Wamers 1985). A detailed review of the material from the graves in Trøndelag is therefore a key contribution to the wider debate about the start of the Viking Age.
The main evidence for contact comes from the 9th century, when a number of significant patterns can be discerned. Some local concentrations of Insular goods show the continuing importance of some pre-Viking centres, while the finds distribution in other areas suggests co-operation between several neighbouring families in order to equip and provision overseas expeditions. Later contact and North Sea trading appear to be affected by central control as a result of increased centralisation of power in Trøndelag during the 10th century. This is particular notable in the Trondheimsfjord, where the Insular contact in the latter part of the Viking Age is confined to the area around Steinkjer in Inntrøndelag. This might be related to the emergence of a trading place (Kaupang) at Steinkjer, which was established in an attempt to control trade within the Trondheimsfjord. The Kaupang in Steinkjer is, however, thought to have been short-lived and towards the end of the Viking-Age Nidaros was restored as the kings' residence and trading town. According to the saga of Olav Haraldson (St Olaf), Eirik Jarl, who founded the Steinkjer Kaupang, left Trøndelag in AD 1015 for England, becoming earl of Northumbria, where he died (Skjevik 1997, 156-7). Only a few years later, the fall of Olav Haraldson in battle at Stiklestad in AD 1030 conventionally marks the end of the Viking Age in Norway. By this time, Insular and indeed other finds had ceased to be buried in graves in Trøndelag, owing to the increasing influence of the Christian faith replacing the pagan traditions of accompanied burial. Nidaros was now the leading centre of Trøndelag and would later become the medieval metropolitan capital of Norway, with a cathedral containing the relics of the martyred king, St Olaf.
Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.
File last updated: Wed Dec 3 2014