History Podcasts

Extraordinary Twin Viking Boat Burial Found in Norway

Extraordinary Twin Viking Boat Burial Found in Norway

Archaeologists in Norway have uncovered a particularly odd burial. The second burial was placed in the grave some 100 years after the first ship burial. A large number of grave goods were also recovered, and they are helping experts gain a greater understanding of the early years of the Viking Age.

Archaeologists from the NTNU Science Museum were working on some farmland as part of a road improvement project, at Vinjeøra in central Norway. Under Norwegian law, archaeologists must ensure that a construction project does not threaten or damage the country’s heritage.

The archaeologists were working in the area to protect the site of a Viking Age farm , where a burial house was recently found. Then they came across the mysterious grave with its two boat burials.

Viking Boat Burials

The original grave has long since been leveled, possibly by plowing. The Heritage Daily reports that “Nearly all the wood in the boats had rotted away, there was only a little left in the keel of the smallest boat”.

A large number of rivets from the vessels were found and it appears, based on their distribution that one boat had been placed on top of the other. Further investigations revealed that the smaller vessel was carefully placed on top of a larger ship in the grave, many years after it was dug.

In the smaller of the two boats was a female who probably died sometime in the 9th century AD. She was evidently a person of some importance judging by her grave goods, which included a pearl necklace, scissors, and a spindle whorl .

Life in Norway reports that “The dead woman's clothes were fastened with a bronze-plated bowl-shaped buckle and a cross-shaped buckle from a harness made in Ireland”. The harness may have been seized during a Viking raid in Ireland and this would have been a symbol of high social status in the 9th century.

This crucifix-shaped buckle was found at the twin boat burial site. (Raymond Sauvage / NTNU)

The other burial was from the 8th century and it contained the remains of a man who was buried with a sword, spear, and shield. He was probably a warrior and was in the larger boat, which was about 30 feet (10 meters) long. This twin grave was located near a bigger burial mound, overlooking a Fjord which would have been a major landmark in the area.

Rare Two-in-one Grave

This boat burial was typical of Viking funerary practices and all that makes it unique is the twin internment. It appears that instead of digging a new grave for the woman her relatives had her buried in one that was about 100 years old. These double internments are not unknown in Norway, but they are rare.

Some similar graves were found in Tjølling, in the south of Norway in the 1950s. The leader of the excavation Raymond Sauvage, an archaeologist at the NTNU University Museum stated that the twin burial “is essentially an unknown phenomenon” according to Heritage Daily .

  • The Viking Serpent: Serpent Worship, Sacred Geometry, and Secrets of the Celtic Church in Norway
  • Researchers Wonder if Rich Viking Boat Burial Found in Scotland was Made for a Warrior Woman
  • Vikings Brutally Slain in 750 AD May Have Been on a Peaceful Mission

Researcher excavating the site of the Viking boat burials. (Vitenskapsmuseet / NTNU)

Archaeologists then asked themselves the question of why the man and woman who lived decades apart came to be buried together. The Heritage Daily quoted Sauvage as saying that “it’s reasonable to assume that the two were related”.

It appears that the local Vikings knew who was interred in each mound and this knowledge was passed down through the generations. It seems that the woman was buried with a long-dead relative.

The Dead and Property Rights

The family was central to Viking life , it was important because it gave an individual status and property rights. Burial mounds were often used to legally prove a claim to a piece of land.

Sauvage states that “it’s reasonable to think that the two were buried together to mark the family’s ownership of the farm” reports Life in Norway . The twin internment was a way of symbolically asserting a legal right to the property, which was important in a pre-literate society.

The skeletons of the two appear to have disintegrated many years ago. However, a fragment of the woman’s skull has been found and this is going to be tested for DNA and isotopes. These can help researchers to better understand the life of the woman but also help them to recreate an image of what she looked like.

The soil in the area of the boat burials was not good for preserving human remains. Archaeologists were consequently overjoyed when they found parts of the skull of the woman in the upper boat tomb. (Astrid Lorentzen / NTNU)

Another important aspect of the burials is their date. Judging by the style of the sword it is apparent that the man was buried during the Merovingian Age in Scandinavia. There is little known about this period and it is expected that the grave of the dead warrior may provide some clues. It is hoped that some more remains and artifacts from this obscure period will be found around the old burial mound.

Viking Monuments and Sites / Vestfold Ship Burials and Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Part of transnational serial nomination - Viking Monuments and Sites


The Viking serial nomination comprises land-, sea- and townscapes stretching from the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea. Among the thousands of Viking sites from the eighth to the twelfth centuries AD, these nine nominated properties from six nations are outstanding examples representing the wide diversity of this early maritime culture.

In the Viking Age the Norse peoples - the Vikings - developed a maritime culture which had an enormous impact on Northern Europe and beyond. Within Scandinavia the Viking Period witnessed the transformation from tribal to state societies and a change of religions. The three Christian kingdoms that developed from this transformation, and out of which the present Nordic States evolved, were by the end of the Viking Age an integral part of Europe. Thus, in modem times, Viking culture has contributed significantly to the creation of cultural coherence, symbolic values and cultural identity in the Nordic region, and it continues to hold immense public appeal world-wide. This culture and its heritage developed in close interaction within a unique natural environment. It is composed of distinctive urban landscapes and monuments. The culture also produced one of the world's great literatures: the Sagas. Eddic poetry and runic inscriptions.

Harnessing the technology of the ship, Vikings used the sea for expansion, exploration, long-distance trade and overseas settlement. The travels of the Vikings brought them across the Baltic Sea and own the Russian rivers as far as the Black and Caspian Seas to Byzantium and the Caliphate of Baghdad, as well as west out into the Atlantic. They were the first to settle in Iceland and the first Europeans to reach Greenland and North America about 1000 AD. In so doing, the Vikings were the first people to succeed in opening routes across the northern hemisphere from North America to Asia, thus connecting different cultural regions of the earth. Adapted to very diverse types of natural environments, success was on the one hand in the use of regional resources and on the other hand in the development of social and political systems. This combination formed the basis for a rich cultural region. Internally, Scandinavia witnessed an economic, religious and social transformation aided by a boom in internal and cross-cultural communication during the Viking period. New institutions were developed, smaller regions were merged into larger units and the Scandinavians took part in European development on a larger scale. Scandinavia at the time of King Knut, in the early 11th century, was vastly different from the Scandinavia that was visited by the missionary Ansgar in the early 9th century.

The component parts cover a wide temporal and spatial range. They are of exceptional quality and diversity. They include trading towns, harbors, defensive structures. production sites, burial monuments, and assembly sites. Viewed as a whole these sites bear witness to the extent of Viking social and cultural development.


1. Vestfold Ship Burials

Gokstad N656S400 E 228539 (Zone 33)

The Vestfold Ship Burials consist of three sites: Borre cemetery in Horten municipality, Oseberg ship burial in Tensberg and Gokstad ship burial in Sandefjord municipality. They are situated in the county of Vestfold on the west side of the Oslo fjord, south east Norway. The Vestfold region has the highest concentration of monumental burials in Viking Scandinavia. Their location in a coastal landscape along one of the main sailing routes reflects the maritime focus of the period.

The Borre cemetery consists of nine large and many small burial mounds and cairns over an area of 182.000m². Some of the mounds have a diameter of more are more than 4Sm and a height up to 6m. In 1852 the very first Viking ship was excavated here. Little of the ship remained and the mound was later removed, but objects found in the grave show artistic craftsmanship of the highest quality with beautiful animal and knot ornaments in what later was called the Borre style. In addition to the excavation of the ship grave. limited excavations have been performed in two of the large mounds.

The Gokstad mound was excavated in 1880 and supplied the first well-preserved Viking ship. The large amount ofadditional artefacts in wood and other materials, buried with a middle-aged man who had died in battle, gave unique insights in Viking culture.

The excavation of the Oseberg mound in t904 revealed that two females had been buried with a ship, a wagon. four sledges, all of them decorated with wood carvings of extraordinary quality. Besides, the wide variety of other artefacts, many of them unique occurrences, bear testimony of a refined aristocratic lifestyle. The ship found in Oseberg is the best preserved Viking ship, and the Oseberg finds are widely celebrated and have achieved iconic status worldwide.

After excavations the Oseberg and Gokstad mounds were restored and the ships and artefacts were displayed at the Viking Ships Museum in Oslo together with the finds from the Borre ship grave. The Vestfold Ship Burials add significantly to the understanding of Viking age and the ship's mythological and symbolic role in life and death in Viking culture.

2. Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries are located on the west coast of Norway, on the northern side at the outlet of the Sogne fjord in Hyllestad municipality, Sognog Fjordane county.

The natural condition for the quemstone production was the occurrence of a special type of rock: kyanitegarnet-muscovite-schist which lies along the north and eastem side of the Afjord. About 370 quarries are scattered over an area of about 27 km². Within this area clusters of quarries are scattered. Some places are so clustered with quarries and heaps of production waste that the original landscape is completely changed. Today the landscape is partly overgrown with bushes, but remains from quarrying are left untouched and found almost everywhere.

The Hyllestad Quemstone Quarries testify to the mass-production and bulk-trade which emerged in the Viking Age. Quarrying seems to have started in the eighth century on a scale designed to meet local needs. Towards the end of the Viking Age, production was taken to industrial levels and this continued into the following centuries. The change from small-scale to industrial production bears witness to the refinement of logistical organization and economic growth of the Viking Age. The stone from the quarries in Hyllestad is easily recognizable. and quernstones have been distributed in wide-ranging trade networks. They are found in large quantities in Denmark and Sweden and also in several towns and settlements elsewhere in northern Europe.

The coastal location of the Hyllestad Quarries demonstrates the significance of maritime communication so essential to Viking culture.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The selection of sites bears an exceptional testimony to a unique cultural tradition in which the ship became the essential feature. Due to the natural environment of lakes, rivers and sea the use of waterways and the development of navigational skills had a long tradition. In the Viking Age ship technology was taken to a new level. Vikings were the first to settle in Iceland and the first Europeans to reach Greenland and North America about 1000 AD. In so doing, the Vikings were the first people to succeed in opening routes across the North Atlantic to North America and eastward to the Russian Plain and Byzantium, connecting continents and cultural regions. Internally, Scandinavia witnessed an economic, religious and social transformation aided by a boom in internal and cross-cultural communication during the Viking period. The component parts represent key attributes of Viking culture while the ship is the common feature throughout. In modem times, Viking culture has contributed significantly to the creation of cultural coherence, symbolic values and cultural identity in the Nordic region, and it continues to hold immense public appeal world-wide. The component parts demonstrate clearly the key features expansion, cultural communication and a strong narrative tradition past and present.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

1. The Vestfold Ship Burials

Vestfold Ship Burials are well-preserved archaeological sites and structures of the Viking age. The mounds at Oseberg and Gokstad are partly excavated and then restored, while several of the Borre mounds have not been touched since the Viking Age. All three sites have a significant potential for supplying new scientific information.

The State Party has endeavored intensively and successfully in recent decades to preserve these historical-archaeological sites and to care for them with lasting effect.

2. Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

Hyllestad Quemstone Quarries are exceptionally well-preserved archaeological sites with a high degree of authenticity. Only a limited number of small scale archaeological investigations have been undertaken, and no reconstruction has been carried out. The State Party has endeavored intensively and successfully in recent decades to preserve this historical-archaeological site and to care for it with lasting effect.

Comparison with other similar properties

The transnational project unites properties already appointed as Viking Age World Heritage with the newly nominated sites of Danevirke and Hedeby as well as Grobina, the Danish fortresses, the Vestfold Ship Burials and Hyllestad Quemstone Quarries. They all rank among the most important historical places in the Viking Age and have moreover, as archaeological sites, contributed essential insights into Scandinavian culture of this period. In this period the Nordic region developed from being a peripheral zone of Europe to being an integrated component of the Christian West. Of exceptional value is the good condition of preservation displayed by the project's combined monuments, ideally complemented by Iceland's rich supply of written records and by other outstanding archaeological finds such as the ships from Gokstad and Oseberg. Corresponding nominations for the period between the 8th and the 12th century AD have to date not been represented on the World Heritage List.

1. The Vestfold Ship Burials

The earliest ship burial in Northern Europe is the Sutton Hoo grave from East Anglia in England, from the early 7th century. The earliest such graves in Scandinavia, built c.780-90, are Storhaug and Grenhaug at Avaldsnes in South-Western Norway. From then on until the most recent ones in the early 10th century, ship burials in Northern Europe are a distinct Viking feature. From written and artefactual evidence we know that ship burials were not uncommon. But from no other region in the Viking worl d are they so numerous, magnificent and well preserved as from Vestfold.

The ship mound in Rolvse>' in East Norway where the Tune ship was found is destroyed and the Avaldsnes mounds are poorly preserved and their authenticity is corrupted by roads and modem buildings.

Even though there are some other extraordinary burial sites in Scandinavia like Lindholm Haje, Gamla Uppsala, Ladby and Jelling, the Vestfold ship burials form a memorial landscape that also holds a major symbolic role in modem times.

2. Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

In the late Viking Age several types of production reached an industrial level aimed at long-distance trade. The remains are particular copious from the production of iron from bog ore, quern stones, whetstone, soapstone, and reindeer hunting. No production sites from any of these types of industrial production have neither the scale and the authenticity of the Hyllestad quarries nor the maritime connection, the feature that links the sites in this serial nomination, as evident as in Hyllestad.

Quarries of soapstone, like the ones in Kvikne, Piggåsen in Akershus and Solerudbruddet in Østfold, are either rather small or the remains from Viking age quarrying are more or less removed by more recent quarrying. The latter is also the case with the famous whetstone quarries in Eidsborg in Telemark. No iron extraction site or reindeer trapping system has the extent of the Hyllestad quarries and -they do not convey the industrial character of the activity, its products and the method of production as clearly. In Hyllestad failed products are lying scattered around, the numerous small quarries are very visible, as are the huge heaps of wasted stone.

Around 14 sites with quern stone quarries can be found in Norway, the largest ones in Selbu, Brønnøy, Vågå and Saltdal in addition to the Hyllestad quarries. Only the Saltdal quarries in Nordland date back to the Viking Age. The production in the Saltdal quarries was conducted on a much smaller scale than in Hyllestad, and the trade-networks and distribution of the stones were not as far reaching.

In Germany, Rhineland, there was a large production of basalt quernstones in Mayen. Of these quarries little is left from the Viking Age. There is also a large quernstone quarry in Malung, Sweden, but this was not as widely traded as the stones from Hyllestad.

Hiker stumbles upon ‘extraordinary’ 1,200-year-old Viking sword

Some time near AD750, someone left a Viking sword along a mountain plateau in southern Norway. On a late October day more than 1,250 years later, a hiker named Goran Olsen picked it up.

The Hordaland County council announced this week that the hiker had discovered the sword in surprisingly pristine condition among the rocks of an old road in Haukeli, as he stopped to rest along an old road through the region’s mountains and valleys.

“It’s quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking age that are so well-preserved,” county conservator Per Morten Ekerhovd told CNN. “It might be used today if you sharpened the edge,” he added.

The 30-inch, wrought iron sword has been dated to about AD750, and although it has rusted during its centuries of rest in frost, snows and springs, Ekerhovd called it a “quite extraordinary” find.

Viking sword found by a hiker in Hordaland, Norway. Photograph: Hordaland County Council

“We are really happy that this person found the sword and gave it to us,” he said. “It will shed light on our early history. It’s a very [important] example of the Viking age.”

Wrought-iron arms and armor were expensive, and the sword’s owner was probably wealthier or more influential than the average Viking, Professor Alexandra Sanmark, a Viking expert at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland, said.

“Generally if you had a sword, that tends to be a very high-status item,” she said.

“The common idea about Vikings was that they wore big, metal helmets, but they probably wore leather helmets. The metal would’ve gone into making these fabulous weapons, which have more like steel, it’s really high quality.”

Viking carved dragon head post from the ship burial at Oseberg, c AD850. Photograph: Werner Forman/UIG/Getty Images

She added that only one Viking helmet of iron has so far been found.

Sanmark said that the Norwegian archaeologists’ initial theories rang true: the sword may have been part of a burial for someone of high status.

Haukeli’s mountains are buried in frost and snow for half the year, but artifacts have increasingly turned up along such paths in recent years. Wealthy individuals may have been buried with hundreds of objects, from their precious weapons to their riding gear and the horses themselves, Sanmark said.

Climate change has led to the discovery of more and more artifacts, as glaciers retreat and reveal more clues about the variety of Viking life and death. Vikings held a number of different funeral practices, she said, from the fiery bier cast off to the sea, well rehearsed in popular culture, to more generic cremations. Others were placed under barrow mounds – two women were buried with an entire Viking ship in Oseberg – while slaves were dumped in ditches.

The Oseberg Ship, Norway. Viking. c 850 AD. Photograph: Werner Forman/UIG/Getty Images

“You can kind of tease out these hierarchies of Viking life,” Sanmark said. “But for the poorest people, we don’t know much.”

Hordaland archaeologist Jostein Aksdal told the English site the Local that he planned to search the site of the sword’s discovery in spring. “If we find several objects, or a tomb, perhaps we can find the story behind the sword,” he said.

“This was a common sword in western Norway. But it was a costly weapon, and the owner must have used it to show power,” he added.

The sword will go to the the University Museum of Bergen for conservation and study.

Recent discoveries from Viking-age graves have changed the modern perception of Vikings. In March, researchers in Sweden reported that an engraved ring found in a ninth-century woman’s grave has an Arabic inscription. The glass ring, whose inscription reads “for Allah” or “to Allah”, is some of the only evidence of interaction between the booming Islamic civilizations of the time and the expansive network of Viking traders and warriors.

Hunterston brooch, 700

Golden glory … the Hunterston brooch, c700, was found in Ayrshire in 1830. Photograph: National Museums Scotland

Our stereotypical view of the Vikings is bloodthirsty raiders, destroying everything they came across. True, but not the whole truth. Sometimes they simply took what they liked and kept it. The stunning Hunterston brooch, one of the exhibition highlights, is an appropriation of an older Scottish object that clearly survived the Viking raids intact. The brooch, found in Ayrshire, is a pre-Viking Scottish brooch with purely Celtic decoration. But on the back, someone has scratched in runes words that can be translated as: "Mælbrigða owns this brooch." The name is Celtic and Christian, but the language and runic alphabet are Norse, evidence that a pre-Viking object continued to be prized and used in the Viking age.

Rare insight into woman’s outfit

It is highly unusual to find so many well-preserved textiles in a grave. In several places, the textiles are layered on top of each other, including where the needles attach to the brooches. These probably represent garments from both inner and outer clothing. In addition, several of the fragments reveal information about the stitching and details used for assorted types of clothing.

All this gives archaeologists rare insights into the woman’s attire.

The wool fabric is of the type called diamond twill, and has a pattern reminiscent of that found in jeans. The fibres in this fragment are so well preserved that archaeologists hope to make isotope analyses of it. Photo: NTNU University Museum SHOW MORE

“We imagine that the woman was wearing a pinafore dress, which was fastened with turtle brooches. Under the dress she probably had on a sark or shirt of linen or fine wool. Over her shoulders she was likely wearing a cape with embroidered decorative elements,” Øien says.

“The cape appears to have been lined with a fine wool fabric and along the edge we can see remnants of narrow braiding. This braid might have been made to strengthen the edge, but it also had a decorative function.”

Basil Brown's find literally caused the history books to be rewritten.

Other ship burials had been excavated but nothing of this size. Before this, a 78-ft (23.8m) Viking vessel in Norway, discovered in 1880, had been the biggest. Because of previous finds elsewhere, Brown knew there might be a cargo of grave goods and on 14 June, he found what he thought could be the burial chamber – a wooden hut-like structure, now disintegrated, which had been constructed in the centre of the ship. But by now the men from the British Museum and Cambridge University had got wind of his great find and, just days later, muscled in on it. Before he could explore further, he was sidelined and relegated to basic labouring. The professionals couldn't have a local man – a mere amateur – dabbling. Why, the fellow didn't even have a degree!

A team of archaeologists was brought in and it was one of them, Peggy Piggott, who, on 21 July, just two days after her arrival, found the first piece of gold. Then she found another. And before long they had uncovered a glittering haul of more than 250 items for which the expression "treasure trove" barely seems adequate. There were feasting vessels and drinking horns and elaborate jewellery, a lyre and a sceptre, a sword, stones from Asia and silverware from Byzantium and coins from France (which helped date the hoard).

A half-size replica of the longship (pictured) has been created, but a project to build a working full-size replica is still in the works (Credit: Alamy)

There was a gold buckle engraved with intricately interwoven snakes and beasts – a piece so extraordinary that the British Museum's keeper of Medieval antiquities almost collapsed upon seeing it jewelled shoulder clasps and belt fittings a wonderful, ornate helmet with a full face-mask – the haunting visage of some ancient hero seeming to gaze out across the centuries.

What the discovery meant

Brown’s find literally caused the history books to be rewritten. The ship and its contents were, it transpired, from the Dark Ages, and the discovery illuminated those four centuries between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Vikings, about which so little was known. The Anglo-Saxons who ruled over England's various kingdoms during this time had been thought a crude and backward people – primitive almost – but here were exquisitely made items of great beauty. This was a society that valued skill, craft and art, and that traded with Europe and beyond.

And these relics of a sophisticated, lost civilisation turned up just as our own was being threatened with obliteration by the Nazis. The lead archaeologist gave a speech to visitors to the site, and had to shout to be heard above the roar of a Spitfire.

When author and journalist John Preston, whose book about the disgraced British politician Jeremy Thorpe, A Very English Scandal, was recently adapted into a hit TV series, discovered that Piggott, his aunt, had been involved in the excavation, he researched the story and immediately recognised what a rich seam it provided for a novelist. The Dig was published to acclaim in 2007. Robert Harris called it "a real literary treasure", and Ian McEwan proclaimed it "very fine, engrossing, exquisitely original".

Producer Ellie Wood, who has previously worked on a number of TV adaptations including Decline and Fall, Bleak House and The Line of Beauty, says she wanted to make a film version as soon as she read the manuscript of the novel in 2006, before it was even published.


A head-post of a ship depicting some sort of fanged animal, either real or fantastical. The head is decorated with interlace and checkered incisions, and the lower neck has a grid pattern. A connecting segment protrudes out of the back.

In 1904 a remarkable archaeological site was uncovered at Oseberg, Norway. It consisted of an astonishingly well-preserved Viking ship that contained the remains of two women along with a wide array of accompanying grave goods. This vessel, which is widely celebrated as one of the finest finds of the Viking Age, had been buried within a large mound or haugr.

The burial mound measured approximately 40m long by 6.5m high and it completely covered the boat. The conditions within the mound were particularly damp and this meant that the ship and its contents survived nearly intact. Constructed primarily out of oak planks, the vessel measured 21.40m long by 5.10m wide[i]. Its bow and stern were covered in elaborate carvings, while it contained 15 pairs of oar holes which meant up to 30 men could row the ship as required.

Centrally placed on the ship were the skeletons of two women whose remains had been placed in a specially built wooden tent. One of the woman was in her eighties[ii] and this was reflected in the condition of her bones which showed that she had suffered badly from arthritis during her final years. The second woman was younger and had died in her early fifties[iii].Th e connection between the two women is unclear it is possible that they were related or more sinisterly represent the remains of a noble woman interred with her sacrificed slave. Indeed, some have speculated that one of the women may be Queen Åsa [ https:// en.wikipedia.org /wiki/ Åsa_Haraldsdotti r_of_Agder], the grandmother of Norway’s first king, although this remains unproven. }
[ http:// irisharchaeology .ie/2012/09/ the-oseberg-viki ng-ship-burial/]

{Animal Head Posts From The Oseberg Ship Burial Find
Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway.

These animal head posts are examples of excellence in Viking carving . The detail of the workmanship is extraordinary. The purpose of the animal head posts is unknown, but their fearsome aspect with open jaws suggests that they were intended to ward off evil spirits.

Five of these head posts were found, all with a slot for a handle at the lower edge of the neck, indicating that perhaps they
were used in some sort of procession. }
[ http:// www.pbase.com/ drjaysel/image/ 87690309/small]

***The following text has been redacted from a book entitled,
'Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages'. to view book, see attached link***

"The ninth-century Norwegian Oseberg and Gokstad ship [ https:// en.wikipedia.org /wiki/ Gokstad_ship] finds both contained several animal head pots with gaping mouths.

The skaldic evidence suggests that the animal heads were detachable and were often secured to the ship's prow when people wanted to bear down on opponents with hostile intent, as in a naval battle.

It seems likely that the function of the gaping heads was protective of those on the ship and of its cargo, and threatening to the seafarers' enemies, whether these were human aggressors or spirit beings that controlled natural forces."

On 8 August 1903, professor Gabriel Gustafson of the University's Collection of National Antiquities in Oslo received a visit from a farmer: Knut Rom from the Lille Oseberg farm in Slagen in Vestfold.

The excavation of the Oseberg ship

Rom had dug into a large burial mound on his property and had come across what he believed was a ship. Two days later, professor Gustafson started his investigation. He found several parts of a ship, decorated with the ornamentation from Viking times. The archaeologist was certain the mound was a ship burial from Viking times. But to avoid problems with the autumn weather, they waited until the following summer before starting the dig.

The excavation of the Oseberg ship drew great interest from the public. It became necessary to secure the dig with a fence, signs and a guard to ensure that nobody disturbed the work or got too close to the remains. In his diary, Gustafson complained of having to work in an exhibition.

When the excavation was finished, the longest and most demanding work was still to come. The excavation itself took less than three months, but it took 21 years to prepare and restore the ship and most of the finds. The ship was dried out very slowly before being put together. Great emphasis was placed on using the original timber and more than 90% the fully reconstructed Oseberg ship consists of original timber.

In the year 834, two prosperous women died. The Oseberg ship was pulled ashore and used as a burial ship for the two ladies. A burial chamber was dug right behind the ship's mast. Inside, the walls were decorated with fantastic woven tapestries and the dead women lay on a raised bed. The women had a number of burial gifts with them. There were personal items such as clothes, shoes and combs, ship's equipment, kitchen equipment, farm equipment, three ornate sledges and a working sledge, a wagon, five carved animal heads, five beds and two tents. There were fifteen horses, six dogs and two small cows.
Investigation of the skeletons showed that the older woman was about 70 to 80 when she died, probably of cancer. The other woman was younger, a little over 50. We do not know what she died of.

Both of them must have held a special position in the community to have been given a grave such as this were they political or religious leaders? Who was the most prominent person in the grave? Was one a sacrifice, to accompany the other into the kingdom of the dead? Were they related? Where did they come from? The two women from the past remain a mystery, but continued research may tell us more.
The Oseberg ship

For whoever built the Oseberg ship, it must have been very important to make it a particularly handsome vessel. He or she used great resources in having the ship decorated. Beautiful animal ornamentation has been carved from the keel, down below the waterline, and up along the bow post, which ends in a snake's head of twisting spiral. Such a richly decorated ship must surely have been reserved for special members of the aristocracy.
The Oseberg ship could be both sailed and rowed. There are 15 oar holes on each side, so fully-manned the ship would have had 30 oarsmen. There would also have been a man at the tiller and a lookout in the bow. The oars are made of pine. Traces of painted decoration have been found on some of them. There are no signs of wear on the oars. Perhaps they were made especially for the burial.

Viking Religion and Burial Rituals

The Vikings had many different religious and burial rituals. Their belief system was polytheistic and today is considered a ‘non-doctrinal community religion’ since there was no set of specific beliefs or ritual practices.Even though the community as a whole recognized many gods, individuals could perform whichever rituals and worship only the gods which were relevant to their life or vocation. For example, even though Odin was one of the most important gods and was recognized by all members of the community, he was especially worshipped by kings and warriors.Archaeological and historical evidence of burial rituals indicates the Vikings used cremation and inhumation to dispose of their dead, but the grave construction, grave goods, and evidence of animal, and occasionally human, sacrifices was quite varied.

The Vikings were an oral society so the mythological stories of their gods were not written down until the medieval era. One of the best sources is The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson written in the 1220s. The Prose Edda contains stories of the Viking pantheon of gods from two families, the Æsir and the Vanir. The Æsir lived in Asgard and included the most important gods Odin, Thor, and Loki. The Vanir were fertility gods named Njord, Frey and Freyja.There was once a war between the Æsir, the gods of the sky, and the Vanir, the agricultural gods of the earth, but they eventually lived in harmony.

The most is known about Odin, the king of the gods, who was depicted as an old, one-eyed man and a great magician who advises and assists his favorite warriors. He was responsible for defending the world during the final battle of Ragnarok and was entrusted to bring the best warriors to his hall of the dead called Valhalla. Thor was Odin’s son and was the fighting god of thunder and rain. He was also a god of fertility and war but did not advise human warriors as Odin did. Loki was a trickster god who caused problems for Odin and Thor and led the opposing army against them at Ragnarok.In The Prose Edda, Snorri describes Ragnarok as a series of battles and natural disasters which led to the final battle culminating in the deaths of Odin, Thor, and Loki.

Odin from Manual of Mythology courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Vanir were the more traditional fertility gods who represented abundance and sexuality. Njord was the father of Frey and Freyja who were twin brother and sister. Viking women worshipped Freyja as a goddess of love, fertility, pleasure, and household prosperity. While Njord was known as the god of abundance and well being, Frey was associated with pleasure and the bounty of the earth.Although other gods and goddesses were mentioned in Viking mythology no evidence has been found of their role in religious practices. These other deities may have had a larger role in the original oral mythology, but their stories were probably lost before the medieval era when the myths were first written down.

In addition to worship of the gods the Vikings practiced ancestor worship. Dead ancestors were honored with food and gift offerings.Religious customs such as these were a fundamental aspect of daily life. Other cult activities included sacrifices and communication with the supernatural world. Divination and sorcery were performed primarily by women, but there are at least forty-five terms in Old Norse for male and female sorcerers. There is archaeological as well as literary evidence for magical practices called seidr. Sorcery staffs and other tools used in magical rituals have been discovered in graves. Charms, amulets, and even the mind-altering drugs henbane and cannabis have also been found. Seidr even had a place in warfare and was used to make impenetrable armor and weapons.

Viking warriors themselves also engaged in magical battle practices. Consultation of omens and ritual preparations were carefully followed to ensure success in battle. Weapons were marked with symbols for luck, strength, and courage in battle and sacrifices were made. The boar, bull and stallion were the sacrificial animals associated with battle magic.

Animal and human sacrifices were an important part of seasonal festivals. There is a well known account of human sacrifice at Old Uppsala in Sweden by Adam of Bremen from 1075. In the account he states:

“The sacrifice is of this nature: of everything living thing that is male,

they offer nine heads, four with the blood of which it is customary to

gods of this sort. The bodies they hang in the sacred grove that adjoins

the temple…Feasts and sacrifices of this kind are solemnized for nine

days. On each day they offer a man along with other living beings in

such a number that in the course of the nine days they will have made

offerings of seventy-two creatures.”

It is difficult to tell if this account by Adam of Bremen is entirely accurate. Some of the details offer a stereotypical view of pagan practices but others appear authentic. More than likely the total number of sacrifices was eighty-one instead of the seventy-two noted in the account. Accounting for the human sacrifices would indicate a total of nine sacrifices for each of the nine days. The sacrificial rites at Uppsala occurred at the beginning of spring and were likely made in honor of Odin to bring victory in the upcoming season. Another reason that Old Uppsala is an important cult site is because of three large burial mounds found there. It was said in Viking mythology that if a king or seer sat on one of these burial mounds they would gain wisdom.

There seems to be a difference of opinion between scholars as to who performed important religious rituals such as those held at Old Uppsala. Some scholars think there was a class of professional cult leaders (or “priests”) but others scholars state the evidence shows that religious rites were performed by the local ruler, either a king or an earl. Literary accounts mention the ruler blessing the sacrificial food and reciting ritual toasts to the gods. Other accounts tell the story of rulers who refused to perform the customary sacrificial rites. One tale of a Christian Swedish king tells how he was driven away and deposed by his own people when he refused to perform a sacrifice. That fact that kings were required to participate in religious rituals leads some scholars to theorize that the Vikings followed the practice of ‘sacral kingship.’ The concept of sacral kingship implied that kingship was a divine right and the king possessed supernatural powers and the ability to bring prosperity to his people. While the idea of Viking sacral kingship is just a theory there is no doubt that the king or local earl played an integral part in religious rituals.

In addition to important cult sites such as Old Uppsala, worship and offerings took place at many kinds of natural sites. Stone circles or raised stones could be constructed on hills and groves to enhance the religious aspects of the site for ritual purposes. Viking people believed in the existence of many spirits which dwelled in natural places. There is widespread evidence of offerings of tools, swords and even human remains at swamps and peat bogs. These may have been offerings to spirits in who lived in the bog or just a customary place to sacrifice to any god. Sacrifices took place on what is thought to be natural stone altars called hörgr in literary sources.

Sacrificial rites also played a part in Viking mortuary practices. Compared to other aspects of Viking religious practices, there is much more archaeological and literary evidence for mortuary rituals. In another work by Snorri Sturluson entitled, Heimskringla: Ynglingasaga, he states that Odin was responsible for determining Viking burial practices. It was Odin who insisted men should be burned on a pyre and then have their ashes buried or set out to sea. In addition if a man buried treasure or other valuable possessions he would be able to access those objects after his death. Vikings practiced both cremation and inhumation but the details of the burials differed greatly. It is not clear why there is such diversity in mortuary practices but it could be due to local traditions or social status. It is clear from settlement-burial correlations that not every member of a community was given a burial though. Slaves and other people of low status may account for some of the missing burials but definitely not for all.

The discrepancy in the burial records could indicate that some people were cremated and then their ashes were scattered instead of buried. Their remains also may have been disposed of by excarnation. Child burials have been discovered but not enough to account for the estimated number of children in a whole community. Some children that were perceived as unfit may have been abandoned and left to die of exposure which could explain a lower number of child burials. There is no evidence that children were used a sacrifices and abandonment may have been used to simply control the population.

Archaeological evidence shows the majority of Viking burials were cremations. The bodies were burned and then the grave, stone cairn or mound was raised over them. There are many variations in burial mound shape and height. Most mounds are circular and can be as much as 10 meters high. It is thought that objects which belonged to the deceased were intentionally broken then burned and interred with their owners. This may have been done to prevent theft by grave robbers, especially in the case of swords and knives. Many different types of grave goods have been discovered. In addition to swords and knives, jewelry, tools, household utensils, food and drink items, and even furniture were common finds. After the cremation human bones, and sometimes animal bones, were sorted, cleaned and placed back on the pyre in a bag, box or ceramic container. Archaeological evidence of post holes at some locations indicates at least cremation graves were marked.

The discovery of post holes can be explained by a literary account of a Viking ship burial for a local chieftain by an Arab traveler in the 10 th century named Ibn Fadlan. He describes the ship being removed from the water followed by the building of a mound over the ship. His account then states that “they placed in the middle of it a large piece of birch on which they wrote the name of the man and the name of the King of the Rus.” The chieftain’s name was likely written on the piece of wood in runes but only the post holes remain once the wood deteriorated.

Still other cremation grave locations are marked by standing stones or groups of stones designed into various shapes, even in the shape of Viking ships. Graves marked by such multiple stone settings often contain multiple burials. Multiple burials have also been discovered in actual ship burials similar to the one described by Ibn Fadlan. One such burial was discovered in Oseberg, Norway in 1904. The buried wooden ship was even tethered to a boulder. This may have been a symbolic anchor to this world so the occupants would not be lost on a voyage to the Kingdom of the Dead. The occupants of the ship burial were two females now called the Oseberg ladies. Initial study of the remains was difficult at that time so they were reinterred in an aluminum casket in 1948. The Oseberg ladies were exhumed again in 2007 to undergo further scientific testing. While researchers in the early 20 th century were able to learn more from the grave goods than the women who were buried with them, recent studies have given us a great deal of information on the Oseberg ladies themselves. One woman was approximately 70 years old and the other woman was about 50 years old. When the site was first excavated it was believed the burial must be an important or wealthy woman such as Äsa, the grandmother of the king that united Norway around 830 AD, due to the high quality grave goods found. Although the date seems to be accurate, new evidence indicates that at least one of the women was a Völva or priestess. Considering there were many cult objects found at the site, such as a rattle and a purse of cannabis seeds, there is a very strong possibility that the Oseberg ladies performed an important shamanic role in society.

Oseberg Viking Ship courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ship burials such as the one at Oseberg also contain evidence of large numbers of animal sacrifices. The Oseberg site shows evidence of twenty decapitated horses and other sites have yielded the remains of domesticated animals as well as exotic birds such as owls and peacocks. Ibn Fadlan’s account also mentions animal sacrifice:

“They then brought two mounts, made them gallop until they began to

sweat, cut them up into pieces and threw the flesh onto the ship. They

next fetched two cows, which they also cut up into pieces and threw on

board, and a cock and a hen, which they slaughtered and cast onto it.”

In addition to animal sacrifice there is strong evidence for human sacrifice in Viking burials. While some graves contain the remains of multiple individuals which may simply be family members, other sites contain clear evidence that people were sacrificed to accompany the main occupant of the grave. Members of both sexes have been discovered bound and killed by decapitation, stab wounds or hanging. Again Ibn Fa?l?n offers confirmation of this practice when he witnessed the voluntary sacrifice of a young slave girl who agreed to accompany her master in death:

“The crone called the “Angel of Death” placed a rope around her neck in

such a way that the ends crossed one another and handed it to two of the

men to pull on it. She advanced with a broad-bladed dagger and began to

thrust it in and out between her ribs, now here, now there, while the two

men throttled her with the rope until she died.”

Ibn Fadlan’s account also details the ten-days of preparations prior to the sacrifices and ship burial. He speaks of the chieftain being placed in a temporary grave covered by a canopy for ten days while his funeral garments were made. A slave, either male or female, volunteers to die with the chieftain and is well taken care of in the days preceding the sacrifice. When ten days have passed the chieftain is exhumed and dressed in his new funeral garments. A couch is placed on the ship and the chieftain is laid upon it. Food and drink offerings are placed on the ship followed by the animal sacrifices. Finally the slave girl is raped by six men before she is sacrificed. The ship is then set on fire burning completely to ash in less than an hour. The mound is built over the remains and the burial ritual is completed.

The ten days of activity prior to the cremation are accompanied by feasting, drinking and sexual intercourse. It appears the entire community took part in the violent spectacles of Viking funerary drama. Even the animals were sacrificed in a particular way and not simply slaughtered. They seemed to have a ‘role to perform’ in the drama, such as the horses being galloped until they were sweating. Particular animal body parts were either thrown on the side of the ship or onto the deck indicating a specifically planned ritual. There is also evidence that funerary drama occasionally continued once the cremation and burial was complete. Evidence shows that the Oseberg ship burial was not fully covered by the original mound. Instead the prow and entire front of the ship with the entrance to the burial chamber was left uncovered. Assuming this part of the ship was left uncovered for a reason it is likely some funerary activities were performed there before the mound was eventually completed. Another burial ship site where a man, woman, and animals had originally been cremated even showed evidence that the ashes of the deceased were removed, separated and ritually reburied in new graves nearby.

Evidence of funerary drama can also be found in Viking chamber burials. These were complex inhumation burials of high-status individuals in a specially constructed underground chamber. The chamber was the size of a small square or rectangular room and was reinforced with wooden walls and a wooden raftered roof. Like other burial sites a mound was usually built over the top of the underground structure. It is thought the deceased were buried seated although the wooden chairs have deteriorated. The dead were likely tied to the chairs with thin iron chains to hold them in place. Why the dead were buried seated in this fashion is not known but there is a theory that it allowed the occupant to ‘watch over’ a certain area such as a town. Grave goods were laid out in front or placed in the hands of the deceased, possibly for use in the afterlife. Even weapons have been discovered carefully placed across the bodies of the dead or thrust into the walls of the underground chamber. These unique aspects of chamber burials seem to set the ‘stage’ for whatever funerary drama was performed at the time of internment.

Other variations on ship and chamber burials have also been discovered. In 2012 a double Viking ship burial dated to around 750 AD was discovered on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Unlike the high status ship burial of the Oseberg ladies, these two ships were used simply as a mass grave for 40 male warriors. The site is a unique example of Viking burials because there are animal bones, likely from a funerary feast, but no evidence of typical sacrificial animals such as horses or dogs. The only grave goods were the warriors’ broken weapons and whatever personal possessions they had brought with them. The ships were not deliberately buried as was the custom, but were instead only covered with stones and sand. The survivors may have had to leave in a hurry and were unable to complete the burial ritual. This is the only site of this kind in the world.

Unlike the prevalence of chamber burials, simple inhumation graves were quite rare. Some bodies were buried in shrouds or makeshift coffins and have been found placed in a variety of different positions. Graves that contain bedding often placed the bodies in the ground as if they were sleeping. There are even some unusual graves where large stones were placed over the bodies of the deceased as if to stop them from leaving the grave. Simple inhumation graves also contain grave goods so they do not appear to be traditional Christian graves, although some scholars debate this fact.

There is no doubt that the Vikings had a great variety of religious and funerary practices. Religious belief was an integral part of their daily lives but their ritual practices varied based on local customs and personal needs. Their elaborate burial preparations and ceremonies brought the community together to honor their dead and ensure their needs were met in the afterlife. Although their sacrificial practices may seem unusually cruel to us today, they must have fulfilled an important requirement in Viking religious belief. Hopefully more archaeological evidence will shed light on the wide-ranging and fascinating burial practices of the Vikings.

Brink, Stefan and Neil Price, editors. The Viking World. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Cornell University Middle East and Islamic Studies Collection. “Ibn Fadlan and the Rusiyyah.” Translated by James E. Montgomery. 1-25. Accessed March 16, 2014. http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/montgo1.pdf

Davidson, H.R. Ellis. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988

DuBois, Thomas A. Nordic Religions in the Viking Age. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

Gräslund, Anne-Sofie. “The Material Culture of Old Norse Religion.” “The Viking World.” Edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. 249-256. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Hultgård, Anders. “The Religion of the Vikings.” “The Viking World.” Edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. 212-218. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Lindow, John. “Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs.”Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Naess, Ellen Marie Naess. “Vikings’ Afterlife Voyage: Oseberg’s Elusive Ladies.” World Archaeology Magazine.” Issue 45, February/March 2011, Volume 4 No. 9. 48-52.

Peets, Jüri. “Salme Ship Burials.” World Archaeology Magazine. Issue 58 April/May 2013 Vol. 5 No.10. 18-24.

Price, Neil. “Dying and the Dead: Viking Age Mortuary Behavior.” “The Viking World.” Edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. 257-273. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Price, Neil. “Passing into Poetry: Viking-Age Mortuary Drama and the Origins of Norse Mythology.” Medieval Archaeology. 2010, Vol. 54 Issue 1, pp 135. 123-156. Accessed March 16, 2014. DOI: 10.1179/174581710X12790370815779

Price, Neil. “Sorcery and Circumpolar Traditions in Old Norse Belief.” “The Viking World.” Edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. 244-248. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Ross, Margaret Clunies. “The Creation of Old Norse Mythology.” “The Viking World.” Edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. 231-234. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Schjødt, Jens Peter. “The Old Norse Gods.” “The Viking World.” Edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. 219-222. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Sturluson, Snorri. “The Prose Edda.” Translated by Jesse L. Byock. London: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Sundqvist, Olof. “Cult Leaders, Rulers and Religion.” “The Viking World.” Edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. 223-226. New York: Routledge, 2008.

University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Adam of Bremen: An Excerpt From the History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen Describing the Cult-Center of the Heathen Swedes at Uppsala.” Translated by Francis J. Tschan. Accessed April 18, 2014,

Viking "power couple"

Nielsen said the man and woman in the tomb may not have been husband and wife, but they were clearly the local "power couple." [Fierce Fighters: 7 Secrets of Viking Seamen]

"The special thing about this tomb is that these two people, each in their own grave, are put inside the same structure," she said. "I can't say it isn't a brother and sister, or it could be [a] husband and wife relationship. But definitely, these two were the ones in charge, the noblest people of the local area."

At some point in time, after the first man and woman were buried, a second man was buried in a grave inside a wooden structure that was added to the original tomb. This man was also buried with his ax, although it was not as large as the ax from the original burial, the researchers said.

Nielsen thinks the second man could have been a relative or successor of the first man. "He was definitely a warrior," she said. "Both men had Dane axes made for fighting, and both were definitely warriors."

The tomb at Haarup was unlike any other Viking tomb in Denmark and the other Viking burials uncovered at the same site, she said.

"This is unique — the only one of its kind that I know of," Nielsen said. "It's a special place."


Norway's coastline rose from glaciation with the end of the last glacial period about 12,000 B.C. The first immigration took place during this period as the Norwegian coast offered good conditions for sealing, fishing, and hunting. [3] They were nomadic and by 9300 B.C they were already settled at Magerøya. Increased ice receding from 8000 B.C. caused settlement along the entire coastline. The Stone Age consisted of the Komsa culture in Troms and Finnmark and the Fosna culture further south. The Nøstvet culture took over from the Fosna culture ca. 7000 BC, [4] which adapted to a warmer climate which gave increased forestation and new mammals for hunting. The oldest human skeleton ever discovered in Norway was found in shallow water off Sogne in 1994 and has been carbon dated to 6,600 BC. [5] Ca. 4000 BC people in the north started using slate tools, earthenware, skis, sleds and large skin boats. [6]

The first farming and thus the start of the Neolithic period, began ca. 4000 BC around the Oslofjord, with the technology coming from southern Scandinavia. [7] The break-through occurred between 2900 and 2500 BC, when oats, barley, pigs, cattle, sheep and goats became common and spread as far north as Alta. This period also saw the arrival of the Corded Ware culture, which brought new weapons, tools and an Indo-European dialect, from which the Norwegian language developed. [8]

Nordic Bronze Age (1800–500 BC) Edit

The Bronze Age started in 1800 BC and involved innovations such as ploughing fields with ards, permanent farms with houses and yards, especially in the fertile areas around the Oslofjord, Trondheimsfjord, Mjøsa and Jæren. [8] Some yields were so high that it allowed farmers to trade furs and skins for luxury items, especially with Jutland. [9] About 1000 BC, speakers of Uralic languages arrived in the north and assimilated with the indigenous population, becoming the Sami people. [7] According to Ante Aikio [10] the formation of the Sámi language was completed in its southernmost area of usage (central Scandinavia, South Sápmi) by 500 AD.

A climate shift with colder weather started about 500 BC. The forests, which had previously consisted of elm, lime, ash and oak, were replaced with birch, pine and spruce. The climate changes also meant that farmers started building more structures for shelter. Knowledge of ironworking was introduced from the Celts, resulting in better weapons and tools. [9]

Nordic Iron Age (500 BC–800 AD) Edit

The Iron Age allowed for easier cultivation and thus new areas were cleared as the population grew with the increased harvests. A new social structure evolved: when sons married, they would remain in the same house such an extended family was a clan. They would offer protection from other clans if conflicts arose, the issue would be decided at a thing, a sacred place where all freemen from the surrounding area would assemble and could determine punishments for crimes, such as paying fines in food. [11]

From the last century, a widespread cultural influence took place. The Vikings adapted letters and created their own alphabet, runes. Trading with Romans also took place, largely furs and skins in exchange for luxury goods. Some Scandinavians also served as Roman mercenaries. [11] Some of the most powerful farmers became chieftains. They functioned as priests and accepted sacrifices from farmers which were again used to pay soldiers, creating a hird. Thus they were able to rule an area of several settlements and tribes. [12]

The chieftains' power increased during the Migration Period between 400 and 550 as other Germanic tribes migrated northwards and local farmers wanted protection. This also resulted in the construction of simple fortifications. A plague hit southern Norway in the 6th century, with hundreds of farms being depopulated. Most were repopulated in the 7th century, which also saw the construction of several fishing hamlets and a boom in trade of iron and soapstone across the North Sea. [12] Some chieftains were able to control most of the trade and grew in power throughout the 8th century. [13]

The Viking Age was a period of Scandinavian expansion through trade, colonization and raids. One of the first raids was against Lindisfarne in 793 and is considered the beginning of the Viking Age. [14] This was possible because of the development of the longship, suitable for travel across the sea, and advanced navigation techniques. [15]

Vikings were well equipped, had chain mail armor, were well trained and had a psychological advantage over Christian counterparts since they believed that being killed in combat would result in them going to Valhalla. In addition to gold and silver, an important outcome from the raids were thralls, which were brought to the Norwegian farms as a slave workforce. While the men were out at sea, the management of the farm was under the control of the women. [16]

The lack of suitable farming land in Western Norway caused Norwegians to travel to the sparsely populated areas of Shetland, Orkney, the Faroe Islands and the Hebrides to colonize—the latter of which became the Kingdom of the Isles. [15] Norwegian Vikings settled on the east coast of Ireland circa 800 and founded the island's first cities, including Dublin. Their arrival caused the petty Celtic kings to ally, and by 900 they had driven out the Norwegians. [17]

In the mid-9th century, the largest chieftains of the petty kingdoms started a major power struggle. Harald Fairhair started the process of unifying Norway when he entered an alliance with the Earls of Lade and was able to unify the country after the decisive Battle of Hafrsfjord (circa 870–900). [18] He set up the very basics of a state administration with stewards in the most important former chieftain estates.

Iceland, then uninhabited, was discovered by Norwegians during the late 9th century. By 930 the island had been divided among 400 Norse chieftains. [19]

Håkon the Good – the son of Harald Fairhair – assumed the crown in 930 and established two large things, assemblies in which the king met with the freemen to make decisions: Gulating for Western Norway and Frostating for Trøndelag. He also established the ledang, a conscription-based military. After his death in 960, war broke out between the Fairhair dynasty and the Earls of Lade in alliance with Danish kings. [20]

Led by Erik the Red, a Norwegian-born man, a group of Icelanders settled on Greenland in the 980s. [21] Erik's son, Leif Ericson, came across Newfoundland in ca. 1000, naming it Vinland. Unlike Greenland, no permanent settlement was established there. [18]

Christianization and the abolition of the rites in Norse mythology were first attempted by Olav Tryggvason, but he was killed in the Battle of Svolder in 1000. [22] Olav Haraldsson, starting in 1015, made the things pass church laws, destroyed heathen hofs, built churches and created an institution of priests. Many chieftains feared that Christianization would rob them of power as Goðar in traditional Norse paganism. The two sides met in the Battle of Stiklestad, where Haraldsson was killed. [23] The church elevated Haraldsson to sainthood, and Nidaros (today Trondheim) became the Christian centre of Norway. [24] Within a few years the Danish rule had become sufficiently unpopular that Norway again became united. [25]

From the 1040s to 1130 the country was at peace. [26] In 1130, a civil war era broke out over succession to the throne, which allowed all the king's sons to rule jointly. At times there were periods of peace, before a lesser son allied himself with a chieftain and started a new conflict. The Archdiocese of Nidaros was created in 1152 in an attempt to control the appointment of kings. [27] The church inevitably had to take sides in these conflicts, with the church's influence on the king also becoming an issue in the civil wars. The wars ended in 1217 with the appointment of Håkon Håkonsson, who introduced clear succession laws. [28] He also managed to subject Greenland and Iceland to Norwegian rule the Icelandic Commonwealth thus came to an end after the Age of the Sturlungs civil war resulted in a pro-Norwegian victory.

The population increased from 150,000 in 1000 to 400,000 in 1300, resulting both in more land being cleared and the subdivision of farms. While in the Viking Age all farmers owned their own land, by 1300 seventy percent of the land was owned by the king, the church, or the aristocracy. This was a gradual process which took place because farmers would borrow money in poor times and not being able to repay them. However, tenants always remained free men and the large distances and often scattered ownership meant that they enjoyed much more freedom than continental serfs. In the 13th century about twenty percent of a farmer's yield went to the king, church and landowners. [29]

14th century Edit

The 14th century is described as Norway's Golden Age, with peace and increase in trade, especially with the British islands, although Germany became increasingly important towards the end of the century. Throughout the High Middle Ages the king established Norway as a sovereign state with a central administration and local representatives. [30]

In 1349, the Black Death spread to Norway and within a year killed a third of the population. Later plagues reduced the population to half by 1400. Many communities were entirely wiped out, resulting in an abundance of land, allowing farmers to switch to more animal husbandry. The reduction in taxes weakened the king's position, [31] and many aristocrats lost the basis for their surplus, reducing some to mere farmers. High tithes to the church made it increasingly powerful and the archbishop became a member of the Council of State. [32]

The Hanseatic League took control of Norwegian trade in the 14th century and established a trading centre in Bergen. In 1380, Olaf Haakonsson inherited both the Norwegian and Danish thrones, creating a union between the two countries. [32] In 1397, under Margaret I, the Kalmar Union was created between the three Scandinavian countries. She waged war against the Germans, resulting in a trade blockade and higher taxation on Norwegians, which resulted in a rebellion. However, the Norwegian Council of State was too weak to pull out of the union. [33]

Margaret pursued a centralising policy which inevitably favoured Denmark, because it had a greater population than Norway and Sweden combined. [34] Margaret also granted trade privileges to the Hanseatic merchants of Lübeck in Bergen in return for recognition of her right to rule, and these hurt the Norwegian economy. The Hanseatic merchants formed a state within a state in Bergen for generations. [35] Even worse were the pirates, the "Victual Brothers", who launched three devastating raids on the port (the last in 1427). [36]

Norway slipped ever more to the background under the Oldenburg dynasty (established 1448). There was one revolt under Knut Alvsson in 1502. [37] Norwegians had some affection for King Christian II, who resided in the country for several years. Norway did not take any part in the events which led to Swedish independence from Denmark in the 1520s. [38]

In October 2018, Norwegian archaeologists headed by the archaeologist Lars Gustavsen announced the discovery of a buried 20 m long Gjellestad Viking ship in Halden municipality. An ancient well-preserved Viking cemetery for more than 1000 years was discovered using ground-penetrating radar. Archaeologists also revealed at least seven other previously unknown burial mounds and the remnants of five longhouses with the help of the radar survey. [39] [40] [41] [42]

In February 2020, Secrets of the Ice Program researchers discovered a 1,500-year-old Viking arrowhead dating back to the Germanic Iron Age and locked in a glacier in southern Norway caused by the climate change in the Jotunheimen Mountains. The arrowhead made of iron was revealed with its cracked wooden shaft and a feather, is 17 cm long and weighs just 28 grams. [43] [44] [45] [46]

Sweden was able to pull out of the Kalmar Union in 1523, thus creating Denmark–Norway under the rule of a king in Copenhagen. Frederick I of Denmark favoured Martin Luther's Reformation, but it was not popular in Norway, where the Church was the one national institution and the country was too poor for the clergy to be very corrupt. Initially, Frederick agreed not to try to introduce Protestantism to Norway but in 1529 he changed his mind. Norwegian resistance was led by Olav Engelbrektsson, Archbishop of Trondheim, who invited the old king Christian II back from his exile in the Netherlands. Christian returned but his army was defeated and Christian spent the rest of his life in prison. When Frederick died and a three-way war of succession broke out between the supporters of his eldest son Christian (III), his younger Catholic brother Hans and the followers of Christian II. Olaf Engelbrektsson again tried to lead a Catholic Norwegian resistance movement. Christian III triumphed and Engelbrektsson went into exile and, in 1536/1537, Christian demoted Norway from an independent kingdom to a puppet state. [47] The Reformation was imposed in 1537, [32] strengthening the king's power. All church valuables were sent to Copenhagen and the forty percent of the land which was owned by the church came under the control of the king. Danish was introduced as a written language, although Norwegian remained distinct dialects. Professional administration was now needed and power shifted from the provincial nobility to the royal administration: district stipendiary magistrates were appointed as judges and the sheriffs became employees of the crown rather than of the local nobility. In 1572, a governor-general was appointed for Norway with a seat at Akershus Fortress in Oslo. From the 1620s professional military officers were employed. [48]

The 17th century saw a series of wars between Denmark–Norway and Sweden. The Kalmar War between 1611 and 1613 saw 8,000 Norwegian peasants conscripted. Despite lack of training, Denmark–Norway won and Sweden abandoned its claims to the land between Tysfjord and Varangerfjord. With the Danish participation in the Thirty Years' War in 1618–48, a new conscription system was created in which the country was subdivided into 6,000 ledg, each required to support one soldier. [49] Denmark–Norway lost the war and was forced to cede Jämtland and Härjedalen to Sweden. The Second Northern War in 1657 to 1660 resulted in Bohuslän being ceded to Sweden. The Danish monarchy became an absolutist and hereditary one in Norway in 1661. [50] A new administrative system was introduced. Departments organized by portfolio were established in Copenhagen, while Norway was divided into counties, each led by a district governor, and further subdivided into bailiwicks. About 1,600 government officials were appointed throughout the country. [51] Ulrik Fredrik Gyldenløve was the most famous viceroy of Norway (1664–1699). [52]

The population of Norway increased from 150,000 in 1500 to 900,000 in 1800. [51] By 1500 most deserted farms were repossessed. The period under absolutism increased the ratio of self-owning farmers from twenty to fifty percent, largely through sales of crown land to finance the lost wars. Crofts became common in the absolutism period, especially in Eastern Norway and Trøndelag, with the smallholder living at the mercy of the farmer. [53] There were 48,000 smallholders in 1800. Compared to Denmark, taxes were very low in Norway, typically at four to ten percent of the harvest, although the number of farms per legd decreased from four to two in the 1670s. Confirmation was introduced in 1736 as it required people to read, elementary education was introduced. [54] The Norwegian economy improved with the introduction of the water-driven saw in the early 16th century. Norway had huge resources of timber but did not have the means to exploit much of it in the Middle Ages as only hand-tools were available. The new saw mills which sprang up in the fjords changed this. In 1544 a deal was struck with the Netherlands (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) and the Dutch controlled the export of Norwegian timber for the next 150 years. Amsterdam was built on piles from Norway. Tree-felling was done in the winter when farm-work was impossible and it was easy to get the felled trees across the snow to the rivers. In the spring, the logs floated down the rivers to the saw mills by the sea. [55] By the mid-16th century the power of the Hanseatic League in Bergen was broken though German craftsmen remained, they had to accept Danish rule. [56] Many Norwegians earned a living as sailors in foreign ships, especially Dutch ones. The crews in both sides of the Anglo-Dutch Wars contained Norwegians. [57] Norway benefitted from the many European wars of the 18th century. As a neutral power it was able to expand its share of the shipping market. It also supplied timber to foreign navies. [58]

The entire period saw mercantilism as the basis for commerce, which involved import regulations and tariffs, monopolies and privileges throughout the county granted to burghers. The lumber industry became important in the 17th century through exports especially to England. [59] To avoid deforestation, a royal decree closed a large number of sawmills in 1688 because this mostly affected farmers with small mills, by the mid 18th century only a handful of merchants controlled the entire lumber industry. [60] Mining increased in the 17th century, the largest being the silver mines in Kongsberg and the copper mines in Røros. Fishing continued to be an important income for farmers along the coast, but from the 18th century dried cod started being salted, which required fishermen to buy salt from merchants. The first important period of Norwegian shipping was between 1690 and 1710, but the advantage was lost with Denmark–Norway entering the Great Northern War in 1709. However, Norwegian shipping regained its strength towards the end of the century. [61]

Throughout the period, Bergen was the largest town in the country its population of 14,000 in the mid 18th century was twice the size of Christiania (later Oslo) and Trondheim combined. Eight townships with privileges existed in 1660—by 1800 this had increased to twenty-three. During this period up to two-thirds of the country's audited national income was transferred to Copenhagen. [62] In the last decades of the century, Hans Nielsen Hauge started the Haugean movement, which demanded the right to preach the word of God freely. [63] The University of Oslo was established in 1811. [64]

Denmark–Norway entered the Napoleonic Wars on France's side in 1807. This had a devastating effect on the Norwegian economy as the Royal Navy hindered export by ship and import of food. Sweden invaded Norway the following year, but after several Norwegian victories a cease-fire was signed in 1809. [65] After pressure from Norwegian merchants license trade was permitted with corn from Denmark to Eastern Norway in exchange for Norwegian timber export to Great Britain. [66] Following the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, the Treaty of Kiel signed on 14 January 1814 ceded Norway to the king of Sweden. [67]

Christian Frederik, heir to the Danish and Norwegian crowns, had since 1813 been governor-general of Norway. [67] He spearheaded the Norwegian resistance against the Kiel Treaty and planned to claim the throne as the legitimate heir. He traveled to Trondheim to gain support for his person, and then assembled twenty-one prominent citizens at Eidsvoll on 16 February 1814 to discuss his plans. They rejected a new absolute monarchy and advised him instead to convoke a constituent assembly to draw up a liberal constitution and decide the form of government. Representatives from the entire country were elected to meet at Eidsvoll. [68] The 112 members of the Constituent Assembly gathered and, after six weeks of discussion, concluded the work on the Constitution of Norway on 17 May 1814. Power would be split between the king – a position to which Christian Frederik was appointed – and the Parliament of Norway. [69] The Swedish army under Crown prince Carl Johan of Sweden invaded Norway in late July at the armistice Convention of Moss on 14 August Norway accepted to enter a personal union with Sweden on equal terms, while Sweden accepted the Norwegian Constitution and separate institutions in both states. King Christian Frederik agreed to convoke an extraordinary parliament to revise the Constitution accordingly, and then abdicate. The parliament was convened in Christiania on 7 October, and the necessary amendments were resolved on 4 November 1814. On the same day, king Charles XIII of Sweden was elected king of Norway, thereby establishing the Union. [70]

The Napoleonic Wars sent Norway into an economic crisis, as nearly all the merchants had gone bankrupt during the blockade. Recovery was difficult because of export tariffs and the country experienced high inflation. The Norwegian speciedaler was established as a currency by the Bank of Norway when it was established in 1816, financed through a silver tax which lasted until 1842. [71] Under threat of a coup d'état by Carl Johan, Norway reluctantly paid the debt stated in the Treaty of Kiel, despite never having ratified it. Constitution Day on 17 May became an important political rally every year [72] in 1829 the Swedish governor-general Baltzar von Platen resigned after he used force against demonstrators in the Battle of the Square. [73] The first half of the century was dominated by the ca. 2,000 officials, [74] as there were few bourgeois and no aristocracy following an 1821 decision to abolish nobility. From the 1832 election, farmers became more conscious of electing themselves, resulting in a majority of farmers in Parliament. This resulted in rural tax cuts and higher import tariffs, shifting the tax burden to the cities. [75] They also passed the Local Committees Act, which established elected municipal councils from 1838. [76] Cultural expression from the 1840s to the 1870s was dominated by the romantic nationalism, which emphasized the uniqueness of Norway. [ citation needed ]

The textile industry started in the 1840s, which was followed up with mechanical workshops to build new machinery as the British embargo hindered import of textile machinery. [77] An economic crisis hit the country from 1848, resulting in Marcus Thrane establishing the first trade unions and demanding that quality for the law independent of social class. Parliament passed a series of laws abandoning economic privileges and easing domestic trade during the 1840s and 1850s. [78] Population increase forced the clearing of new land, although some of the growth came in the cities. The population of Christiania reached 40,000 in 1855. [79] By 1865 the population reached 1.7 million the large increase was largely caused by better nutrition from herring and potatoes, a sharp decrease of infant mortality and increased hygiene. [76] Emigration to North America started in 1825, with the first mass emigration commencing in the 1860s. By 1930, 800,000 people had emigrated, the majority settling in the Midwestern United States. [79]

The population decrease resulted in a labor shortage in the agriculture, which again resulted in increased use of machinery and thus capital. The government stimulated the process through the creation of the Mortgage Bank in 1851 and the State Agricultural College eight years later. [80] The 19th century saw a large increase of road construction and steamship services commenced along the coast. The first railway, the Trunk Line between Christiania and Eidsvoll opened in 1854, followed a year later by the first telegraph line. Export industry commenced with steam-powered sawmills in the 1860s, followed by canned herring, wood pulp and cellulose. From 1850 to 1880 the Norwegian shipping industry enjoyed a large boom, stimulated by the abolishing of the British Navigation Acts. By 1880 there were 60,000 Norwegian seamen and the country had the world's third-largest merchant marine. [81] As the first coast-to-coast railway, the Røros Line connected the capital to Trondheim in 1877. [82] Norway joined the Scandinavian Monetary Union in 1875 and introduced the Norwegian krone with a gold standard, [83] along with the metric system being introduced. [84]

Annual parliamentary sessions were introduced from 1869 and in 1872 ministers were, though a constitutional amendment, required to meet in Parliament to defend their policies. The king, despite having no constitutional right to do so, vetoed the amendment in three successive parliaments. The 1882 election saw the first two parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, run for election, and subsequently the majority succeeded at impeaching the cabinet. [85] In 1884 the king appointed majority leader Johan Sverdrup as prime minister, thus establishing parliamentarism as the first European country. [86] The Liberal Party introduced a series of legal reforms, such as increasing the voting rights to about half of all men, settling the language conflict by establishing two official written standards, Riksmål and Landsmål, introduced juries, seven years of compulsory education and, [87] as the first European country, universal suffrage for men in 1889. [88]

The 1880s and 1890s saw the rise of the labor movement and trade unions became common the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions was established in 1899 and the Norwegian Employers' Confederation the following year. [87] The Labor Party had its first parliamentary members elected in 1903. The women's issue became increasingly dominant through the 1880s and they were gradually permitted to take secondary and tertiary education. [89] Norwegian support of the union decreased towards the end of the 1890s, especially following the 1897 Swedish abolition of the free trade agreement and the lack of a Norwegian foreign minister. Negotiations of independence commenced, but were not effective because of shifting governments and the Swedish threat of war. [88]

With the four-party Michelsen's Cabinet appointed in 1905, Parliament voted to establish a Norwegian consular service. This was rejected by the king and on 7 June Parliament unanimously approved the dissolution of the union. In the following dissolution referendum, only 184 people voted in favor of a union. The government offered the Norwegian crown to Denmark's Prince Carl, who after a plebiscite became Haakon VII. [90] The following ten years, Parliament passed a series of social reforms, such as sick pay, factory inspection, a ten-hour working day and worker protection laws. Waterfalls for hydroelectricity became an important resource in this period and the government secured laws to hinder foreigners from controlling waterfalls, mines and forests. [91] Large industrial companies established in these years were Elkem, [92] Norsk Hydro and Sydvaranger. [93] The Bergen Line was completed in 1909, [82] the Norwegian Institute of Technology was established the following year [94] and women's suffrage was introduced in 1913—as the second country in the world. [89] From the 1880s to the 1920s, Norwegians carried out a series of polar expeditions. The most important explorers were Fridtjof Nansen, Roald Amundsen and Otto Sverdrup. Amundsen's expedition in 1911 became the first to reach the South Pole. [95]

Norway adopted a policy of neutrality from 1905 during World War I the Norwegian merchant marine was largely used in support of the British, resulting in Norway being classified as The Neutral Ally. Half the Norwegian fleet was sunk and 2,000 seamen were killed by the German Atlantic U-boat Campaign. Some merchants made huge profits from trade and shipping during the war, [96] resulting in an increased division between the classes. [97] The interwar period was dominated by economic instability caused among other by strikes, lock-outs and the monetary policy causing deflation to compensate for too much money having been issued during the war and thus hindering investments. [98] Especially fishermen were hit hard in the period, while farmers retained market prices through organizing regulations. Unemployment peaked at ten percent between 1931 and 1933. [99] Although industrial production increased by eighty percent from 1915 to 1939, the number of jobs remained stable. [100] The Norwegian School of Economics was established in 1936. [101]

Norway had nine governments between 1918 and 1935, nearly all minority and lasting an average eighteen months. The Agrarian Party was established in 1920, although this period saw a rise of support for the Conservatives. [102] The Labor Party split in 1921, with the left wing establishing the Communist Party. [103] Although strong during the 1920s, they were marginalized through the 1930s. A short-lived Labor Government reigned in 1928, [104] but did not establish a sound parliamentary support until the 1935 Nygaardsvold's Cabinet, based on an alliance with the Agrarian Party. [105] During the 1920s and 1930s, Norway established three dependencies, Bouvetøya, Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land, annexed Jan Mayen and secured sovereignty of Svalbard through the Svalbard Treaty. [106] Norway's first civil airport, Stavanger, opened in 1937. [107]

From the start of World War II in 1939, Norway maintained a strict neutrality. [108] Both Britain and Germany realized the strategic location both made plans to invade Norway, regardless of Norwegian opposition. The Germans struck first and attacked Norway on 9 April 1940. After furious battles with the Norwegians and British forces, Germany prevailed and controlled Norway until the end of the war. The German goal was to use Norway to control access to the North Sea and the Atlantic, and to station air and naval forces to stop convoys from Britain to the USSR.

Government in exile Edit

The government in exile, including the royal family, escaped to London. Politics were suspended and the government coordinated action with the Allies, retained control of a worldwide diplomatic and consular service, and operated the huge Norwegian merchant marine. It organized and supervised the resistance within Norway. One long-term impact was the abandonment of a traditional Scandinavian policy of neutrality Norway became a founding member of NATO in 1949. [109] Norway at the start of the war had the world's fourth largest merchant fleet, at 4.8 million tons, including a fifth of the world's oil tankers. The Germans captured about 20% of the fleet but the remainder, about 1000 ships, were taken over by the government. Although half the ships were sunk, the earnings paid the expenses of the government. [110] [111]

Quisling regime Edit

Vidkun Quisling proclaimed himself prime minister and appointed a government with members from the National Unity Party. [112] He was quickly set aside and replaced by Josef Terboven, but reinstated in 1942. The Norwegian Campaign continued in Northern Norway and the government fled to London on 7 June. [113] The German occupation resulted in a brutalization of society and 30,000 people were imprisoned. [114] 55,000 people joined the National Unity Party, which became the only legal party. But the nazification process failed after the Supreme Court resigned and both organized sports and bishops boycotted the new regime. [115] A resistance movement was established and was coordinated from London from 1943. [116] Stokker reports that hostile humour against the Germans helped maintain morale and build a wall against collaboration. Jokes made the rounds dripping with contempt for the oppressors, ridicule of Nazi ideology, stressing the cruelty of the Nazis and mocking their inflated self-image. People on the street asked, "Do you know the difference between the Nazis and a bucket of manure? The bucket." In Post Office lines they explained, "It's rumored that we're getting new stamps bearing Quisling's likeness, but distribution has been delayed because no one knows which side to spit on." The jokes worked to educate Norwegians about the occupation, and encourage a sense of solidarity. [117] At the time of German surrender on 8 May 1945, there were 360,000 German soldiers in the country. [118]

1945–1950 Edit

A legal purge took place in Norway after WWII in which 53,000 people were sentenced for treason and 25 were executed. [118] The post-war years saw an increased interest in Scandinavism, resulting in Scandinavian Airlines System in 1946, the Nordic Council in 1952 [119] and the Nordic Passport Union [120] along with the metric system being introduced. [84] Reconstruction after the war gave Norway the highest economic growth in Europe until 1950, partly created through rationing private consumption allowing for higher industrial investments. The Labor Party retained power throughout the period and maintained a policy of public planning. [121] The University of Bergen was created in 1946. [122] The 1950s saw a boom in construction of hydroelectricity [123] and the state built the steel mill Norsk Jernverk and two aluminum works. [124] State banks such as the State Housing Bank, the State Educational Loan Fund and Postbanken allowed for governmental control over private debt. Oslo hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics. [125]

Norway retained its neutrality policy until 1947, focusing on its membership in the United Nations, [126] where Trygve Lie had become the first secretary-general. [127] However, there was no enthusiasm for the UN at the time. [128] Anti-communism grew with a Soviet proposal for joint control over Svalbard and especially after the 1948 Czechoslovak coup d'état, after which the Communist Party lost all influence. [126] Norway started negotiations for the creation of a Scandinavian defense union, but instead opted to become a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, Norway never allowed permanently stationed foreign troops or nuclear weapons on Norwegian soil to avoid agitating the Soviet Union, with which Norway from 1944 shared a land border. [129] NATO financed large parts of the Norwegian military investments, which ultimately resulted in numerous airports being built during the 1950s and 1960s. [130]

Marshall Plan Edit

Norway joined the Marshall Plan ("ERP") in 1947, receiving US$400 million in American support. [121] Given the business background of the Marshall Plan's American leaders, their readiness to work with the Norwegian Labor government's ERP Council disappointed the conservative Norwegian business community. It was represented by the major business organizations, the Norges Industriforbund and the Norsk Arbeidsgiverforening. While reluctant to work with the government, Norwegian business leaders also recognized the dangers of appearing to obstruct the implementation of the Marshall Plan. American acceptance of a role for government in economic planning reflected their New Deal reformist orientation. The opportunities for mediation between conservative Norwegian business interests and the government that arose in the course of administering the Marshall Plan helped establish a base for the emergence of Norwegian corporatism in the 1950s. [131]

1950 to 1972 Edit

The sale of cars was deregulated in October 1960, and in the same year the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation introduced Norway's first television broadcasts. [132] Norway feared competition from Swedish industry and Danish agriculture and chose not to join any free trade organizations until 1960, when it joined the European Free Trade Association. [133] Throughout the post-war period both fishing and agriculture became more mechanized, the agricultural subsidies rose to the third-highest in the world and the number of small-scale farms and fishermen fell dramatically. [134] The Socialist People's Party was created in 1961 by former Labor politicians who disagreed with the Labor Party's NATO, nuclear and European policies. [119] Following the Kings Bay Affair the right-wing Lyng's Cabinet ruled for a month. [135] The right-wing coalition Borten's Cabinet won the 1965 election, sat for six years and started a trend of shifting Labor and right-wing governments. [136] Norwegianization of Samis halted after the war and Sami rights became an increasing issue, with a council being established in 1964. [137]

The completion of the Nordland Line to Bodø in 1962 concluded the construction of new railway routes, [82] while the first part of the Oslo Metro opened in 1966. [138] A social security net was gradually introduced after the war, with child allowances introduced in 1946 and the Social Care Act introduced in 1964. [125] The 1960s saw good times for heavy industry and Norway became Europe's largest exporter of aluminum and the world's largest exporter of ferroalloys. [132] The University of Trondheim and the University of Tromsø both opened in 1968, one year before a network of regional colleges started being opened. Influenced by American culture and similar actions abroad, youth and students started an uproar against cultural norms. [139] The 1960s saw an increased focus on environmentalism, especially through activism, based on ever-more conversion of waterfalls to hydro stations, pollution and the dilapidation of herring stocks. Rondane National Park was created as the country's first in 1962 and the Ministry of the Environment was the first in the world when it was established in 1972. [140] A network of regional airports were built in Western and Northern Norway in the late 1960s and early 1970s. [141] Membership in the European Economic Community was rejected in a 1972 referendum. [142]

Prospecting in the North Sea started in 1966 and in 1969 Phillips Petroleum found oil in the Ekofisk field—which proved to be among the ten largest fields in the world. Operations of the fields was split between foreign operators, the state-owned Statoil, the partially state-owned Norsk Hydro and Saga Petroleum. Ekofisk experienced a major blowout in 1977 and 123 people were killed when the Alexander Kielland accommodation rig capsized in 1980 [143] these incidents led to a strengthening of petroleum safety regulations. The oil industry not only created jobs in production, but a large number of supply and technology companies were established. Stavanger became the center of this industry. High petroleum taxes and dividends from Statoil gave high income from the oil industry to the government. [144]

Norway established its exclusive economic zone in the 1970s, receiving an area of 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi). [144] A series of border disputes followed agreements were reached with Denmark and Iceland in the 1990s, [145] but the border in the Barents Sea was not agreed upon until 2010. [146] Between 1973 and 1981 the country was ruled by the Labor Party, who carried out a series of reforms such as new school system. Farmers received increased subsidies and from 1974 women were permitted to inherit farms. [145] Abortion on demand was legalized in 1978. [147] Loans guaranteed in future oil income allowed Norway to avoid a recession during the mid-1970s. But by 1977 high wages had made Norwegian industry uncompetitive and a soaring forced cut-backs in public and private spending. [148] Fish farming became a new, profitable industry along the coast. [149]

An immigration surplus was established in the late 1960s, largely from Western Europe and the United States—from the 1970s increasingly expertise in oil. The period also saw an increased immigration of unskilled labor from developing countries, especially Pakistan, although regulations from 1975 slowed this significantly. Oslo became the center-point of immigration. [148] The Alta controversy started in the 1970s when Statkraft planned to dam the Alta River. The case united the environmental and Sami interest groups although Alta Power Station was built, the issue shifted the political climate and made large-scale hydroelectricity project difficult to built. The Sami Parliament was established in 1989. [150]

The Conservative Party won the 1981 elections and carried out a large deregulation reform: taxes were cut, local private radio stations were permitted, cable television was established by private companies, regulations on borrowing money were removed and foreigners were permitted to buy securities. An economic crisis hit in 1986 when foreigners started selling Norwegian krone, which ultimately forced an increase in taxes and Prime Minister Kåre Willoch was forced to resign. [151] The Progress Party, located to the right of the Conservatives, had its break-through in the late 1980s. [152] The high wages in the oil industry made low-skill manufacturing industries uncompetitive and the Labor Party closed a number of public industrial companies which were receiving large subsidies. [153] The 1980s saw a trebling of people on disability, largely amongst the oldest in the workforce. Crime rates rose. [154]

The subsea Vardø Tunnel opened in 1982 [155] and since the country has built subsea tunnels to connect island communities to the mainland. From the 1980s, the largest cities introduced toll rings to finance new road projects. [ citation needed ] A banking crisis hit Norway in the late 1980s, causing the largest banks, such as Den norske Bank, Christiania Bank and Fokus Bank, to be nationalized. [156] Norsk Data, a manufacturer of minicomputers, became Norway's second largest company by 1985, [157] just to go bankrupt by 1993. [158] Unemployment reached record-high levels in the early 1990s. [159]

By 1990, Norway was Europe's largest oil producer and by 1995 it was the world's second-largest oil exporter. [144] Membership in the European Union was rejected in a 1994 referendum, with Norway instead joining the European Economic Area [160] and later also the Schengen Area. [161] Large public investments in the 1990s were a new National Hospital and Oslo Airport, Gardermoen—connected to the capital with Norway's first high-speed railway, the Gardermoen Line. [159] A number of large government companies, such as Statoil, Telenor and Kongsberg were privatized. [156] Lillehammer hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. [162] The end of the Cold War resulted in cooperation with Russia and reduced military activity. [163]