The stays of a 1,200-year-old pagan temple to the Outdated Norse gods similar to Thor and Odin have been found in Norway – a uncommon relic of the Viking faith constructed a number of centuries earlier than Christianity turned dominant there.
Archaeologists say the big picket constructing – about 45 ft (14 meters) lengthy, 26 ft (eight m) extensive, and as much as 40 ft (12 m) excessive – is believed to this point from the top of the eighth century and was used for worship and sacrifices to gods through the midsummer and midwinter solstices.
Outdated Norse tradition was well-known and feared by some a century later, after bands of Norse sailors and warriors often known as the Vikings began buying and selling, raiding and colonizing all through Europe and into Iceland, Greenland and Canada.
That is the primary Outdated Norse temple discovered within the nation, mentioned archaeologist Søren Diinhoff of the College Museum of Bergen.
“That is the primary time we have discovered considered one of these very particular, very lovely buildings,” Diinhoff advised Reside Science. “We all know them from Sweden and we all know them from Denmark. … This reveals that in addition they existed in Norway.”
The Norse started constructing these giant “god homes”, as they’re known as, within the sixth century. The god homes had been rather more advanced than the straightforward websites, typically open air, that the individuals beforehand used to worship the Outdated Norse gods.
“It’s a stronger expression of perception than all of the small cult locations,” he mentioned. “That is most likely one thing to do with a sure class of the society, who constructed these as an actual ideological present.”
Archaeologists unearthed the foundations of the traditional constructing final month at Ose, a seaside village close to the city of Ørsta in western Norway, forward of preparations for a brand new housing growth.
Their excavations revealed traces of early agricultural settlements relationship to between 2,000 and a couple of,500 years in the past, together with the stays of two longhouses that will have every been the middle of a small farm for a household and their animals, Diinhoff mentioned.
The stays of the god home at Ose, nevertheless, are from a later time when the realm started to be dominated by an elite group of rich households – a distinction that arose as Scandinavian societies started to work together with the extra stratified societies of the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes of northern Europe.
“When the brand new socially differentiated society set in, within the Roman Iron Age, the main households took management of the cult,” he mentioned.
Norse non secular worship turned extra ideological and arranged, and god homes at Ose had been patterned on Christian basilicas that vacationers had seen in southern lands, he mentioned.
Consequently, Outdated Norse temples featured a particular excessive tower above the pitched roof, which was a duplicate of the towers of early Christian church buildings, he mentioned.
Though the picket constructing is now long-gone, the post-holes that stay present its form, together with the spherical central posts of its tower – a really distinctive building that was solely ever utilized in god homes, Diinhoff mentioned. “It might have been very spectacular.”
The aim of the positioning can also be revealed by a focus of cooking pits the place meals for non secular feasts was ready, and quite a few bones – the stays of animal sacrifices.
A big white “phallus” stone, roughly representing the male genital organ, was additionally discovered close by a number of years in the past and was most likely a part of the Outdated Norse fertility rituals, Diinhoff mentioned.
Ceremonies would have been held within the god home for vital festivals on the non secular calendar, such because the midsummer and midwinter solstices – the shortest and longest nights of the yr, respectively.
Meat, drink and generally valuable metals like gold would have been supplied to picket collectible figurines inside the constructing that represented the Outdated Norse gods – specifically the conflict god Odin, the storm god Thor, and the fertility god Freyr, who had been generally worshipped within the Outdated Norse faith and gave their names in English to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Because the gods may solely partake of the pageant meals in spirit, the bodily food and drinks could be loved by their worshippers. “You’ll have a great temper, a number of consuming and a number of consuming,” Diinhoff mentioned. “I believe they might have had fun.”
The Outdated Norse faith was suppressed from the 11th century, when Norway’s kings forcibly imposed the Christian faith and tore down or burned buildings just like the god home at Ose to implement worship within the new Christian church buildings.
Thus far, there is no proof that the god home at Ose was a part of that purge, Diinhoff mentioned.
Additional work may reveal the home was among the many pagan buildings destroyed on the time. “It might be superb if we may clarify that,” he mentioned. “However we’re not there but.”