Norway’s oldest city even older than thought

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The Norwegian city of Tønsberg, about an hour’s drive southwest of Oslo, was believed to have been founded around 1100 AD. Now archaeologists think it’s at least 200 years older, following drilling tests around the downtown area. 

Ruins of an old party hall from the middle ages are situated on Slottsfjellet, a small hill inside the city limits of Tønsberg in the south eastern part of Norway [Credit: Christoffer A. Andersen/Flickr]

The city isn’t far from where Norway’s famous Oseberg Viking ship was excavated, and now it appears Tønsberg was established as a Viking kaupang, or trading center. The city remains dominated by its restored Slottsfjelltårnet, a tower on a hilltop in the heart of town that once featured a castle and fortress complex, the ruins of which remain visible. 

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that drilling tests by archaeologists from Norway’s institute for cultural heritage (Norsk institutt for kulturminneforskning, NIKU) confirm the city’s existence during the Viking age. The tests taken in the center of today’s city have revealed kulturlag, layers of dirt and remnants of civilization, dating to 900AD. 

So even though written sources first mention Tønsberg around 1120, it was already a trading center by 900, possibly even earlier. Archaeologists believed it also was the site of a large farm around 300AD. 

Source: Views and News from Norway [June 05, 2012]

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