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Thousand Year Old Arrowhead Found In Hardanger

The iron arrowhead is 12cm long
The arrowhead is about 12cm long. Photo: Hordaland fylkeskommune

This 12cm-long iron arrowhead was found high up in the mountains near Eidfjord, at the end of the Hardangerfjord.

As glaciers melt and the ground changes, historical artefacts are turning up more frequently. The latest find in the mountains of Hardanger paints an interesting picture.

Around one thousand years ago, a reindeer hunter was out hunting 1,400 metres above sea level at Store Ishaug in Eidfjord, just north of what is now Hardangervidda National Park. He had with him a bow and arrow on his hunt for reindeer. But his aim was poor, and he lost an arrow into the snow.

Read more: A Brief History of Norway

In September 2019, a local out for a walk near his mountain cabin stumbled across the arrowhead, laying on the floor next to a snowflake. “I immediately realized that it was something special, something from before they used rifles,” said Ernst Hagen.

Nothing similar ever found in the area

Hagen took the arrowhead to the archaeologists at Hordaland county council. Archaeologist Tore Slinning sais that no similar findings have been made in Hordaland before.

Norwegian Ernst Hagen with the arrowhead
Hagen with the discovery. Photo: Hordaland fylkeskommune

“This is an unusual finding and a bit of a hit. It's like finding a needle in the haystack. Such discoveries may emerge as climate change melts the ice and changes the form of the land. This arrowhead would have been covered by snow in the winter had it not been found,” he said.

Keep your eyes open

If the iron arrowhead had been left exposed, it would gradually erode and eventually disappear completely. The wooden arrow itself is long gone.

“We don't know when the long arrow would have decomposed. In soil, everything rots. The arrow may have rotted away a long time ago if it was in soil. If it had been encased in snow and ice, it may have decomposed much more recently when the snow had melted. Those who are in the close proximity to glaciers that melt should look for such ancient discoveries,” Slinning says.

The arrowhead is made of iron. There has been iron extraction in the area in the past, and several villages nearby. The arrowhead was found in the mountains near to these former settlements.

Findings across Norway as glaciers melt

The archaeologist said that such finds are not common in Hardanger, unlike several others places in Norway.

Jostedalsbreen glacier in Norway
Norway's glaciers and melting and moving

This summer, an arrow with arrowhead was found in Fresvik, while a 1,500-year-old sled was discovered on Vossaskaret.

The reason why there are relatively few discoveries in Hordaland is to do with the movement of Norway's glaciers. Objects are often crushed by the glaciers, whereas in Oppland, objects are left laying on the plains as snow melts.

The arrowhead is now being looked after by the University Museum in Bergen. The experts there will preserve it, so that no further rusting takes place, and attempt to more accurately date it. So far, the best estimates put the arrowhead at approximately 1,000 years old. That would date it to the end of the Viking Era or the Early Middle Ages.

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

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