Archaeology: A Viking Blacksmith

A thousand years ago, more or less, a norse blacksmith reached the end of his life-journey and at his funeral rites, his tools were buried with him. Now, archaeology found his burial place and the artefacts buried with him. The findings give us insight into the work and status of a blacksmith in the viking society of old.

The grave was composed of several layers. It seems, according to the archaeologists , that the placement of the artefacts in the grave signify a relative status. At the top it has been found the blacksmith tools. An axe was also found, along with a sword and some agricultural implements. Deeper down were the blacksmith’s personal items, including a razor, scissors (for trimming his beard, perhaps), tweezers, a frying pan and a poker. The grave contained about sixty artefacts. At the very bottom it was found the cremated remains of a human being – it was the blacksmith, of course. There were other personal items; some beads that had been attached to his clothing and a comb made of bone.

It may be possible that the blacksmith’s contemporaries wished to show how skilful he was in his work by including such an extensive amount of objects; he might have forged many of these tools himself even.

It is interesting to see that during the Viking Age, people still had great respect for blacksmiths. Tamers of fire, who could create objects controlling this wild and dangerous element, molding metal and making a perfect union between earth (the metals it gives), fire, and water and air (which are also needed while forging). The use of the four elements by one single person, and the control of those same elements; blacksmiths in old times must have been seen like some kind of sorcerers.

The joy of creating objects, by controlling the elements and using both strength and delicacy, must be a wonderful therapy.

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