SKAFTÁRHREPPUR, SOUTH ICELAND – A group of fowl hunters were tracking a gaggle of geese in southern Iceland when they stumbled across something none of them had expected to find: a 1,000 year old Viking sword. The area of south Iceland had been subject to some flooding, which had unearthed the find for them.
The sword tip has been broken off and the metal has been corroded, but for being a thousand years old, it’s still in remarkably good condition. When the group of friends found it, they immediately handed over the find to the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland. They date it to 950 AD, or even earlier.
“We are very excited…” Kristín Huld Sigurðardóttir, director of the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland said, “…this is only the 23rd sword from Viking times found in Iceland.”
Arni Bjorn Valdimarsson, one of the men who found the sword, boasted about the find on Facebook, saying “[I was] going goose hunting but ended up finding a sword that I think has been owned by Ingólfur Arnarson.“
Ingólfur Arnarson was the Viking man credited with founding Iceland sometime around 870 AD. He, along with his wife, Hallveig Frodesdatter are accepted to be the first Nordic settlers of Iceland. According to Icelandic tradition, they founded Reykjavik from a single, simple wooden hut they built themselves.
Archaeologists and historians have done some digging at Reykjavik’s Main Street. Their findings have somewhat confirmed this story, as there is evidence of a small group of inhabitants dwelling in the area that dates back to around 870 AD. Does the sword belong to Ingólfur, though? That is less clear.
“There might be some remains of scabbard on the blade but we will know more about this when the conservators have done a thorough search. The goose hunters that found the sword discovered another object which we have not analyzed yet,” Kristín Huld Sigurðardóttir said, “Our archaeologists have now gone to evaluate whether this [area] is a pagan grave.”
What will it mean if a grave is discovered? Well, unless an inscription or some other clue as to the identity of the owner is found in the area, it won’t be certain that the sword belonged to the legendary founder of Iceland. Even so, it’s a remarkable find, and a grave could add more valuable insight into the life of the earliest inhabitants of Iceland’s past.
We’ll know more when the Agency’s archaeologists return from their dig with their findings.