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Year 872 BC, Hoddøya, an island in the Namsen Fjord in Central Norway : A tall man with long gray hair wearing a bear claw necklace is standing in the middle of a circle surrounded by people. In his right hand he holds a large and beautifully decorated spear sparkling in gold when it is hit by the sun.
The song stops, and the man raises the spear over his head while speaking to the gods and the spirits of the ancestors. Then he sticks it down into the marsh, and as he pulls over a flat stone as cover he whispers: ‘Gods and the spirits of our ancestors, accept our gift as a sign of humility.’
This may be how the sacrifice of the Hoddøya spear was carried out about 3000 years ago, and in 1922 it is in this marsh on the fertile island in the Namsen Fjord the spear by accident was found by some road workers.
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Bay and marsh on the Hoddøya Island. (Photos: Daniel Christiansen / ThorNews)
Large and Beautiful
The spearhead made of bronze is one of the largest and most beautiful ever found in Northern Europe. It is 58 centimeters (22.8 in) long and ornate with a meander border (“Greek lines”) and concentric hemispheres.
The Nordic Bronze Age lasted from about 1700-500 BC, and the Hoddøya spear is dated to the younger Bronze Age Period V, i.e. 950-800 BC.
What we know, is that it was discovered by road workers in a marsh at the Svartvatnet (“Black Water”) lake on the Hoddøya Island. The spear was stuck down between custom stones with a flat stone placed on top, like a kind of lid, showing that this was a sacrificial gift.
We know that the spearhead is made of bronze, an alloy consisting primarily of copper, and that it is 58 centimeters long and has decor elements from both Western Baltic and Swiss regions.
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A copy of the Hoddøya Bronze Age spear is at displayed in the Coastal Museum Norveg. (Photo: Sigmund Alsaker / Coastal Museum Norveg)
In the Bronze Age, marshes were probably seen as a door between the world of humans and gods, and it is therefore not uncommon to find sacrifices such as beautiful jewelry and weapons in marshes all over Scandinavia.
However, the Hoddøya spear is really unique.
Many Questions – Few Answers
The researchers believe that this special item once belonged to a powerful leader, but this is just a theory. It could as well have belonged to a priest or been produced as a worthy sacrifice made for a special occasion.
Despite decorative elements from both the Western Baltics and Swiss regions there are, according to Norwegian archaeologists, many indications that these types of large spears may have been produced locally.
We know that Nordic Bronze Age people did have contact eastwards for at least 1300 years before the Hoddøya spear was made, and that they had access to metals and probably also knowledge of how to cast elaborate bronze jewelry and weapons.
Another “proof” is the little-known clay stone mold currently being stored in the NTNU University Museum in Trondheim. This is the only Bronze Age spearhead mold found in Norway.
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Bronze spearhead stone mold found in Gullvika, Namsos, Central Norway. (Photo: NTNU University Museum, Trondheim)
The find is almost unknown outside the Norwegian archaeological community and the form was discovered on the mainland in the 1950s, not many kilometers away from the Hoddøya finding.
The most sensational thing about this particular spear is that it was found so far north, at “the end of the known world”. This shows that Bronze Age people many thousands of years ago used trade routes and exchanged knowledge far more extensively than what researchers so far have believed.
Bronze was the most important commodity and linked people all across Europe and Asia closer together.
Today, the spearhead from Hoddøya is exhibited at the NTNU University Museum in Trondheim.