Archaeologists Find Evidence Of Nordic Biological Warfare - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Archaeologists Find Evidence Of Nordic Biological Warfare

Published June 15, 2016

Photos by
Norsk institutt for kulturminnef

Archaeologists have found evidence supporting one of the more lurid stories from the Icelandic sagas.

According to Sverre’s Saga, penned by the Icelandic abbot Karl Jónsson in the early 13th century, the Norwegian king Sverre Sigurdsson and his supporters were attacked and brutally defeated by his rivals, the Baglers, at Sverresborg Castle in 1197. The saga contends that even after utterly sacking the castle, the Baglers also threw the corpse of one of Sverre’s men down a well to poison the water, dropping rocks on top of the corpse to weigh it down.

The veracity of this account has been questioned over the centuries, due to Karl’s clear bias towards the Norwegian king, but the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research has announced that archaeologists at the site of Sverresborg near Trondheim have made a startling discovery which could prove the tale is true.

“Now, following a trial excavation in the well, archaeologists can confirm this dramatic story,” they attest. “Archaeologists managed to retrieve part of the skeleton they found in the well in 2014. A fragment of bone produced a radiocarbon date that confirmed that the individual lived and died at the end of the 12th century, the same time as the incident described in the Saga.”

While additional research still needs to be done, the finding could cast other contentions made in Sverre’s Saga in a whole new light. At the very least, it does support the claim that the Baglers were indeed pretty ruthless people.

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