1,200-year-old pagan temple to Thor and Odin unearthed in Norway
The remains of a 1,200-year-old pagan temple to the Old Norse gods such as Thor and Odin have been discovered in Norway — a rare relic of the Viking religion built a few centuries before Christianity became dominant there.
Archaeologists say the large wooden building — about 45 feet (14 meters) long, 26 feet (8 m) wide, and up to 40 feet (12 m) high — is thought to date from the end of the eighth century and was used for worship and sacrifices to gods during the midsummer and midwinter solstices.
Old Norse culture was famous and feared by some a century later, after bands of Norse sailors and warriors known as the Vikings started trading, raiding and colonizing throughout Europe and into Iceland, Greenland and Canada.
Related: Did the Vikings think the gods were watching them?
This is the first Old Norse temple found in the country, said archaeologist Søren Diinhoff of the University Museum of Bergen.
"This is the first time we've found one of these very special, very beautiful buildings," Diinhoff told Live Science. "We know them from Sweden and we know them from Denmark. … This shows that they also existed in Norway."
The Norse began building these large "god houses," as they're called, in the sixth century. The god houses were much more complex than the simple sites, often outdoors, that the people previously used to worship the Old Norse gods.
"It is a stronger expression of belief than all the small cult places," he said. "This is probably something to do with a certain class of the society, who built these as a real ideological show."
Archaeologists unearthed the foundations of the ancient building last month at Ose, a seaside village near the town of Ørsta in western Norway, ahead of preparations for a new housing development.
Their excavations revealed traces of early agricultural settlements dating to between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago, including the remains of two longhouses that would have each been the center of a small farm for a family and their animals, Diinhoff said.
The remains of the god house at Ose, however, are from a later time when the area began to be dominated by an elite group of wealthy families — a distinction that arose as Scandinavian societies began to interact with the more stratified societies of the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes of northern Europe.
"When the new socially differentiated society set in, in the Roman Iron Age, the leading families took control of the cult," he said.
Related: Photos: Viking outposts possibly found in Canada
Norse religious worship became more ideological and organized, and god houses at Ose were patterned on Christian basilicas that travelers had seen in southern lands, he said.
As a result, Old Norse temples featured a distinctive high tower above the pitched roof, which was a copy of the towers of early Christian churches, he said.
Although the wooden building is now long-gone, the post-holes that remain show its shape, including the round central posts of its tower — a very distinctive construction that was only ever used in god houses, Diinhoff said. "It would have been very impressive."
The purpose of the site is also revealed by a concentration of cooking pits where food for religious feasts was prepared, and numerous bones — the remains of animal sacrifices.
A large white "phallus" stone, roughly representing the male genital organ, was also found nearby several years ago and was probably part of the Old Norse fertility rituals, Diinhoff said.
Related: 25 cultures that practiced human sacrifice
Ceremonies would have been held in the god house for important festivals on the religious calendar, such as the midsummer and midwinter solstices — the shortest and longest nights of the year, respectively.
Meat, drink and sometimes precious metals like gold would have been offered to wooden figurines within the building that represented the Old Norse gods — in particular the war god Odin, the storm god Thor, and the fertility god Freyr, who were commonly worshipped in the Old Norse religion and gave their names in English to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
As the gods could only partake of the festival food in spirit, the physical food and drink would be enjoyed by their worshippers. "You would have a good mood, a lot of eating and a lot of drinking," Diinhoff said. "I think they would have had a good time."
The Old Norse religion was suppressed from the 11th century, when Norway's kings forcibly imposed the Christian religion and tore down or burned buildings like the god house at Ose to enforce worship in the new Christian churches.
So far, there's no evidence that the god house at Ose was part of that purge, Diinhoff said.
Further work could reveal the house was among the pagan buildings destroyed at the time. "It would be ideal if we could explain that," he said. "But we're not there yet."
Originally published on Live Science.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Tom Metcalfe is a freelance journalist and regular Live Science contributor who is based in London in the United Kingdom. Tom writes mainly about science, space, archaeology, the Earth and the oceans. He has also written for the BBC, NBC News, National Geographic, Scientific American, Air & Space, and many others.
By Sascha Pare
By Ben Turner
By Sascha Pare
By Harry Baker
By Ben Turner
I see no basis for the clickbait headline: "1200 year old pagan temple to Thor and Odin unearthed in Norway" as the article mentions no information about specific references to Odin or Thor being found in the artifacts at the site. it is a presumption. Further, unless academia has reclassified the finds at Ranheim from 2012, then it's also not the first such gudhevot or god house found in Norway.
So while the news is exciting, the reporting is sloppy and took too many liberties. Thus, littering the article with factual errors that mislead and misrepresent what we actually know from an academic point of view from the site.
Please stop, just stop.
Tor means thunder and it's still used to this day to give name to the phenomenon.
Your feverish delusions are better suited in a small room decorated floor to ceiling with crosses and marked bible pages.
Your claim to own old scripture means nothing, there are thousands of religious scripts far older than the one you claim to have, this does not mean that any of them are true.
You might be able to convert a small cult, nothing more.
You are the prototype cultists; and I've met many. All equally convinced.
Here's a wordplay for you to descipher, in my language RUS/ROS can in its various incantations mean the following; rose, russian, being intoxicated, or to row. - The Finnish word for Sweden "Ruotsi" has the same word origin.... interesting, sure but it's not the ground for some religious feverish blabber.
What does Rus mean in Hebrew, Turkish or even Sanskrit?
I'll let you guess what "vik" means in Norwegian, Danish and Swedish.
Cultist are always looking for tidbits to fit ther religion, be it in words or numerology.
I know how this works,cultist usually try to pick any loose ends and try to fit them into a pre-convceived narrative, as is evident in all religions through history. From the ancient origins of trying to explain the world through Gods to your - very common - tactic of tying the rest of the world to a religion with a middle-eastern origin. The "chosen ones" method.
So your are descendant of kings uh-huh?. It is said that 1/200 of all males are descendants of Genghis Khan, so what?
In fact your ideas are nearly a Carbon copy of other groups (who coincidently put other people in the place where you put the Rus).
It should be noted that people like you cannot be convinced, mockery is used to enlighten other people who happen to stumble upon cultists who claim to have deciphered some ancient hidden truths.
It's basically Cult 101.
;) Carry on, and so will I. The difference is that you will descend into frenzy, while I won't.
I predict your responses will be more and more threatening in tone as is customary with cultists.
Of course I know what Roslagen is.. but related to the Turk according to whom?
Again, cherry picking to confirm to your delusions.
Your reference to scripture means nothing,
And I am curiously awaiting your take on the rest of the Norse Pantheon of Asar and Vanir.
Jag född och lever i ett land som än idag har orter och platser som bär namn efter de gamla gudarna; bland dem Tor.
"Rus or Rosh is the Bible term of the Book of Ezekiel, it is Rosh the royal lineage. in the annals they write "Rus, Son of Türk, Daudshev Son". Türk is the people of Thor "