Archaeologists have discovered the contents of an ancient Viking toolbox, buried at a Danish ring fortress called Borgring. According to Science Nordic, the rare iron tools are the first direct piece of evidence that people lived in the fortress. And since Vikings often melted down abandoned tools for scrap metal, very few of them survived the centuries—making these devices some of the only known artifacts of their kind.
Borgring is more than 1000 years old, and was discovered in 2014 near the town of Køge, on the Danish island of Zealand. Previously, experts had believed that only four Viking forts remained in Denmark.
Excavation leader Jens Ulriksen told The Local DK he hoped the new archaeological site—the first of its kind to be discovered in 60 or so years—would “provide new and crucial knowledge of the enigmatic fortresses and the Viking Age.” However, Borgring didn’t immediately provide experts with any new insights. In fact, initial excavations of the fortress only yielded a single glass bead.
Experts didn’t know when or why the fortress was built, or whether anyone lived there—but the newly discovered tools might help answer the latter question. The artifacts are also historically significant, as Viking Age tools are elusive. The roving warriors prized iron, and any discarded metal objects would have been re-purposed into new equipment.
Archaeologist Nanna Holm and her colleagues dug up the tools, buried under Borgring’s east gatehouse, after amateur archaeologists detected them with metal detectors. The gatehouse may once have served as either a workshop or as housing space. Experts theorize that the toolbox’s owner may have abandoned his equipment (and his residence) after the aging structure collapsed.
In all, 14 tools were found. Their placement indicated that they were likely stored in a box that rotted away. Among them, archaeologists discovered spoon drills used to drill holes in wood, and a drawplate used to make wire bracelets. Holm believes the tools may have belonged to a carpenter.
A CT scan provided archaeologists with a more detailed image of the tools, but some of them were too poorly preserved, or contained too little iron, to be fully captured onscreen. Holm hopes to x-ray them, and eventually, the artifacts will be preserved and put on display. Until then, you can watch Science Nordic journalist Charlotte Price Persson help Holm excavate the tools in the video below.