I still remember the moment before we left, when I was looking into my storage, thinking, “Oh, look all those sheepskins — well, I probably won’t need those. It isn’t that cold. ” Little did I know I was in for one of the coldest 48 hours of my life, and certainly the least luxurious. Viking life just isn’t for everyone.
We were visiting the island of Jøa, off the coast of Mid-Norway, where a local enthusiast has built a long house amidst a gorgeous landscape studded with graves and other traces of Viking-age settlements. The island is famous amongst the historically inclined for the mysterious sitting graves (dated between 650 – 1000 AD), that no one really knows the meaning of. While other graves on the island are traditional mounds, a small group of people was buried in a sitting position, surrounded by expensive artifacts like knives (though not for combat), jewelry and bone combs. Most of them were women, and they were generally older (at the time of death) and taller than the average Viking. Nothing like it has been found anywhere else in Norway, and there’s speculations that the inhabitants of the sitting graves belonged to some sort of priesthood.