One of the best-kept secrets from the Viking Age is buried on the saga island of Leka in Nord-Trøndelag County. The Snorri Saga tells of King Herlaug and eleven of his men, who in 870 AD rather let themselves bury alive than to submit to Harald Fairhair. The tumulus is named Herlaugshaugen.
When Fairhair arrived in Namdalen, he demanded that King Herlaug should give up his land and obey him. Kong Herlaug chose rather to be buried. His brother, King Hrollaug surrendered to Harald Hairfair, and as a reward he was titled Earl of Namdalen.
Archaeologists have confirmed that the tumulus on Leka is the largest of its kind in Norway. Researchers from the University of Trondheim (NTNU) has documented that it was conducted three excavations in the 1700’s where they found skeletons, oak logs with iron fittings and rivets. At that time there was not enough knowledge about the object, and the findings have thus disappeared. Archaeologists believe that the ship inside Herlaugshaugen is bigger than the Oseberg and Gokstad ships.
According to experts, Herlaugshaugen was “erected” in the year 870 AD. In Norway, the period between 700 BC-1000 AD is named ‘Younger Iron Age’, and is characterized by the fact that iron became the main material in tools and weapons instead of bronze. At that time, Leka was considered to be one of the major centers in Namdalen due to ship traffic and coastal trade. The size of the tumulus confirms the prosperity on the saga island during King Herlaug.
The burial mound is about 230 feet (70 meters) in diameter and measures 25 feet (7.5 meters) at its highest point, which confirms the theory that a ship is buried. To understand the size of Herlaugshaugen, we can say that it takes over 1,000 truckloads of soil to construct a similar pile.
The Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management has appointed the area surrounding Herlaugshaugen, called Skeisnesset, as one of 22 selected cultural landscapes in Norway. The reason is to preserve valuable land in agriculture that has great biological and cultural value.
Herlaugshaugen is the largest burial mound in Norway where we know that people have been buried.
Leka is an island located far north in Nord-Trøndelag County. Leka is known for its Viking history, and was recently appointed Geological National Monument because of its spectacular scenery and geology. The island has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years, as evidenced by cave drawings in the Solsem Cave.
Text and photos by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews