Updated: Reveals Content of 700 Year Old Leather Pouch

Leather pouch 700 yr

Hidden for 700 years: What is inside the pouch? (Photo: Heidi Anne Johnsen / Osloby.no)

During a workday in the 1300s, an unlucky person lost his purse near Bispegata in Oslo. Luckily, it has recently been rediscovered and soon archaeologists will reveal its content.

In connection with the development of new railways, archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) are examining the historical area. It is the largest archaeological excavation project in Oslo for decades, and last week they made a startling discovery.

They found a small, round object, six centimeters (2.36 in) in diameter, which proved to be a leather pouch. It was flattened after 700 years buried in mud and resembled a rock.

– We were quite excited. We can see that it is something inside it, and it weighs more than it would if it was just leather, says Egil Lindhart Bauer, project manager for the archaeological excavations to Osloby.no.

To learn more about the contents, the pouch will be X-rayed.

– We believe that it might contain weights used for trade, but it may also be coins, Bauer adds.

Archaeologists are quite sure that the bag has been lost and not discarded or stolen, since it is still closed.

It is intact and one can imagine how upset the owner must have felt over the loss. The pouch was found just a few meters from one of Oslo’s main streets in the Middle Ages, Bispeallmenningen, which is almost identical to the current location of Bispegata.

– If it contain coins, we will not specify how valuable they would be today. All cultural heritage sites dating from the Middle Ages is government property and illegal to sell. The greatest value of these discoveries are cultural historical. It gives us a unique insight into how people lived in medieval Oslo, says Bauer.

(article continues)Leather pouch 700 yrs excavationsThe excavation area downtown Oslo (Photo: Heidi Anne Johnsen/Osloby.no)

The pouch was found half a meter below ground level, enclosed and preserved by moist soil. Now, it is kept in a plastic bag with water in a refrigerator. It is a demanding process to analyze it, and in contact with oxygen, disruptive processes begins. Leather and metal require quite different treatment for preservation.

In addition to waste and remnants of log houses from the Middle Ages, objects with runic inscriptions, wrist guards in leather for archery, leather shoes, bones of animals and potsherds have been found.

– We rarely get to do excavations on large contiguous areas like this. It gives us more and better information than when we examine narrow tubes for laying pipes or cables, says Bauer.

However, the feeling of finding such a special object is priceless.

– We try to take it calmly, but when such findings emerge, we celebrate. It is not every day that we find such a time capsule, says Bauer.

On Tuesday, the contents will be revealed through radiography.


UPDATE May 19, 2015:

The first radiographic photos reveal a metallic square shape but the archaeologists cannot give a clear answer.

Project manager Egil Lindhart Bauer tells Aftenposten TV that it is difficult to say anything specific about the contents. If it is organic material or metal, it is corroded.

– It is difficult to draw any conclusions regarding the content. We can confirm that there are one or two objects – not made of leather – for example playing pieces made of wood or horns.

The archaeologists conclude that they have to open the leather pouch.


ThorNews will follow the case closely.


Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews

Categories: Culture, History

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