DNA Analysis Prove That Vikings Brought Stockfish on Their Journeys

This cod jaw dating back to the Viking Age shows that this Stockfish (unsalted dried cod) most likely was transported from Northern Norway to Hedeby, today located in Northern Germany. (Photo: Bastiaan Star / University of Oslo)

A cod jaw found in Hedeby in Germany is dated to between the years 800 and 1066 AD, i.e. from the Viking Age. Now analysis show that the DNA is the same as found in Arctic cod from the Lofoten archipelago in Northern Norway.

It was researchers at the Department of Biosciences at the University of Oslo who have managed to extract DNA from the more than 1000 year old cod jaw found in Hedeby.

– We have known that Stockfish from Lofoten long have been a commodity, but not as early as what we now have discovered. Our understanding of the Viking trade may have to be rewritten, says researcher at the University of Oslo, Bastiaan Star to NRK.no.

From the 8th to the 11th century, Hedeby (Old Norse: Heiðabýr) was an important Danish trade center near the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula, today located in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Stockfish Exporter Torulv Kveldulvsson

It took days to sail a Viking ship from Lofoten in Northern Norway to the trade center of Hedenby furthermost south of Viking Denmark.

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A Viking ship leaves Lofoten heading for Hedeby with Stockfish on board. (Illustrating photo: Lofotr Viking Museum)

The finding shows that the crew brought Stockfish on board the ship, but it is not certain that exactly this particular fish was a commodity. It may have been brought as food and “snacks” on their long journey.

Stockfish is mostly unsalted Arctic cod, dried by cold air and wind on wooden racks with a storage life of several years. In combination with the light weight and nutritional content, this was the “perfect food for travelling”. Nor should we forget that Stockfish tastes really good.

In the Icelandic family saga Egil’s Saga, it is said that Torulv Kveldulvsson exported fish to England around the year 875. Torulv was the chief of Hålogaland, the northernmost of the Norwegian provinces.

Now scientists have been able to find evidence confirming that the Stockfish export may have started as early as the sagas tell.

This is another important piece of the mysterious Viking puzzle confirming that the Norse sagas really are true.



Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews




Categories: Culture, History, Vikings

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