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Norwegian Vikings Cultivated Cannabis

On a secluded Iron Age farm in Southern Norway, archaeological findings show that it was common to cultivate cannabis in the Viking Age . The question is how the Vikings used the fibers, seeds and oil from this versatile plant.

For more than fifty years, samples from archaeological excavations at Sosteli Iron Age Farm have been stored in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, according to an article on research portal  Forskning.no.

Analyses show that in the period between the years 650 and 800 AD, i.e. the beginning of the Viking Age, hemp was cultivated on the remote mountain farm.

1300 years ago, hemp was cultivated on Sosteli Iron Age Farm in Vest-Agder county. (Photo: Morten Teinum / Visit Sørlandet)

This is not the first time that traces of cultivation this far back in time have been found, but Sosteli stands out.

“In the other cases, it is only made individual findings of pollen grains. Here, it is discovered very much more,” archaeologist and county conservator Frans-Arne Stylegar told forskning.no.

A Hemp field in Brittany, France. Is it from this area the Norsemen imported hemp seeds back to Scandinavia? (Photo: Barbetorte/ Wikimedia Commons)

Sosteli is located much less centrally than other places where similar findings have been made, indicating that cannabis cultivation was common throughout the Viking Age.

Textiles and Ropes

Hemp is the same plant as the cannabis plant used for hashish production. It is however uncertain whether the Vikings used cannabis as a drug.

The plant was most likely used for production of textiles and ropes.

Hemp fibre

Previously, there have been several findings of hemp seeds in Eastern Norway, including in Hamar municipality, dating back to the 400s AD.

In the Oseberg ship burial mound, a little leather pouch full of cannabis seeds was found. It belonged to an elderly woman aged between 70 and 80.

The skeleton reveals that she had various health problems – most likely cancer that caused her death – and it is not unlikely that the seeds were used as painkillers.

Scientists do not know if the Vikings used cannabis as a drug, and there are no sources that neither confirm nor deny if they did.

Top image: A cannabis crop. Credit: Wendy McCormick. Visit wendymccormick.com

The article ‘ Norwegian Vikings Cultivated Hemp’ by Thor Lanesskog was originally published on ThorNews and has been republished with permission.

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