It seems like a Viking ship is being dug up almost every day. With the rate of scientific and technological change rapidly increasing, there will be a plethora of more Viking artifacts and treasures dug up soon, probably as we speak.
As such, now is a good time to take a breather and wind back almost a century to see how the story of a simple chest found on a farm on a Swedish island is a perfect starting point for any would-be Indiana Jones.
Farmboy discovers Viking-era chest
Before delving into the review of The Mästermyr Find - A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland, I believe it would be fair to give a bit of history about the book itself.
In 1936 whilst plowing the field as he had done every day for years, Hugo Kraft hit something.
The farm, Mästermyr, was located on a remote part of the even more remote island of Gotland, bobbing in the Baltic Sea off the Swedish coast.
Kraft then went to a local historian, and soon enough, a toolbox was discovered with over 200 objects, mostly a range of metal and iron working tools, as well as locks, bells, and a cauldron.
Despite the discovery making the local newspaper, it wasn't until the 1940s that one of the authors, Gösta Berg, was approached by a curator at the State Historical Museum in Stockholm to help with a catalog of the find.
This started a more than 5-decade quest for Berg to write a book based on the find. Along with fellow author, Greta Arwindson, this is more than a passion project; they dedicated the majority of their lives to detailing, researching, and writing about the find at Mästermyr.
A great read for any budding archaeologists
Berg and Arwindson deserve all the plaudits for the careful and methodic detail they have gone into with a full description of each item uncovered in the Viking-era chest, from the oldest bells discovered in Scandinavia to a small "bearded" axe and everything in between.
There is a meticulous amount of detail on the day of the discovery in 1936, as well as a later discovery on the farm in 1981, as well as giving some broader context into the technological changes that were happening throughout Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe in the immediate time before the chest was buried.
Adding to this tremendous amount of detail is a relatively recent scientific metallurgic examination of some of the finds from the original chest added as an appendix.
Whilst there is a lot of heavy jargon and scientific language, the short book should give a broad idea of the detail, dedication, and downright hard work that goes into any archaeological dig, especially one relating to the Viking era (c. 750 – 1100 C.E).
Furthermore, this should be on the top of the list of books to read for those wanting to dig up the next Viking ship.
Like the tool chest, this book may have been lying there unappreciated for a long time, but we, at The Viking Herald, believe it is almost as priceless as the artifacts found on Mästermyr more than 80 years ago.
The Mästermyr Find: A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland is available for purchase on Amazon here.
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