Three individuals, three stories, three burials from medieval Trondheim, Norway
By Stian Suppersberger Hamre, Geir Atle Ersland, Valelrie Daux, Walther Parson, and Caroline Wilkinson
PLoS ONE, Volume 12, Number 7, 2017
Introduction: This article will tell the stories of three individuals who ended their lives in medieval Trondheim, Norway. They may have been contemporaries, they may have known each other, or they may have been completely oblivious to each other’s existence. What is for certain is that these three people were buried in the same graveyard in Trondheim during the period between 1175 and 1275.
However, according to analyses of their skeletal remains, their life stories were rather different. Not only will this article present the stories of three people who died around 800 years ago, but these individuals’ stories will also provide new information about medieval society in Trondheim as well as society outside this town and further afield.
During a wider investigation of the medieval and post-medieval population of Trondheim, three individuals were chosen for more analysis. Personal stories of ordinary individuals are quite rare in the academic literature. Kings, queens, and other members of the privileged few have, of course, been discussed in detail on a personal level, like king Sverre (died 1202) and his descendants who ruled Norway until the early 14th century. Such elite members of society are known from the saga literature and documented through deeds. This also applies to prominent members of both the lay and secular aristocracy, but the rest of the population has been more difficult to access on this level and has largely been ignored.
In the following, the authors will attempt to rectify this situation by presenting three people who walked the streets of medieval Trondheim without any privileges out of the ordinary. The life stories of these individuals are, to varying degrees, remarkable, but they are representative of the population of medieval Trondheim and exhibit diversity regarding birth place, ancestry, and life history. The heterogeneity of the population becomes visible through the study of individuals in a different manner than larger population studies manage. It has been possible to gather information about these people which is of such a standard that it is possible to undertake qualified discussions about their lives above and beyond the facts alone, without having to resort to pure speculation.