Search terms. They are either fun, interesting or surprising. Apart from being excellent marketing tools, of course. I check them regularly to see what readers are looking for on The Viking Archive. This year, there was a surprising one: “Croats and Vikings”. At first, I thought someone was taking a wild guess, trying to find a hoax. Out of curiosity, I googled the search term in April 2017. Nothing happened. A few months went by. I considered how the Vikings made their way down eastern (European) trade routes during the Viking Age. Did the occasional Viking drop by Croatia during the Viking Age, after all? So, I googled the search term once more in August and found this story.
Information about the Croatian medieval period, let alone the Viking Age, is scarce. There is little evidence from archaeological excavations. And whilst some written medieval sources are available, these cannot always be trusted to the letter for various reasons. In short, there is a lot to discover about Croatia’s Dark Ages.
That makes the plot of this story rather straightforward. Since 2014, a group of Croatian and international scientists are excavating a hill site known as Bribirska Glavica near Bribir, Croatia. Quite recently, they found a piece of a sarcophagus with the inscription “Scania Inferior”. The inscription dates back to the late eighth, early ninth century. Croatian and Italian newspapers report about the find between May and August 2017.
At first glance, this does not look like an Internet myth. The sources of the newspapers seem to point toward reputable origins of the story. The original source is HRT, the Croatian national public broadcasting company. They quote researchers on-site at Bribirska Glavica. The project is also supported by well-known academic institutions in Croatia, Norway, and Australia. The inscription itself has been discussed an international academic symposium in Croatia earlier this year.
This find has the potential to unlock a new episode in medieval studies for the region. Little is known, however, and more research needs to be done. In all cases, the idea of Vikings in Croatia is one to treat with caution until firmer evidence is found. Who is to say what or whom this inscription refers? Maybe there really was a Scandinavian in that sarcophagus. Or maybe, there never were Vikings in Bribir. And the person in the sarcophagus turns out to be a local who travelled wide and far to Scandinavia and Ireland.
The story about “Croats and Vikings” has a great beginning. I can’t wait to find out how it will unfold! Meanwhile, you can read the entry in The Archive: Bribirska Glavica. If you know of this excavation or the topic of Vikings in Croatia, don’t hesitate to share your comments below!