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Remarkable tools in wetland

In 1936, as a farmer dug in the marshland of the Mästermyr mire on the island of Gotland, a spectacular find was made. A find which provides knowledge about the craftspeople and craft skills during the Viking Age.

In a well-preserved wooden chest, with an iron chain wrapped around it, were a large number of various tools. Beside the chest lay a cauldron and a pair of large copper bells, along with an iron fire-grid. In the chest there were also fragmented iron objects, which could be repaired or forged into other items. The find has been interpreted as equipment belonging to one or several craftspeople.

As well as pliers, sledgehammers and hammers for metalworking and blacksmithing, there were tools such as saws, drawknives, rasps and axes. This suggests that the chest was owned by skilled carpenters and woodworkers. Many of the tools are so similar to modern-day ones that if they were given a new shaft they could be part of a modern smith’s or carpenter’s equipment – if a little old-fashioned.

There has been much speculation about how the chest ended up in the mire, by all indications some time in the latter part of the 11th century. At that time the place was a shallow lake, with a depth of not more than about 1.5 metres. Two possible explanations are that the chest sank when a boat capsized or when a sled went through the ice in the wintertime. If one of these theories was right, someone would most likely have rescued the well-equipped tool-box. That ought to have been possible given that the lake was very shallow.

The equipment would doubtless have had a high value, both financially and socially. Not least in view of the social standing of the craftspeople. But perhaps something happened in connection with the accident which caused the toolbox to be left at the bottom of the lake.

Or was the deposit intentional and in fact a valuable wetland offering, deliberately submerged in the shallow lake ?

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Tool chest

  Tool chest

Saw

  Saw

Axe

  Axe

Scraper

  Scraper

Edge-tool

  Edge-tool

Gouge

  Gouge

Polishing iron

  Polishing iron

Bore

  Bore

Tong

  Tong

Rasp

  Rasp

Punching-block

  Punching-block

Rasp

  Rasp

Saw

  Saw

File

  File

File

  File

File

  File

File

  File

Vessel

  Vessel

Lock

  Lock

Hammer

  Hammer

Punching-block

  Punching-block

Lock

  Lock

Tool

  Tool

Iron fragment

  Iron fragment

Whetstones

  Whetstones

Bar stock

  Bar stock

Bar stock

  Bar stock

Nail

  Nail

Nail

  Nail

Shackle

  Shackle

Scriber

  Scriber

Tripod

  Tripod

Draw plate blank

  Draw plate blank

Tripod

  Tripod

Washer

  Washer

Ring

  Ring

Ring

  Ring

Ring

  Ring

Ring

  Ring

Tool

  Tool

Stamp punch

  Stamp punch

Lock

  Lock

Lock

  Lock

Tong

  Tong

Hammer

  Hammer

Underlay

  Underlay

Beak-iron

  Beak-iron

Anvil

  Anvil

Anvil

  Anvil

Anvil

  Anvil

Sledge hammer

  Sledge hammer

Sledge hammer

  Sledge hammer

Sledge hammer

  Sledge hammer

Hammer

  Hammer

Dolley

  Dolley

Hammer

  Hammer

Iron object

  Iron object

Cold drill

  Cold drill

Spoon auger

  Spoon auger

Spoon auger

  Spoon auger

Spoon auger

  Spoon auger

Bore

  Bore

Plate-shears

  Plate-shears

Underlay

  Underlay

Edge-tool

  Edge-tool

Lock

  Lock

Mount

  Mount

Lock

  Lock

Mount

  Mount

Mount

  Mount

Key

  Key

Key

  Key

Loop

  Loop

Loop

  Loop

Loop

  Loop

Mount

  Mount

Stamping pad

  Stamping pad

Mount

  Mount

Iron object

  Iron object

Tool

  Tool

Tool

  Tool

Clamp

  Clamp

Clamp

  Clamp

Clamp

  Clamp

Clamp

  Clamp

Iron fragment

  Iron fragment