Viking loot plundered: Irish help sought in tracing artefacts

Objects taken from Norway museum were originally stolen by Vikings 1, 000 years ago

A Norwegian museum has appealed for Irish help in tracing up to 400 Viking artefacts stolen from its premises.

Some of the artefacts were made in Ireland and were originally stolen by Vikings who took them to west Norway over 1, 000 years ago.

The collection, regarded as one of the most significant from Viking graves, was housed in the University Museum of Bergen.

Among the Irish items in the collection were brooches and buckles of gilt bronze, fashioned from decorative fittings, which have been exhibited several times in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.


The theft is believed to have occurred on August 12th, when an alarm went off and was attributed to the wind. The building in which the artefacts were stored was undergoing renovation, and thieves may have scaled a fence and scaffolding to reach the collection.

Windows smashed

The alarm was raised on August 14th, when construction staff discovered windows had been smashed at the museum. The 396 items taken were not on display due to the construction work.

“It is difficult to find the right words to describe my feelings towards what has happened,” museum director Henrik von Achen has said.

Detective Even Aspli of the Bergen police department said there were no suspects as yet. His department has played down reports in the Norwegian press this week that Irish or eastern European criminal gangs may have been involved.

“Experts on this material say it is would be very hard to sell it, as it would be widely recognised,” Det Aspli said. The police believe it is “possible” that the material has left the country.

The university museum’s head of department of exhibitions, Kari K Aarestad, said photos of all of the artefacts registered as stolen were posted on the museum’s Facebook page.

“The burglary has baffled people, as it was very uncharacteristic in terms of the kinds of objects taken,” she told The Irish Times.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times