Saarthal is a medium Nordic Ruin southwest of Winterhold (quest-specific).
It was the first Nord settlement in Skyrim, and is therefore a site of great interest to the College of Winterhold, who is excavating the site in search of ancient artifacts. Unbeknownst to the college, Saarthal is also the location of the sealed tomb of Jyrik Gauldurson (part of the Forbidden Legend quest).
The history of Saarthal suggests that it may have some greater significance. The original settlement was attacked by elves in the Merethic Era, an event known as the Night of Tears. A book on the subject, Night of Tears, believes that the attack was actually an attempt to gain control of some powerful item found under the city. The Imperial Report on Saarthal also concludes that the elven attack was focussed on a specific objective.
The entrance to Saarthal is locked (key required) at the start of the game. It can only be entered once you have started the Under Saarthal quest, meaning that you must first join the College of Winterhold and complete its first quest, First Lessons.
A Silver Ore vein is located outside, in the southwest corner of the excavation site.
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