Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Home of 7th Century princess unearthed in Coldingham

The dig concentrated on ground around Coldingham Priory in the Borders
DIGVENTURES/AERIAL-CAM

Archaeologists believe they have found remains of the long-lost home of a 7th Century princess in the Borders.

A monastery was founded near the village of Coldingham by Princess Æbbe nearly 1,400 years ago.

It was destroyed by Viking raiders in the 9th Century and previous attempts to pinpoint its location have failed.

However, excavations led by DigVentures have found traces of a large, narrow ditch which they believe was the boundary of the religious settlement.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Yes, That Viking Warrior Buried with Weapons Really Was a Woman

An illustration of what the female warrior may have looked like.
Credit: Drawing by Tancredi Valeri; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.

The ancient warrior was given a prestigious Viking burial, complete with deadly Viking weapons, a bag of gaming pieces (possibly to represent military command) and two horses, one bridled for riding. This mighty warrior — long thought to be be a man — made headlines in 2017 when researchers in Sweden announced that the individual was, in fact, a woman.

The intense scrutiny that followed caught the researchers by surprise.

The barrage of questions from the public and other scientists was unrelenting: Were the researchers sure they had analyzed the right bones? Was there more than one body in the burial, of which one was surely a man? And if the warrior's sex was indeed female, is it possible they were a transgender man? [See Images of the Viking Woman Warrior's Burial]

Now, in a new study published online yesterday (Feb. 19) in the journal Antiquity, the researchers of the original study have reaffirmed their conclusion that this mighty individual was a woman. The new study addresses all the questions people raised, and more.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Archaeologists Make 'Very Special' Viking Era Discovery in Norway


Gjellestad, Norway: The site of the discovery
ERICH NAU, NIKU


Almost one thousand years after the end of the Viking Age, Norwegian archaeologists have made a sensational find near Halden in the south-east of Norway. The burial mound and adjacent field harbour several longhouses and at least one ship burial.

Digital data visualizations reveal the well-defined 20-meter-long ship-shaped structure, with indications that the lower part is well preserved. Incredibly, the ship lies just below the topsoil, with just 50cm separating it from the fresh air.

The discovery was made quite by accident when a local farmer wanted to dig ditches to solve an ongoing drainage problem in a boggy field. In previous years trenches in the area had turned up items of interest, so archaeologists from Østfold county decided to try a non-intrusive method of analysis before giving the work the go-ahead.

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Vikings Were Fearless. Except When It Was Too Cold

Aerial view of the Greenland ice sheet from a helicopter.
Credit G. Everett Lasher / Northwestern

Greenland was balmy when the Vikings invaded, a new study based on isotopes in flies has proven, and they left as the glaciers bore down

Vikings evoke many associations, none of which involve relaxing on the seaside and smelling flowers on a balmy evening. The Scandinavian warriors are more usually perceived as being roughnecks in horned helmets who laughed off subzero temperatures. And maybe they did, but a new study by Northwestern University, published this week in Geology, has proven the theory that when the Vikings braved the violent northern seas and conquered Greenland from auks in the 10th century, the island’s climate was less merciless and more Mediterranean.

Also, the Vikings suddenly disappeared from Greenland in the middle of the 15th century, just as the warm snap was ending and the glaciers were sweeping down. A combination of factors seems to have crushed the formerly prosperous settlement, but cold seems to have been key. They could either go native and become horn-helmeted Inuits, or leave. They left.

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Ancient DNA from Viking Graves Proves the Fierce Fighters Rode Male Horses

Modern Icelandic horses are likely descended from the horses that Vikings were buried with, 
more than 1,000 years ago.
Credit: Albína Hulda Pálsdóttir

Vikings who settled in Iceland more than 1,000 years ago valued their horses so much that the men were buried with their trusty steeds. And DNA analysis of these treasured animals recently proved that the horses consigned to the grave with their manly owners were males, too.
For decades, archaeologists have studied the contents of hundreds of Viking graves in Iceland. Many of these graves also contained the remains of horses that appeared to have been healthy adults when they died.
Because the horses seemed well cared for in life — before they were killed and buried, that is — they were considered to be important to the men whose remains lay nearby. Recently, scientists conducted the first ancient DNA analysis of bones from 19 horses in Viking graves, and found that nearly all of the animals were male, a tantalizing clue about vanished Viking culture
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Thursday, 6 December 2018

Archeologists find Viking sword in southern Turkey


Turkish archeologists uncover Viking sword from 9th-10th century in ancient city of Patara

Searching through the ancient city of Patara in Turkey's Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkish archeologists uncovered a sword dating back to over a millennium.

Lead excavator Professor Havva Iskan Isik of Akdeniz University told Anadolu Agency that they identified a Viking sword from the ninth or 10th century.

Isik said they have been carrying out excavation works for 30 years and have discovered important archaeological evidence so far. 

"Finding a Viking sword in a harbor city in the Mediterranean area is of great importance," she said.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2018

How Industrial-Scale Tar Production Powered the Viking Age

“Viking Ships Before a Rocky Coast,” by Michael Zeno Diemer (1911)
Image: Wikimedia

Vikings acquired the capacity to produce tar at an industrial scale as early as the 8th century AD, according to new research. The protective black goo was applied to the planks and sails of ships, which the Vikings used for trade and launching raids. Without the ability to produce copious amounts of tar, this new study suggests, the Viking Age may have never happened.

Tar sounds like a relatively modern invention, but it’s actually been around for quite some time. By the 16th century, Europeans had developed a technique whereby piles of wood, placed in funnel-shaped pits, were burned slowly under an oxygen-constricting layer of an earth-clay mixture and charcoal. Dripping tar from the burning wood fell into an outlet pipe, from which the precious material was collected.

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The secret of Viking success? A good coat of tar…

Industrial pits led to waterproofed ships for epic pillaging raids


A replica Viking longboat in the Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands. The Norse warrior race dominated European seas in the 8th century. 
Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty

Vikings conquered Europe thanks to an unexpected technological innovation. They learned how to make tar on an industrial scale and used it to waterproof their longships so that they could undertake large-scale, lengthy pillaging trips around Europe – and across the Atlantic, say archaeologists. Norse raiders were the original Boys from the Blackstuff, it transpires.

The discovery is the work of Andreas Hennius, of Uppsala University. In Antiquity, he reports finding critical evidence that shows output from tar pits in Scandinavia increased dramatically just as Vikings began raiding other parts of Europe. These pits could have made up to 300 litres in a single production cycle, enough to waterproof large numbers of ships. “Tar production … developed from a small-scale activity … into large-scale production that relocated to forested outlands during the Viking period,” says Hennius. “This change … resulted from the increasing demand for tar driven by an evolving maritime culture.”

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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Norse World goes live!


And the Norse World resource goes live! Today, on 7 November the research infrastructure Norse World is being released with free access for researchers and the members of the public.
Norse World is an interactive spatial-temporal resource for research on spatiality and worldviews in medieval literature from Sweden and Denmark. Go to the map to see for yourself! Or find out more about the project and the Norse World infrastructure.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Do Canadian Carvings Depict Vikings? Removing Mammal Fat May Tell

Credit: Shutterstock

Carvings uncovered in the Canadian Arctic may be the earliest portraits of the Vikings created in the Americas. But archaeologists have been puzzling over whether the artwork really shows the infamous seafarers.

Now, scientists think a simple, flammable liquid called acetone could help solve this mystery by removing sea-mammal oil and fat from these artifacts and other artifacts found near them. Until now, those contaminants have prevented scientists from getting an accurate radiocarbon date, according to a paper published in the August issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Oily problem
The Vikings, along with other peoples who lived in arctic or subarctic environments, used oils and fat from sea mammals for a variety of purposes, including preparing food and cooking. The substances interfere with radiocarbon dating, because rather than getting the date of the artifact, you may get the date for the oil and fat covering the object, study authors Michele Hayeur Smith, Kevin Smith and Gørill Nilsen wrote in the new paper.

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Extraordinary Viking Age Thor’s Hammer Amulet Discovered in Iceland

Photo: Fornleifastofnun Íslands/The Institute of Archaeology, Iceland

A sandstone Thor’s hammer amulet has been found at the Viking-era farmstead Bergsstaðir in Þjórsárdalur valley. The site was last occupied 900 years ago and the amulet is believed to be around the same age. Only one Thor’s hammer has ever been found in Iceland before.

“These are all objects from the Viking age,” said Ragnheiður Gylfadóttir, an archaeologist with Iceland’s Institute of Archaeology, speaking with ruv.is.

When the team arrived at the site, she said, they quickly found rocks that looked like they could have been foundations for longhouse walls. In addition, they found remnants of human habitation, such as an ash pile and burned bones.

“We found a so-called ‘heinarbrýni.’ It’s a type of whetstone that was usually kept on the belt, used to sharpen needles, for example,” continued Gylfadóttir. “And we found a fragment from a soapstone pot.”

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Archaeological find in Þjórsárdalur: Viking Age farm destroyed by 1104 Hekla eruption

STÖNG FARM The best known Viking Age farm to be abandoned in the catastrophic 
1104 eruption. Photo/Thomas Romst

A recent archeological find in Þjórsárdalur valley in South Iceland reminds us just how much of the history of Viking Age Iceland is still shrouded in mystery. Several items, including a Thor's Hammer amulet, were discovered at a previously unknown farmstead. The farm is believed to have been abandoned after an eruption in Hekla volcano.

Destroyed by Hekla​
A catastrophic eruption in Hekla in the year 1104 destroyed numerous farms in Þjórsárdalur valley. The thick ash and tephra deposited by the volcano left previously prosperous farmlands uninhabitable. Historians had knowledge of 20 different farms which were abandoned following the eruption. The number is up to 21 following the most recent find.

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Archaeologists discover Thor's Hammer amulet at previously unexplored site in S. Iceland

THOR'S HAMMER The small amulet was carved out of sandstone. 
Photo/Fornleifastofnun Íslands

Most major archeological finds in Iceland in recent years have come as complete accidents, or during construction work. The discovery of a large Viking longhouse in downtown Reykjavík in the summer of 2015, a large burial site in North Iceland in the summer of 2017, and the discovery of a Viking sword by hunters in the summer of 2016 come to mind.

The same applies to the latest archeological find dating back to the Viking Age. Archeologists who were registering sites in Þjórsárdalur valley in South Iceland last week found four items which have not been dated yet, but which are most likely from the first centuries of the settlement of Iceland. The items were found in a previously unexplored and unknown farmstead. 

The site was discovered by a local who directed the archeologists to the location. During the registration the archeologists found four objects lying in the surface soil: A whet, an iron pick, a buckle and a small stone amulet in the shape of Thor's Hammer.

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I pulled a 1,500-year-old sword out of a lake

Saga Vanecek: ‘I had to give the sword to the local museum.’ 
Photograph: Hilda Grahnat for the Guardian

People are saying I am the queen of Sweden because of the legend of King Arthur

Every summer, my parents, my six-year-old brother and I go to stay in a cabin by a lake called Vidöstern in Tånnö in southern Sweden, not far from where we live. I like to build sandcastles on the beach, or find rocks to skim across the water and see how many times I can make them bounce. Mamma says she used to play and swim in the lake when she was little, too.

On 15 July this year, I was playing on the beach with my friend, when Daddy told me to get a buoy from the cabin: he said the water level in the lake was very shallow and we had to warn any boats that might come along because it was dangerous. He said it had been the hottest summer for 260 years.

I waded into the water and it was very soft on my skin and refreshing, a little bit cool but not too cold. It was a nice feeling because the sun was shining and I was very hot. Daddy was begging me to rush so he could watch the World Cup final, but I like to take my time about things so I ignored him.

I was crawling along the bottom of the lake on my arms and knees, looking for stones to skim, when my hand and knee felt something long and hard buried in the clay and sand. I pulled it out and saw that it was different from the sticks or rocks I usually find. One end had a point, and the other had a handle, so I pointed it up to the sky, put my other hand on my hip and called out, “Daddy, I’ve found a sword!”

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Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Georadar detects a Viking ship in Norway

The outline of the Viking ship can clearly be seen in this animation of the radar data 
[Credit: Lars Gustavsen, NIKU]

Archaeologists armed with a motorized high resolution georadar have found a Viking ship and a large number of burial mounds and longhouses in Østfold County in Norway.

The discoveries were made by archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) with technology developed by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro).

"We are certain that there is a ship there, but how much is preserved is hard to say before further investigation”, says Morten Hanisch, county conservator in Østfold.

"This find is incredibly exciting as we only know three well-preserved Viking ship finds in Norway excavated long time ago. This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance as it can be investigated with all modern means of archaeology”, says Dr. Knut Paasche, Head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU, and an expert on Viking ships.

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Enormous, rare Viking ship burial discovered by radar

Using ground-penetrating radar mounted on the front of an all-terrain vehicle, archaeologists in Norway peered below farm fields and discovered the outlines of a Viking ship and long houses.

Whoever was buried in the ship wasn’t alone. There are traces of at least eight other burial mounds in the field, some almost 90 feet across. Three large longhouses—one 150 feet long—are also visible underneath the site’s soil, together with a half-dozen smaller structures.

Archaeologists hope future excavations will help date the mounds and the longhouses, which may have been built at different times. “We can’t be sure the houses have the same age as the ship,” Paasche says.

Paasche plans to return to the site next spring to conduct more sophisticated scans, including surveying the site with a magnetometer and perhaps digging test trenches to see what condition the ship’s remains are in. If there is wood from the ship’s hull preserved beneath the ground, it could be used to date the find more precisely.

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Norway makes rare discovery of Viking ship traces

FOX News

Archaeologists said on Monday they have found what they believe are traces of a Viking ship buried in southeast Norway, a rare discovery that could shed light on the skilled navigators' expeditions in the Middle Ages. 

The boatlike shape was detected about 50 centimetres underground in a tumulus, a burial mound, with the use of a ground-penetrating radar in Halden, a municipality located southeast of Oslo.

"In the middle of the mound, we discovered what is called an anomaly, something that is different from the rest and clearly has the shapes and dimensions of a Viking ship," Knut Paasche, an archaeologist at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), told AFP.

"What we cannot say for sure is the condition of the conservation. Yes there was a boat there, but it's hard to say how much wood is left," Paasche said.

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Norway makes rare discovery of Viking ship traces

This handout picture released on 15 October 2018, by Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) shows an Image generated from a georadar, showing what archaeologists believe is a viking ship buried near Halden, some 150km south of Oslo, Norway. — AFP pic

“In the middle of the mound, we discovered what is called an anomaly, something that is different from the rest and clearly has the shapes and dimensions of a Viking ship,” Knut Paasche, an archaeologist at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), told AFP.

“What we cannot say for sure is the condition of the conservation. Yes there was a boat there, but it’s hard to say how much wood is left,” Paasche said.

The Vikings, Northern European warriors and merchants who sailed the seas between the 8th and 11th century, would bury their kings and chiefs aboard a boat hoisted onshore and left under a mound of earth.

Only three Viking ships in good condition have been discovered in Norway in the past, including the well-preserved Oseberg ship discovered in 1903. All three of them are now exhibited in a museum near Oslo.

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Friday, 5 October 2018

Eight-year-old Swedish-American girl pulls pre-Viking era sword from lake

Eight-year-old Saga and her sword. Photo: Andrew Vanecek
An eight-year-old Swedish-American girl came across an exciting find swimming at her local lake, when she pulled an ancient sword from its depths.
"It's not every day that one steps on a sword in the lake!" Mikael Nordström from Jönköpings Läns Museum said when explaining the significance of the find.

But that's exactly what happened to Saga Vanecek, who found the relic at the Vidöstern lake in Tånnö, Småland earlier this summer.

"I was outside in the water, throwing sticks and stones and stuff to see how far they skip, and then I found some kind of stick," Saga told The Local.

"I picked it up and was going to drop it back in the water, but it had a handle, and I saw that it was a little bit pointy at the end and all rusty. I held it up in the air and I said 'Daddy, I found a sword!' When he saw that it bent and was rusty, he came running up and took it," she continued.

The water at the lake by the family's summer house was low this year due to drought, which may have been part of the reason Saga was able to reach the sword. Because of this, the family was putting a buoy out in the lake to warn other boats of an underwater slab of concrete which was dangerous in the low water levels.
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Girl, 8, pulls a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in Sweden

JONKOPING COUNTY MUSEUM

An eight-year-old found a pre-Viking-era sword while swimming in a lake in Sweden during the summer.
Saga Vanecek found the relic in the Vidostern lake while at her family's holiday home in Jonkoping County.
The sword was initially reported to be 1,000 years old, but experts at the local museum now believe it may date to around 1,500 years ago.
"It's not every day that you step on a sword in the lake!" Mikael Nordstrom from the museum said.
The level of the water was extremely low at the time, owing to a drought, which is probably why Saga uncovered the ancient weapon.

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Girl dubbed 'Queen of Sweden' after drawing ancient sword from lake


Experts have described the discovery of the 1,500 year old relic as spectacular, saying that it was "about 85 centimeters long, and there is also preserved wood and metal around it."

(CNN)An eight-year-old girl has discovered a pre-Viking-era sword in a Swedish lake, prompting locals to name her the "Queen of Sweden."

Swedish-American Saga Vanecek found the ancient artifact while playing in Vidöstern lake during the summer near her family's holiday home in the south of the country.
Experts at a local museum estimate the sword to be around 1,500 years old, according to local reports.

"I was outside in the water, throwing sticks and stones and stuff to see how far they skip, and then I found some kind of stick," Vanecek told The Local, a Swedish news website.

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Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Playing Viking Chess with Whale Bones

Researchers discovered hnefatafl game pieces made of whale bone in upper- and middle-class Vendel graves. Photo by Rudolf Gustavsson

Game pieces made of whale bone may be evidence of the emergence of industrial whaling in ancient Scandinavia.

In central and eastern Sweden from 550 to 793 CE, just before the Viking Age, members of the Vendel culture were known for their fondness for boat burials, their wars, and their deep abiding love of hnefatafl.

Also known as Viking chess, hnefatafl is a board game in which a centrally located king is attacked from all sides. The game wasn’t exclusive to the Vendels—people across northern Europe faced off over the gridded board from at least 400 BCE until the 18th century. But during the Vendel period, love for the game was so great that some people literally took it to their graves. Now, a new analysis of some hnefatafl game pieces unearthed in Vendel burial sites offers unexpected insight into the possible emergence of industrial whaling in northern Europe.

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Thousands of objects discovered in Scandinavia’s first Viking city

Danish archaeologists have excavated the streets beneath Ribe to discover how the first city of the Viking age was established.

The bead-makers of 8th century Ribe used pieces of glass gathered from old Roman mosaics as their raw material. They didn’t have access to newly manufactured glass. This is one of the many details that tells us about the city’s network. 
(Photo: Museum of Southwest Jutland)

If you want to know anything about the Viking Age, Ribe, in west Denmark, is the place to go.
Archaeologists from Aarhus University and Southwest Jutland Museums (Denmark) have been excavating the Viking city as part of the Northern Emporium Project in minute detail.
We have dug down to three metres, where we find traces of the first cities of the Nordic region.
Thousands of items discovered beneath the streets of Ribe
Deep beneath street level are thousands of Viking finds. We have discovered everything from beads, amulets, coins, and lost combs, to dog excrement and gnawed bones.
We have also been surprised on several occasions, such as when we discovered a piece of a lyre (a harp-like stringed instrument), complete with tuning pegs. This discovery alone gives the Viking trading city of Ribe a whole new soundtrack.
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Friday, 27 July 2018

Archaeological Find Near Reykjavík

The archaeological site. Photo/Ragnheiður Traustadóttir

A team of Icelandic archaeologists has discovered occupation layers, dating back to the settlement of Iceland in the ninth century until the beginning of the 14th century, on Mosfell hill in Mosfellsdalur valley, just east of Reykjavík. The discovery is believed to be able to shed light on the history of the Middle Ages in the area.

Work on a new parking lot by Mosfellskirkja church was halted by the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland in April, and subsequent archaeological research revealed the layers. The agency decides this week whether excavations are to be continued. Only part of the site was damaged when work on the parking lot was in progress, according to archaeologist Ragnheiður Traustadóttir. The site seems to have been affected more in 1960, when a minister’s residence was built on the lot. Two areas are under investigation, one north of road leading up to the church, and the other east of the current parking lot.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

How to decorate like a Viking

Grand Designs, Viking edition. A new report recreates some of the colours used by Vikings to decorate their houses, including ochre and charcoal pigments. (Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre)

To begin with you will need a handy Viking paint chart. Luckily, archaeologists in Denmark have just made one.
Green is the colour of hope, white symbolises surrender or innocence, and black binds the living to the dead.

Colour has always carried meaning for people, including the Vikings, for whom it symbolised power and wealth.

But what colours did the Vikings use?

Archaeologists and chemists have now studied colour use in the Viking Age based on the chemical analyses of pigments from a number of objects and a review of existing information on the topic.

These colours are now available to all in the form of a colour palette: A Viking paint chart.

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DNA study reveals fate of Irish women taken by Vikings as slaves to Iceland

The Sea Stallion from Glendalough, a reconstructed Viking ship [Credit: Eric Luke]

The mapping of DNA from some of the settlers who colonised Iceland more than 1,000 years ago offers an insight into the fate of thousands of slaves – mostly women – who were taken by Norse Vikings from Ireland and Scotland before they put down roots on the North Atlantic island.

Anthropologist Sunna Ebenesersdóttir, of the University of Iceland and the company deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, analysed the genomes of 25 ancient Icelanders whose skeletal remains were found in burial sites across the island.

Sequencing using samples from teeth revealed the settlers had a roughly even split of Norse (from what are today Norway and Sweden) and Gaelic ancestry. It is the first in-depth investigation of how a new population is formed through a genetic process known as “admixture”.

When the researchers compared the ancient genomes to those of modern people in Iceland and other European countries, they found contemporary Icelanders, on average, draw about 70 per cent of their genes from Norse ancestry.

This suggests that in the 1,100 years between settlement and today, the population underwent a surprisingly quick genetic shift in favour of Norse genes, the researchers report in the journal Science.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Large-scale whaling in north Scandinavia may date back to 6th century

Top: a board-game piece made from whalebone at the end of the 6th century CE, found in Gnistahögen near Uppsala, Sweden (photograph by Bengt Backlund, Uppland County Museum). Bottom: the bone structure of the gaming piece compared with reference bone from minke whale (photograph by Rudolf Gustavsson, Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis, SAU) [Credit: Bengt Backlund/Rudolf Gustavsson]

Museum collections in Sweden contain thousands of Iron Age board-game pieces. New studies of the raw material composing them show that most were made of whalebone from the mid-6th century CE. They were produced in large volumes and standardised forms. The researchers therefore believe that a regular supply of whalebone was needed. Since the producers would hardly have found the carcasses of beached whales a reliable source, the gaming pieces are interpreted as evidence for whaling.

Apart from an osteological survey, species origin has been determined for a small number of game pieces, using ZooMS (short for Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometer). The method shows that all the pieces analysed were derived from the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), a massive whale weighing 50-80 tonnes. It got the name because it was the right whale to hunt: it swam slowly, close to shore, and contained so much blubber as to float after being killed.

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Viking houses from 1070 found in Cork dig at former Beamish & Crawford brewery


Excavations at a former brewery in Cork have uncovered the foundations of 19 wooden Viking age houses from the 11th and 12th centuries.

Some of the structures date back to 1070, making them 30 years older than any housing previously excavated in the city.

The dig at the former Beamish & Crawford factory also found three stone walls and a doorway from St Laurence’s Church, dating back to the 13th century.

Cork’s urban layout as a Viking city dates from around the same time that Waterford began developing as a Viking city, but archaeologists have yet to find any evidence on Leeside comparable to a trading post established near Waterford in the ninth century, archaeologists have found.

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Iceland’s founding fathers underwent a rapid, 1000-year genetic shift


Scientists analyzed the ancient genes of skeletons belonging to some of Iceland’s first settlers, like this one discovered in a grave near the island’s northern coast. 
IVAR BRYNJOLFSSON/THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ICELAND


If modern Icelanders came face-to-face with their founding fathers, they’d be hard-pressed to see much family resemblance, according to a new study. That’s because today’s Icelanders have a much higher proportion of Scandinavian genes than their distant ancestors did, suggesting the islanders underwent a remarkably rapid genetic shift over the past thousand years.

Previous studies have hinted as much based on inferences from modern genotypes, notes Jonathan Pritchard, a population geneticist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who wasn’t involved in the work. But the new findings offer a rare, direct glimpse of the founding of a new people. “I don’t think this has been shown before in any human population.”

Medieval histories suggest Iceland was first settled between 870 C.E. and 930 C.E. by seafaring Vikings and the people they enslaved, who possessed a mélange of genes from what is now Norway and the British Isles. For the next thousand years, the population of Iceland remained relatively small and isolated, hovering between about 10,000 and 50,000. Impeccable genealogical records and broad genetic sampling have made Icelanders—who now number 330,000—a model population for geneticists hoping to connect the dots between gene variants and traits.

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The Genes From Iceland's First Settlers Reveal The Origin Of Their Population In Detail

Skeletal remains of an ancient pre-Christian (<1000 c.e.="" female="" font="" icelandic="" nbsp="">
[Credit: Ivar Brynjolfsson/The National Museum of Iceland]

In just over 1,000 years, Icelanders have gone through numerous changes in their gene pool, to the extent that Iceland's first settlers, who came to the island from Norway and the British and Irish isles between the years 870 and 930, are much more similar to the inhabitants of their original home countries than to Iceland's present-day inhabitants.

This is one of the main conclusions of a study carried out by an international team of scientists which included members of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). For the first time, the researchers, whose results are published in the journal Science, analysed the ancient genomes of 25 individuals who lived in Iceland during the colonisation of the island.

With a population of 330,000, Iceland is a country with its own peculiarities. Genes are no exception: isolation and inbreeding throughout its history make this northern Atlantic island a paradise for genetic studies.

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Archaeologists uncover 'treasure trove' of artefacts at Pictish fort

A pin decorated with a bramble is among items discovered at the Pictish fort
UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN

A "treasure trove" of Pictish artefacts has been discovered in the remains of an ancient fort on the Moray coast.

The building near Burghhead is believed to have been destroyed by fire in the 10th century as the Vikings invaded.

It spelled the end of Pictish life in the area but the blaze preserved material that would normally have rotted away hundreds of years ago.

As well as a complex layer of oak planks in a wall, archaeologists have uncovered jewellery and animal bones.

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Thursday, 26 April 2018

Swedish Archaeologists Uncover Brutal 5th-Century Massacre


Excavations from an Iron Age fort in modern-day Sweden revealed brutalized human remains and other macabre traces of a massacre that stopped a small Scandinavian community in its tracks some 1,500 years ago.

Six years after the archaeological investigations began, the team has published a report of their findings in the journal Antiquity. Although only 6 percent of the site has been unearthed and analyzed, the evidence gathered thus far paints an unprecedently vivid picture of life – and death – in late 5th-century Europe, a turbulent period following the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Located on the island of Öland off the coast of southeast Sweden, the Sandby Borg ringfort resembled a large oval-shaped mound of grass and dirt encircled by crumbling stone before the archaeologists arrived. Hoping to preserve the contents of the site from recently spotted treasure hunters, the team slowly but surely revealed that the unassuming ruins belonged to a 5,000-square-meter (54,000-square-foot) village, containing 53 dwellings, enclosed by stone walls that once stood 4-5 meters (13-16 feet) high.

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Swedish archaeologists reveal 5th Century massacre at Sandby borg

Team member Clara Alfsdotter arranges the remains of one victim

Swedish archaeologists have found evidence of a 5th century massacre on the south-eastern island of Oland.

In a paper published in the journal Antiquity, the team writes about the 1,500 year old attack at Sandby borg.

Dozens of corpses have been found in the walled fort, their bodies left to rot where they fell.

All of the victims were killed with "brutal force", team leader Helena Victor said. Some victims were found inside houses, others in the streets.

The archaeologists discovered decapitated bodies, blunt force trauma wounds to victims' heads, and even one person who seemed to have fallen into a fireplace in his final moments.

Even the corpse of a newborn was found among the dead, suggesting nobody was spared, the authors say.

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Monday, 23 April 2018

Skeletons of first Copenhageners discovered under City Hall Square

Secret dig yields startling find (photo: Copenhagen Museum)

Since December, a team of archaeologists from the Museum of Copenhagen have secretly been excavating 20 skeletons discovered under City Hall Square.

The skeletons belong to men, women and children who are believed to have lived around 1,000 years ago, and which archaeologists believe were the first Copenhageners.

“It’s amazing. The graves with the skeletons in good condition are lying just a metre under the asphalt on the busiest square in Denmark,” Jane Jark Jensen, an archaeologist and curator with Copenhagen Museum, told Politiken newspaper.

The archaeologists believe that there are two additional layers of skeletons underneath the layer they are currently excavating.

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Archaeologists may have found Copenhagen’s oldest church

The City Hall Square excavation site has yielded some interesting results 
(photo: Museum of Copenhagen)

When it emerged in February that a team of archaeologists had been secretly excavating 20 skeletons under City Hall Square, it was believed they belonged to the first Copenhageners who lived some 1,000 years ago.

Now, the archaeologists have discovered the remains of a foundation that they think could stem from the first church in the Danish capital – a find that would help confirm that the Danish capital was an established city earlier than believed.

“If it is a church, it would further prove that Copenhagen was an established city at the start of the Middle Ages,” Lars Ewald Jensen, the archaeological head of the Museum of Copenhagen, told Videnskab.dk.

“You can have a burial site without an established city, because there needs to be more elements present before one can call it a city. But then again, you can’t have a city without having a church.”

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Archaeologists find silver treasure on German Baltic island

The April 13, 2018 photo shows medieval Saxonian, Ottoman, Danish and Byzantine coins after a medieval silver treasure had been found near Schaprode on the northern German island of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea. (Stefan Sauer/dpa via AP) (Associated Press)

BERLIN — Hundreds of 1,000-year-old silver coins, rings, pearls and bracelets linked to the era of Danish King Harald Gormsson have been found on the eastern German island of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea.

A single silver coin was first found in January by two amateur archaeologists, one of them a 13-year-old boy, in a field near the village of Schaprode. The state archaeology office then became involved and the entire treasure was uncovered by experts over the weekend, the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state archaeology office said Monday.

“It’s the biggest trove of such coins in the southeastern Baltic region,” the statement said.

The office said the two amateur archeologists were asked to keep quiet about their discovery to give professionals time to plan the dig and were then invited to participate in the recovery.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Uncovering the Galloway Viking Hoard, layer by layer

A bird brooch from the Galloway Hoard. ®National Museums Scotland

Hold on to your Viking helmet; you’re about to dig, layer by layer, into one of the most extraordinary Viking hoards ever found on the British Isles – the Galloway Hoard – with Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator at National Museums Scotland

The team of metal detectorists had been working this field in Galloway for some time, but what they eventually found was way beyond their expectations.

The top layer contained eleven ingots and eleven silver arm-rings that had been flattened into bullion. They would have been made from the type of ingots they’re buried with. There’s a nice variety of decoration, with lots of punched lines and hatches. This type of arm-ring is normally found in hoards in Ireland and there are some from North Wales and from Lancashire – all around the Irish Sea, but we don’t have a lot of this particular type in Scotland. This hoard completes the circle around the Irish Sea.

They’re called a Hiberno-Scandinavian type of arm-ring and obviously the Scandinavian is the new element added to the cultural mix at the time, but they’re given that Hiberno- prefix because they’re normally found in Ireland. For me it is always the hyphen between these cultural labels where the interesting things are happening.

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Slavs competed with the Vikings on these boats


Specialists from the National Maritime Museum in Tczew began the reconstruction of the 12th-century Slavic boat salvaged from the bottom of the Bay of Puck.

The reconstruction of the Slavic boat dated back to 1158 began at the Shipwreck Conservation Centre in Tczew, a facility of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk. The wreck, designated P-3 by the museum workers, has been salvaged from the mud at the bottom of the Bay of Puck.

"This is a pioneering project" - emphasises Jerzy Litwin, director of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk. "We have created a special metal basket that allows for precise positioning of individual structural elements" - he says.

This method will allow to recreate the shape and the actual dimensions of the boat. Viking boats are exhibited in a similar way in Scandinavian museums. Nobody has attempted such a reconstruction in Poland until now. Reconstructions of Slavic boats are also rare. Polish museums have only two such exhibits, one of which was reconstructed before the war.