Thursday 29 February 2024

7 Scientific Tools Archaeologists Use to Uncover the Viking World


Science loves the Vikings. NASA’s 1970s mission to Mars paid homage to the Vikings, and Bluetooth wireless technology takes its name from the Viking king of Denmark and Norway, Harald Bluetooth. The Bluetooth symbol on phones and computers also hails from Viking runes. Science has become essential to uncovering Viking archaeology, and new archaeological tools have allowed us to better understand the Viking world.

1. Strontium Isotope Analysis and Viking Archaeology

The Trelleborg Fortress located in Zealand, Denmark is a circular fortification divided into four quadrants. Inside each quadrant are longhouses. On its own, the fortress is an archaeological marvel, but the more archaeologists dig into the fortress, the more exceptional the monument proves to be.

King Harald Bluetooth organized defensive fortifications across the Viking world to maintain power during the 10th century. Excavations in Zealand from 1938-1940 revealed a fortification associated with Bluetooth’s reign and 157 buried individuals. But who were these people?

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Wednesday 28 February 2024

Kyivan Rus: The First East Slavic State


Long before Russia or Ukraine existed, there was Kyivan Rus.

Centuries before Russia or Ukraine raised arms against each other, Scandinavians made their way to Novgorod before moving on to Kyiv.

Kyivan Rus rose up during the 9th century and laid the foundations for the development of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

The city of Kyiv was the heart of Kyivan Rus, a loosely bound federation of principalities, each under the governance of its individual prince.

The state reached its pinnacle in the late 10th century when it adopted Christianity from Byzantium, marking the conversion of Kyivan Rus into Orthodox Christianity.

It also was a crucial hub for trade between the Baltic and Black Seas, helping foster growth and cultural exchange. This fusion of Slavic and Byzantine aesthetics in art, architecture, and political rule emerged. While it was taking in and absorbing influences around it, it was truly becoming a culture of its own. 

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Tuesday 27 February 2024

The Vinland Map: How a Mysterious Forgery Fooled Experts for Decades


The Vinland Map courted controversy from the moment its discovery was announced. / Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University // Public Domain (map); wilatlak villette/Moment/Getty Images (background)

In 1965, Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice Michael A. Musmanno traveled to Yale University to look at a map that, until recently, had been kept a closely guarded secret.

The document, dubbed the Vinland Map, was said to date back to 1440. It was inscribed with a phrase alternately deciphered as Vinlanda Insula, Vimlanda Insula, or Vinilanda Insula, and depicted a version of North America that included Greenland as an island as well as part of what appears to be the North American coast. When translated, text on the map seemed to corroborate the events of what are known as the Vinland Sagas, two 13th-century Icelandic texts that speak of legendary explorer Leif Erikson arriving in North America—likely present-day Newfoundland, Canada—by way of Greenland around 1000. If legit, as the university claimed it was, the map was the earliest representation of North America and provided more evidence that Vikings had made it to the continent nearly 500 years ahead of Christopher Columbus—who, although he sailed for Spain, was Genoese by birth and was later embraced by Italian Americans as a hero.

In a blow to their pride, the map’s existence was announced in a splashy press conference just before the holiday honoring the explorer. With it came a book written by scholars who had worked in secret for seven years to verify the map’s authenticity. “Cartographic Scholarship Turns Over New Leif,” the Los Angeles Times punned.

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A 2,000-Year-Old Rune-Inscribed Knife Sheds Light on Denmark’s Past

The knife engraved with runes believed to be Denmark's oldest.
Photo: Rógvi N. Johansen, Museum Odense.

Archaeologists from the Museum Odense in Denmark recently unearthed a significant historical artifact: a small, 2,000-year-old knife bearing an exceptionally rare runic inscription.

The text, composed of five runes concluding with three depressions engraved into the knife, uses the oldest known runic alphabet. The runes represent the word “hirila,” interpreted to mean “Little Sword” in Old Norse. While it remains uncertain whether “hirila” refers to the knife itself or its owner, archaeologists affirm its status as a cherished possession interred in a grave almost two millennia ago. The relic was found under the remnants of an urn in a small burial ground east of Odense.

Speaking on the national significance of the discovery, museum inspector and archaeologist Jakob Bonde was thrilled. “It is a unique experience to stand with such an old and finished written language,” he said. “A runic inscription is like finding a message from ancient people.”

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Danish Unknown Royal Family Discovered Thanks to Ring

Courtesy National Museum of Denmark.
 

The Merovingian line ruled the Franks from the middle of the fifth century until 751. The Merovingians play a prominent role in French historiography and national identity. When it comes to the ring, 39-year-old Lars Nielsen extracted it from the earth. After that, he gave it to the Museum Sønderjylland, in Haderslev. Afterwards, the institution gave the ring to Copenhagen’s National Museum of Denmark.

Kirstine Pommergaard of the National Museum examined the ring and found that its design is similar to those of rings worn by influential Merovingians. She goes on to say that the ring not only announces the arrival of a new family. Additionally, it links Emmerlev to one of the biggest European power centres throughout the Iron Age. The ring possibly belonged to a princess who wed a different prince in the area.

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Gold Ring Possibly Linked to Royal Family Discovered by Metal Detectorist


Lars Nielsen was casually using his metal detector while exploring the Emmerlev area in Denmark when he made quite the surprising discovery: a large and luxurious-looking gold ring set with a red semiprecious stone. It turns out it's much more than just a nice piece of jewelry that someone might have left behind. 

Researchers have been looking into the ring's origins and believe that it dates back to the 5th or 6th century. According to the Danish news site Via Ritzau, the discovery seemingly points to the long-ago presence of an unknown royal family in the area with close ties to the Merovingians, a royal family that once ruled the Kingdom of France. 

Kirstine Pommergaard, a curator and archaeologist at the National Museum of Denmark, explained what she found and how the ring's unique build connects it to the Merovingian elite. 

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Tuesday 20 February 2024

Rare Merovingian gold ring found in Jutland


A metal detectorist has discovered a rare Merovingian gold ring dating to 500-600 A.D. in Emmerlev, Southwest Jutland, Denmark. The ring is made of 22-carat gold and is set with an oval cabochon almandine garnet, a red semi-precious stone prized among Germanic peoples as a symbol of power. The mount has four spirals on the underside and trefoil knobs where the band meets the bezel. The spirals and knobs are characteristic of the highest quality of Frankish manufacture, and rings of this type were worn by the elite of the Merovingian dynasty.

National Museum of Denmark curator Kirstine Pommergaard believes the quality and construction of the ring suggests there may have been an unknown noble family in the Emmerlev area with close connections to Merovingian royalty.

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Monday 19 February 2024

Possible Viking-Age Marketplace Found in Norway


STAVANGER, NORWAY—According to a statement released by the University of Stavanger, a ground-penetrating radar survey conducted on Klosterøy, an island off Norway’s southwestern coast, has detected traces of possible pit houses, cooking pits, and pier or boathouse foundations that may have been part of a Viking Age marketplace. Investigation of this area of private farmland around the medieval Utstein Monastery over the years with metal detectors has also revealed coins and weights usually associated with trade, explained archaeologist Håkon Reiersen of the University of Stavanger Museum of Archaeology. “While many indicators suggest that this may be a marketplace, we cannot be 100 percent certain until further investigations are conducted in the area to verify the findings,” added archaeologist Grethe Moéll Pedersen of the Museum of Archaeology. To read about possible evidence for the Vikings' long-distance trading activity, go to "Viking Trading or Raiding?"

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New Medieval Books: Beowulf and the North Before the Vikings


Beowulf and the North Before the Vikings

By Tom Shippey

Arc Humanities Press
ISBN: 9781802700138

How much history is there in the story of Beowulf? The author argues that we can learn more about the people and places mentioned in the poem than has been commonly accepted, and it also sheds light on the Viking raids that began at the end of the eighth century.
Excerpt:

Beowulf’s anti-historical critics do of course have a point. If you believe that history cannot be written without dates and documents, then Beowulf offers neither. On the other hand, students of prehistory are accustomed to making what they can of other kinds of evidence, like legends and late traditions. And there is in addition the solid and ever-increasing evidence of archaeology, the “open frontier” of Beowulf-studies and of early history. As Ulf Näsman, Professor of Archaeology at Linnaeus University in Sweden, puts it: “archaeologists can write history.” Moreover, and as it happens, even for Beowulf we do have some surprising documentary evidence, which also gives us a date.

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Thursday 15 February 2024

Vikings and their impact in Britain examined in new set of stamps issued by Royal Mail


The impact the Vikings had on Britain is being examined in a new set of stamps issued by Royal Mail. 

The eight stamps feature Viking artefacts and locations of significance from around the UK.

These include an iron, silver and copper sword, a silver penny minted in York, silver and bronze brooches, an antler comb and case from Coppergate, York, and a Hogback gravestone from Govan Old, Glasgow.

The release of the collection also marks 40 years since the Jorvik Viking Centre opened in York.

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Thursday 8 February 2024

Traces of Saxon town found beneath London’s National Gallery


 Archaeologists from Archaeology South-East have uncovered traces of the Saxon town of Lundenwic beneath the National Gallery in London.
Following the collapse of Roman Britain, Londoninium (London) fell to ruin and was abandoned during the 5th century AD.

Anglo-Saxons settled 1.6 km’s to the west of the former Roman capital, establishing a small town known as Lundenwic in the area of present-day Covent Garden.

During the 6th century AD, England was split into multiple Anglo-Saxon kingdoms termed the Heptarchy. As borders changed through conquest and marriage, the town of Lundenwic found itself first within the domain of Essex, then Mercia, and subsequently Wessex.

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Monday 5 February 2024

Ship burial discovered in Norway predates Viking Age


A burial mound explored last June in Norway holds the remains of a ship that predates the Viking age. Archaeologists believe this is Scandinavia’s oldest known ship burial.

Archaeologists and a metal detectorist conducted the survey at Herlaugshagen at Leka, which is located in Trøndelag County in central Norway. Carried out by NTNU Science Museum and Trøndelag County Municipality, it was funded by a grant of NOK 100,000 from Norway’s National Antiquities Agency. The purpose was to be able to date the burial mound more closely, and possibly confirm whether the burial mound may have contained a ship. The archaeologists found iron rivets, a horse’s tooth, preserved remains of wood and charcoal.

The rivets allowed the researchers to date the site. “The mound was constructed in approximately 700 CE,” said Geir Grønnesby, an archaeologist at the NTNU University Museum. “This is called the Merovingian period and precedes the Viking Age. This dating is really exciting because it pushes the whole tradition of ship burials quite far back in time.”

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Saturday 3 February 2024

10 Facts About L’Anse aux Meadows, North America’s Only Viking Ruins

Recreated Viking sod houses behind a wooden fence at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada. / Dylan Kereluk, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

L’Anse aux Meadows, an archaeological site in Newfoundland, Canada, represents the first and only confirmed Viking presence in North America—proving beyond doubt that Vikings reached the Americas some 400 years before Christopher Columbus. Here are 10 facts about L’Anse Aux Meadows and some of its mysteries that are yet to be solved.

1. Vikings were not the first people to live at L’Anse aux Meadows.
Archaeological evidence of fireplaces, tent rings, and other artifacts suggest that several Indigenous groups lived at L’Anse aux Meadows before and after the Vikings occupied the site. They include peoples of the Maritime Archaic tradition from roughly 4000 to 1000 BCE, the Groswater tradition from 1000 BCE to 500 CE, and the Middle Dorset Culture from 400 to 750 CE. Historians believe there were no people present at the time of the Norse arrival, though.

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Wednesday 31 January 2024

Early medieval sword fished out of Polish river is in 'near perfect' condition

Images of the early medieval sword as well as an X-ray image. (Image credit: O. Ochotny)

Workers made a surprising discovery in Poland when they pulled an early medieval sword from a muddy riverbed while dredging, and some researchers think the weapon could have a Viking connection.

The 1,000-year-old sword, which is thought to be older than Poland itself, was found cloaked in silt and in "near perfect" condition in the depths of the Vistula (also spelled Wisła) River, which runs through Włocławek, a city in northern Poland, according to Warsaw Point, a Polish magazine. 

Local authorities contacted the Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments about the unusual finding. The city’s Center for Sport and Recreation announced the discovery Jan. 12 via a Facebook post.

X-ray imaging revealed that the sword's blade contained an inscription that reads "U[V]LFBERTH," which could be read as "Ulfberht" — "a marking found on a group of 170 medieval swords found mainly in northern Europe" that may be a Frankish personal name, according to CBS News.

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Archaeology Classes on the Oxford Experience summer school 2024

Tom Quad, Christ Church, Oxford University – image David Beard

The Oxford Experience summer school is held at Christ Church, Oxford. 
Participants stay in Christ Church and eat in the famous Dining Hall, that was the model for the Hall in the Harry Potter movies.

This year there are twelve classes offered in archaeology.


Tuesday 30 January 2024

Viking “Ulfberht” 9th Century Sword Recovered from Vistula River in Poland

The sword at the discovery site | photo Ośrodek Sportu i Rekreacji Włocławek

A Viking sword from the 9th to 10th centuries was accidentally discovered a few days ago at the bottom of the Vistula River in Włocławek. According to experts, this is an extraordinary find, as only thirteen weapons of this type have been found in Poland until now. The sword has been handed over for preservation to the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.

During the dredging of the harbor basin on Piwna Street in Włocławek, a sword from the 9th-10th century, likely belonging to a Viking due to the inscription ULFBERHT, was unearthed from the bottom of Poland’s longest river.

Provincial curator Sambor Gawinski stated on Wednesday in Toruń that around 170 Ulfberht swords have been found in Europe, most likely 177.

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Up Helly Aa: What happens at Shetland's Viking fire festival?

The festival reaches its climax with the burning of a Viking galley

Shetland's Up Helly Aa Viking fire festival is taking place in Lerwick - with a new prominence for women at the 143-year-old event.

The festival celebrates the Scottish islands' Norse heritage, culminating in the burning of a replica Viking galley.

The abolition of gender restrictions began last year, when women and girls first took part in the procession.

For the first time, women and girls will join the main "squad" at the head of the procession through the town.

It is an important change to the event which is incredibly important to the people of Shetland.

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Monday 29 January 2024

Medieval and Viking-Age artifacts discovered in Norway


A very rare Byzantine coin is among dozens of medieval and Viking-era objects discovered in eastern Norway last year. Officials with Innlandet County Municipality have released details of items found by metal detectorists, including buckles, seals and pieces from swords.

Around 700 coins have now been found with by metal detectors in recent months – they date from the Roman period to 1650, with the most spectacular being a gold histamenon in excellent condition. Minted during the reigns of Basil II and Constantine VIII, sometime between 977 and 1025 AD, it shows the joint Byzantine emperors on one side and Jesus holding a book on the reverse.

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Wednesday 24 January 2024

Oldest runes in Denmark discovered on 2000-year-old knife




Watch the video...

Denmark’s oldest runes found on knife blade


Archaeologists at the Museum Odense have identified Denmark’s oldest runes inscribed on a 1,850-year-old knife blade. The inscription consists of five runes with three depressions that runologists have interpreted as “hirila,” meaning “Little Sword.” The runic script is Proto-Norse, the oldest known runic alphabet, and the context dates the blade to around 150 A.D.

The knife was discovered by Museum Odense archaeologists in a burial ground in Tietgenbyen, east of Odense. It was one of several artifacts in an urn grave. Among the grave goods were three fibulae of a type that was only in use for a very brief period in the mid-2nd century A.D., the Early Roman Iron Age. The knife blade could then be indirectly dated to around the same time.

When the blade was first unearthed, it was coated in a layer of rust that obscured the inscription. Conservators spotted the runes after cleaning the corrosion and contacted National Museum runologist Lisbeth Imer. She examined the blade under a microscope and was able to translate the runic inscription.

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Tuesday 23 January 2024

Why Is The Oseberg Ship Burial A Great Viking Mystery?

 



The Oseberg Ship burial is one of the greatest Viking mysteries. The individuals buried together with the ship are a riddle, and the fact something very strange occurred before the burial was sealed gives scientists reason to say the ship took a mystery with it to the grave. Will we ever be able to solve the mystery of the Oseberg ship?

The Vikings traveled to distant lands in their remarkable longships. The Vikings’ ships were the greatest technical and artistic achievement of the European Dark Ages. Without these magnificent ships, the Viking Age would never have happened.

"During the Viking era, there were different classes of ships. The longships were mainly used as warships, and the ships called Knarrs (or knorrs in Old Norse) served as slower passenger and cargo ships."

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Tuesday 19 December 2023

Oldest known ship burial discovered in Norway predates Vikings

An aerial view of the burial mound in central Norway. (Image credit: Geir Grønnesby)

A large, grassy hill in Norway known as the Herlaugshagen burial mound was likely the site of a pre-Viking ship burial, a new analysis finds.

Archaeologists have long wondered whether the oversize mound in Leka, a municipality in central Norway located along a known centuries-old shipping route, once housed a ship. This summer, researchers conducted surveys at the coastal site and discovered several large rivets that would have held the vessel together, as well as wooden remains that are likely from the ship, according to Norwegian SciTech News, a news outlet that provides coverage for the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Foundation for Industrial and Technical Research (SINTEF).

"The sizes of the ship's rivets and the preserved wood around several of the rivets show that the preservation conditions are good," Geir Grønnesby, an archaeologist at NTNU who led the surveys, told Live Science in an email. "This is the largest burial mound in Trøndelag (Central Norway) and one of the largest in Norway."

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Vikings Pillaged, Conquered And Cleaned Their Teeth With Toothpicks

A hole filed from the crown of a Viking tooth into the pulp to reduce toothache and infection. UNIVERSITY OF GOTHENBURG

After a long, hard day of pillaging with axes and swords, Vikings likely celebrated their victories with a feast that included a roasted pig or ox and goblets overflowing with ale. In movies and books about the ancient seafaring conquerors, they don’t pause their revelry to remove gristle from their teeth with toothpicks. But in real life, they did, according to a new study.

And toothpicks are just one way they cared for their chompers.

The study, published in the journal Plos One, describes what scientists discovered when they analyzed human teeth from about 800 to 1,000 years ago to gain a better sense of everyday oral health and habits in one community of Swedish Vikings. The researchers describe the sort of bleak dental picture common to medieval Europe—frequent tooth decay, infections and tooth loss. In the Viking population studied, 49% had one or more cavities, due largely to a high intake of starchy foods combined with a lack of dental care. Adults lost an average of 6% of their teeth, excluding wisdom teeth, over the course of their lifetimes.

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Sutton Hoo Saxon ship reconstruction aims for 2025 sailing

The Sutton Hoo Saxon ship project, spearheaded by master shipwright Tim Kirk, is a remarkable effort to reconstruct the largest Saxon ship ever discovered.
Source: The Sutton Hoo Ship's Company

The treasures of Sutton Hoo in East Anglia are legendary, including the imprint left by the largest Saxon ship ever found.

Expert shipwright Tim Kirk has been leading a team of volunteers to create an authentic reconstruction of the vessel, with a view to it being sailed in 2025. 

With occasional references to the reconstruction activity at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Tim talks at length to The Viking Herald about how the project came about, the pitfalls of using a unique Saxon burial site as an army training ground, and the quest to discover what the ship was used for 1,400 years ago. 

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Monday 11 December 2023

Delve into the secrets of the runes with new course starting January


The third of our three short courses starting in January focuses on runes – a writing system that developed in western Europe in the first millennium AD.

Entitled Runology, the course is delivered online so open to anyone. It introduces students to reading runic inscriptions and provide them with an overview of the historical and geographical distribution of runic alphabets – with a particular emphasis on examples from Orkney and Shetland.

It will also give participants a basic understanding of the Old Norse language, necessary to read runic inscriptions.

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Wednesday 6 December 2023

Rollo: Viking Sea Lord, Chieftain, Lone Wolf And The First Ruler Of Normandy

 



At the height of their glory, the Vikings formed many new Scandinavian dynasties. At first, they were considered foreigners, but they eventually integrated with local communities, even religiously.

One of them was Rollo (also known as Gånge-Rolf), an ancestor of the famous William the Conqueror, who led the conquest of Normans to England and became king of the country in 1066.

Believed to have lived between 846 and 931 AD, the first historical account of Rollo detailed his leadership of the Vikings during their siege of Paris from 885 to 6 AD.

Mentioned in Icelandic sagas, as a man of high social status, Rollo is often referred to as Rolf the Walker ("Ganger-Hrolf, "in Old Danish) because he had such an imposing figure that his horse could not carry him and was obliged to travel on foot

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Scandinavia's oldest known ship burial is located in mid-Norway


This summer, archaeologists and a metal detectorist conducted a small survey of Herlaugshagen, at Leka in the northern part of Trøndelag County. They found something amazing.

The goal was to date a burial mound and find out if it contained a ship. They carried out the surveys on behalf of the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage and in collaboration with Trøndelag County Authority.

The archaeologists were over the moon when they found large rivets confirming that this was indeed a ship burial, and their enthusiasm didn't subside when the finds were recently dated.

"The mound was constructed in approximately 700 CE. This is called the Merovingian period and precedes the Viking Age. This dating is really exciting because it pushes the whole tradition of ship burials quite far back in time," said Geir Grønnesby, an archaeologist at the NTNU University Museum.

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Monday 27 November 2023

Viking-era graves found in the heart of Gothenburg, Sweden


A report just published by the Gothenburg City Museum confirms that the graves found in Burgårdsparken this summer date to the Viking era.

Two graves discovered this summer in the center of Gothenburg by archaeologists from the City Museum date back to the Viking era, according to a Swedish-language report the museum has just published.

A first for Gothenburg 

These are the first such finds in central Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city. The location, the pretty gardens of Burgårdsparken, is close to Gothenburg's main football stadium, the Ullevi, where the 1958 World Cup Final was played. 

The chief archaeologist on the dig, Ulf Ragnesten, suggests that further investigations are required. The remains are protected by Sweden's Cultural Environment Act. 


Wednesday 15 November 2023

Scandinavia’s Oldest Identified Ship Burial in Trøndelag “Rewrites History”


In Leka, a municipality in Norway’s Trøndelag county, archaeologists have uncovered Scandinavia’s oldest identified ship burial, dating back to around 700 AD.

This summer, archaeologists carried out a small survey of the 60-meter mound Herlaugshaugen, a site mentioned in Snorre’s royal sagas as the final resting place of King Herlaug.

Herlaugshaugen is one of the country’s largest burial mounds. In the late 1700s, it was excavated three times. According to reports, findings included a type of wall, iron nails, a bronze kettle, animal bones, and a seated skeleton with a sword.

“Unfortunately, these findings disappeared already in the early 1920s. The skeleton was once displayed at Trondheim Cathedral School as King Herlaug, but no one knows where it ended up,” explained Geir Grønnesby, project leader from NTNU Science Museum.

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Oldest Scandinavian Ship-Burial Identified Re-Writes History – Amazing Find That Predates The Viking Age

 


Under this mound at Leka in Trøndelag, archaeologists have found a ship grave from before the Viking Age. Credit: Robert Fry /NTNU Science Museum

Scientists took samples of the wood around the nails on the boat to date the shipwreck. Rogaland has some ship graves from the late 7th century, but this one is even older.

The ship is from the Merovingian period (550-800 C.E).

Geir Grønnesby, project leader from NTNU Science Museum, told NRK that the vessel predates the Viking Age, and challenges existing beliefs about the region's maritime and trading history.

Not only does the amazing discovery push the ship burial tradition quite far back in time, but it also offers evidence that the region was familiar with advanced maritime capabilities much earlier than previously thought. Obviously, people were in contact with foreign part of the world much earlier than one expected. "Because when one builds somewhat large ships, it is usually because one is going to travel a distance with them,” Grønnesby said.

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Friday 10 November 2023

American Vikings?


For a thousand years, legends claimed that Vikings settled in North America. In my book American Vikings: How the Norse Sailed into the Lands and Imaginations of America, I explore the evidence for this in the literary sources and archaeology; and, also, in the way this idea has fed into the cultural DNA of North America and especially the USA.

What’s in a word?
First, a matter of terminology. “Viking” is something you did rather than what you were. In Old Norse, going “viking” involved taking part in muscular free enterprise. However today, in popular usage, “Viking” has come to describe both those involved in raiding expeditions, as Scandinavians originally used the term, and Scandinavians generally during the “Viking Age” (as it was never used in the past). Nevertheless, it is now the label-of-choice for most people. However, we need to remember that Scandinavian merchants and settlers would not have thought that it applied to them, since it was not what they did. Many modern experts prefer the term “Norse” to that of “Vikings” as a group term, but I have used “Norse” when describing the language or culture (as in “Norse mythology”), but “Viking” for the people and the period (as in the “Viking Age”) in reflection of popular usage.

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Thursday 9 November 2023

Viking Bracelet Made 1,000 Years Ago Found in Farmer's Field—'Real Shock'

The piece of a Viking Age silver bracelet was found in a farmer's field in Innlandet County, Norway, on October 28.
It is thought that the object may have been used as currency at the time.

The day before finding the silver bracelet, Strande uncovered the coin in the same field. The artifact was likely in circulation between the 10th and 11th centuries.

"I've found objects from the Viking Age before but nothing like these," he said.

After finding the artifacts, Strande took exact GPS coordinates and pictures, as well as notifying a local archaeologist. In Norway, the law requires people to hand over any objects older than the year 1537 to the government in exchange for a finder's fee.

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Wednesday 8 November 2023

A Finnish Man Inspecting a Pipe Trench Discovered a Christian Burial Site Dating Back to the Swedish Crusades

Crusade-era mortuary is located in the yard of the house on the left.
Photo: Juha Ruohonen / University of Turku, archaeology.

A man who was inspecting geothermal pipes in Salo, Finland, unwittingly uncovered a Christian cemetery dating back a thousand years to the time of the Swedish Crusades.

The first discovery came in August, after days of heavy rain, when the local landowner spotted a shaft of iron sticking out of the ground. It turned out to be a 12th-century sword with a cross-guard and a three-sided knob, known as a pommel.

The landowner contacted an archeologist at the University of Turku who investigated the site alongside another archaeologist from the Turku Museum Center, responsible for assembling and conserving the region’s cultural heritage. Believing the sword was not an isolated object, the researchers began excavating the site in September with a team of archaeology students.

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Monday 6 November 2023

Exploring the Mästermyr chest discovery and its Viking-era tools

Unearthed in a onetime peat bog near Gotland, Sweden, the Mastermyr chest is a cache of Viking artifacts showcasing advanced early medieval craftsmanship and technology. Source: The Swedish History Museum, Stockholm (CC BY-SA 2.0)

You know the scene. A horde of ravenous Vikings are rushing off their longship and about to destroy, burn, plunder, and pillage an unsuspecting medieval village. 

Whilst this scene has occurred multiple times throughout the world, from the Iberian Peninsula to the eastern shores of the Black Sea and everywhere in between, this is only part of the story of the Viking Age. 

The societies that produced Viking warriors also excelled in creating great works of art and advanced naval technology, bequeathing to us priceless cultural artifacts from runestones to the Norse sagas. 

Thanks to recent generations of historians, we are beginning to look afresh at people from Viking societies. 

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Tuesday 24 October 2023

How the Vindelev Hoard changed our understanding of the worship of Odin

The Vindelev Hoard, a treasure trove of golden artifacts dating back to centuries before the Viking Age, was accidentally discovered by an amateur metal detectorist in Denmark in 2020. Source: Vejlemuseerne / Vejle Konserveringscenter (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What secrets about the spiritual beliefs of Viking societies did an unsuspecting metal detectorist uncover among the gold he found beneath the Danish soil?

I recently listened to a BBC History Extra podcast discussing archaeology. Both the host and the guest, a Professor of Archaeology from University College London, expressed their chagrin about the influence on archaeology in recent decades.

Much of this influence has been attributed to "the man in the hat with the whip" - the fictional movie character and swashbuckling archaeologist Indiana Jones, portrayed by Harrison Ford.

Throughout the podcast, much was made of the unrealistic depictions of archaeology in the Indiana Jones movies. 

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Monday 23 October 2023

New Discovery Uncovers a Forgotten Viking Queen More Celebrated Than Kings

The runestone from Læborg is dedicated to Thyra as the dróttning, meaning “lady” or “queen.” NATIONAL MUSEUM OF DENMARK

WHEN YOU THINK OF VIKINGS, your mind may imagine the muscular Norse Gods: Thor, Odin, or Loki. Or perhaps you might picture fierce-looking bearded men aboard slender, symmetrical boats rowing oars in unison, commanded by feared war heroes like Ragnar Lothbrok.

Yet a recent investigation has found that, during the Viking Age, one of the most celebrated leaders was actually a woman. A recent study has found that Queen Thyra is honored on runestones far more than any male counterpart.

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Wednesday 18 October 2023

Medieval Cemetery Discovered in Finland

(Riikka Saarinen / Turku Museum Center)

SALO, FINLAND—YLE reports that construction work to install geothermal pipes in western Finland’s Salonjoki River Valley turned up an iron sword dated to between A.D. 1050 and 1150. The sword has a straight cross guard and a three-sided pommel. Juha Ruohonen of the University of Turku determined that the weapon belonged to a burial in what could be a cemetery containing 200 Christian burials situated near a church.

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Thor's hammer part of Viking finds returning to Thetford

The Thor's hammer pendant, which could have been worn by one of the invaders, was found just outside South Lopham, about 11 miles (17km) from Thetford

A Thor's hammer and a pottery lamp are among Viking Great Army finds returning to the town where they were discovered.

Thousands of Scandinavians formed an army in England to raid and conquer between AD865-878, and Thetford in Norfolk was one of their winter camps.

The story of how this led to the town becoming a major Viking settlement will be told at its Ancient House Museum.

Curator Oliver Bone said the exhibits "show how important this area was in the Viking story".

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Thor's hammer pendant unearthed in Norfolk declared treasure


A silver pendant bearing the hammer of the Norse god Thor unearthed in Norfolk may be linked to the first Viking invaders of Britain.

The artefact, estimated to have been made in either the 9th or 10th century, is made largely of silver and is in the shape of the hammer symbol associated with the deity. 

During a treasure inquest into the find, a report from Gareth Williams, a curator at the British Museum, said the discovery - at an undisclosed location in Norfolk  - may have been linked to the Viking Great Army which invaded Britain in the 9th century.

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Crusader Era Cemetery and Sword Discovered in Finland

Crusader era sword found in Salo, Finland.
COURTESY RIIKKA SAARINEN

Crusader era burials have been found in a cemetery by archaeologists in Salo, Finland, according to Heritage Daily.

While a pipe trench was being dug near a medieval stone church, a local landowner noticed an iron object in the dirt earlier this year in August. The object, which was identified as a sword, was reported to archaeologists at Turku University and the Turku Museum Centre.

The sword was found with a bent blade, a straight hilt, and a three-sided oval pommel. It dates between 1050–1150 CE or the Crusader era, during which time the Swedish brought Christianity to Finland.

The team also found part of the scabbard, additional pieces of blade, iron objects, and human remains in the same area.

A leather belt with 30 square rosette-patterned bronze ornaments is among the most notable finds, along with a buckle, several end and animal head buckles, strap dividers, and leather pieces.

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Sunday 15 October 2023

Norwegian Archaeologists Are Salvaging Priceless Artefacts From Melting Glaciers—Before It’s Too Late

The arrow found by Glacier Archaeology Program. Image: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice.com.

There is surely little upside to the environmental changes posed by global warming, but nevertheless, a group of Norwegian archaeologists is seizing the opportunities presented by the country’s rapidly melting glaciers.

That group is Glacier Archaeology Program—snappy internet alias: Secrets of the Ice—and since receiving permanent government funding in 2011 it has been responsible for 90 percent of Norway’s glacial finds.

Granted, the group’s success is partly tied to the topography of Innlandet. The county boasts many of Norway’s highest peaks, and the team has pursued salvaging artefacts from remote locations in a comprehensive and systematic manner. To date, it has made 4,000 finds across 66 sites

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Saturday 14 October 2023

Varangian Guard, the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire

Depiction of the Varangian Guard,the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire.
Image: Joannis Scylitza, 12th century. Credit: Public domain

The Vikings were seafaring from Scandinavia. They most famously raided in and around the British Isles and the western coasts of Europe. However, what many people do not know is that they were active much further east, too. They played a surprising yet significant role in the Byzantine Empire, where they formed the Varangian Guard. What do we know about the Varangian Guard, the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire?

The Origin of the Varangians

The Varangians were Vikings from Sweden. In the ninth century, a group of them settled in Northwest Russia, where the city of Novgorod is located today. A man named Rurik was the legendary leader of this group. He was referred to as the Rus’, and the settlement, established in the year 862 according to a twelfth century chronicle, was likewise referred to as such.

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1,000-Year-Old Viking Runes May Finally Solve Mystery of an Ancient Queen

Jelling 2 with runes chosen for analysis. (3D-scanning by Zebicon, drawing by Laila Kitzler Åhfeldt.)3D-scanning by Zebicon, drawing by Laila Kitzler Åhfeld

A team of archaeologists from the National Museum of Denmark has used 3D scanning technology to analyze runes carved in stone that date back to more than 1,000 years ago. Their study of the ancient texts, published in the peer-reviewed journal Antiquity, has revealed new details about a mysterious Danish queen, Thyra, which together suggest she played a significant role in the emergence of the Scandinavian nation as a political force.

The discovery was made by re-analyzing two sets of runestones which were carved by Vikings in Denmark in the 10th century C.E. The first set, the Jelling Stones, was linked to Harald Bluetooth, a 10th century Danish King who is widely-regarded as the creator of Denmark. Bluetooth was the son of King Gorm and Queen Thyra — but historians had scant information about the couple or their reign. 

But the second set of runestones, called the Ravnunge-Tue Stones after its rune-carver, sheds a little more light on royals, and some historical analyses had theorized that several stones were inscribed in honor of Thyra on Bluetooth’s orders.

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Wednesday 11 October 2023

Viking Queen Thyra’s Power And Position Revealed On Famous Jelling Runestones

New research not only reveals who carved the runes into the Jelling stones, but also hints at how important Queen Thyra was.
Image credit: auralaura/Shutterstock.com

Today we recognize that handwriting is unique to each person. From the way we form our letters to the amount of pressure we place on pen and paper, the details of our individual writing can be used to identify us. The same, it seems, is true for ancient runesmiths, which has allowed archaeologists to finally identify the person who carved the amazing Jelling stones in Denmark and reveal the power of a 10th-century Viking queen.

The Jelling stones are located in the town of Jelling, near the eastern coast of Denmark. They consist of two massive stone monuments that date back to the 10th century CE. The oldest was erected by King Gorm the Old to honor his wife Thyra, while the second stone was raised by his son, Harald Bluetooth (of hands-free fame) to commemorate his parent’s memory. This second stone also contains intricate carvings that describe Harald’s achievements. It celebrates his conquest of Denmark and Norway and how he converted the Danes to Christianity. 

The markings on these stones are beyond impressive. They contain both runic inscriptions as well as carved images – one side of the youngest stone displays the oldest known image of Christ in Scandinavia. 

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Mysterious Viking queen may have helped unify Denmark in the 900s

The Læborg runestone has an inscription that mentions Queen Thyra

Queen Thyra, the mother of King Harald Bluetooth, was commemorated on four runestones in different parts of Denmark – suggesting she was a powerful figure

A mysterious queen named Thyra who lived during the Viking era may have been one of the founders of what is now Denmark. Multiple commemorative “runestones” mention her by name, suggesting she was a central figure.

“Because of the many runestones erected in honour of Thyra, we can conclude that she must have been very powerful and that she came from a very powerful family,” says Lisbeth Imer at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

Denmark’s Viking Age lasted from around AD 800 to 1050. A key figure was Harald “Bluetooth”, who was king from about AD 958 until his death in 987. The Bluetooth wireless technology standard is named after him. Harald’s parents were King Gorm, who came to power in around 936, and Queen Thyra.

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'Denmark’s salvation'? Runestones hint at Viking queen's power


New research on 1,000-year-old inscriptions suggests that the wife and mother of two Viking rulers may have been much more powerful in her own right—perhaps even a leader of the early Danish realm.

In a study published today in Antiquity, scientists provide a new analysis of Denmark’s Jelling runestones—inscribed stone monuments carved more than a millennia ago to commemorate the Viking king Gorm the Old, his wife Thyra, and the actions of their son, king Harald Bluetooth.

The Jelling Stones, located in the eastern Jutland town of Jelling, contain the earliest mentions of Denmark as a political entity. The smaller and older runestone, with an inscription written in the runic alphabet, was erected by Gorm around A.D. 950; the inscription on the larger Jelling Stone, commissioned by son Harald Bluetooth, also records Denmark’s conversion from Norse paganism to Christianity in 965 and is considered by many to be Denmark's "birth certificate."  (Harald Bluetooth’s name is best known today as a networking standard for wireless communications.)

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Tuesday 10 October 2023

Glass windows could be found in Viking-Age Denmark and Sweden, study finds


New research has revealed that the Vikings had windows with glass panes as early as the 9th century. While glazed windows are associated with medieval churches and castles, we have plenty of examples from Viking-age Denmark and Sweden.

A research team led by a conservation expert from the National Museum of Denmark makes the claim in an article just published in the Danish Journal of Archaeology. They did so by re-examining over 61 glass fragments found from six Viking-age sites.

“Several fragments of glass windows found on important Viking Age sites in South Scandinavia, made us wonder if it was just a mere coincidence that they were there,” says Torben Sode, the study’s lead author who first noticed the special find material. “And it wasn’t, they can be dated to the Vikings Age and most likely must have been in use in that time-period as well.”

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Monday 9 October 2023

How the Great Heathen Army slaughtered all before them during the Dark Ages


The Great Heathen Army, a coalition of Norse warriors, stormed the shores of England in the late 9th century, forever altering the trajectory of the island nation's history.

Originating from the rugged landscapes of Scandinavia, these Viking invaders were driven by a combination of ambition, revenge, and the lure of England's riches.

Their arrival posed a formidable challenge to the fragmented Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, which were ill-prepared for the scale and ferocity of the Viking onslaught.

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Saturday 7 October 2023

Vikings had windows, another shift away from their image as barbaric Norsemen, Danish museum says

Mads Dengsø Jessen, a senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, holds a glass fragment from the Viking Age.
John Fhær Engedal Nissen / The National Museum of Denmark via AP

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Vikings had windows — usually only associated with medieval churches and castles — meaning Norsemen dignitaries sat in rooms lit up by apertures with glass, Danish researchers said Thursday. The glass panes can be dated from long before the churches and castles of the Middle Ages with which glazed windows are associated, they said.

“This is yet another shift away from the image of unsophisticated barbaric Vikings swinging their swords around,” said Mads Dengsø Jessen, a senior researcher with the National Museum in Copenhagen.

Over the past 25 years, archeologists have found glass fragments in six excavations in southern Sweden, Denmark and northern Germany.

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Thursday 5 October 2023

1,400-year-old gold figures depicting Norse gods unearthed at former pagan temple

Known as "gullglubber," the gold-foil figure depicts the god Frøy and the goddess Gerd.
(Image credit: The Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo)

Archaeologists in Norway unearthed dozens of tiny gold-foil figures at a former pagan temple.

Archaeologists have discovered 35 miniature gold-foil depictions of Norse gods tucked inside the remnants of a pagan temple in Norway.

The gold foils, which are flat and as thin as a piece of paper, contain etched motifs depicting the god Frøy and the goddess Gerd and date to the Merovingian period in Norway, which began in 550 and continued into the Viking Age, according to Science Norway. The foils may have been used as sacrificial offerings.

The gold pieces lack holes, so it's unlikely that they were worn as jewelry. The first gold foils were discovered in Scandinavia in 1725 and were eventually labeled as "gullglubber," which translates to "golden old men."

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