Monday, 13 October 2014

Treasure hunter finds Viking hoard


A metal detector enthusiast blessed with “a magic touch” has discovered one of the most significant Viking hoards of the past century in southwest Scotland, his third outstanding find in less than a year.
Derek McLennan, 47, from Hollybush, Ayrshire, said he was stunned by his latest success, despite a track record which has seen him unearth hundreds of medieval coins at two separate sites.
This time, working in a pasture owned by the Church of Scotland, he pulled out an arm ring with a distinctive Viking pattern.
That initial find at a site in Dumfries and Galloway was made last month. In the hours and days that followed, Mr McLennan and the county archaeologist unearthed more than 100 objects, including a silver Christian cross inlaid in gold, probably from Dublin, and a large Carolingian pot complete with its lid, one of only three of its kind known in Britain.

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Monday, 29 September 2014

Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap?


A Yale historian wants us to rethink the terrible tales about the Norse.

This illustration shows the stereotype of Viking marauders wreaking mayhem, even on clergy. The scene depicts the monastery at Clonmacnoise, Ireland.

The Vikings gave no quarter when they stormed the city of Nantes, in what is now western France, in June 843—not even to the monks barricaded in the city's cathedral. "The heathens mowed down the entire multitude of priest, clerics, and laity," according to one witness account. Among the slain, allegedly killed while celebrating the Mass, was a bishop who later was granted sainthood.
To modern readers the attack seems monstrous, even by the standards of medieval warfare. But the witness account contains more than a touch of hyperbole, writes Anders Winroth, a Yale history professor and author of the book The Age of the Vikings, a sweeping new survey. What's more, he says, such exaggeration was often a feature of European writings about the Vikings.

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Viking Ireland - the Videos


In order to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf, the National Museum of Ireland have produced a superb set of videos depicting various aspects of Viking Age Ireland.

You can find the Museum’s Website for these videos here…

Or you can find the individual videos on Youtube:
Viking Ireland 1 – Weapons – The Axe

Viking Ireland 2 – Weapons – The Sword


Viking Ireland 3 – Viking Wealth and Trade


Viking Ireland 4 – Viking Women in Ireland


Viking Ireland 5 – Arrival of Vikings and Beliefs


Viking Ireland 6 – The Irish and the Vikings


Viking Ireland 7 – Daily Life in Viking Ireland


Viking Ireland 8 – Legacy of the Vikings in Ireland


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Viking Blacksmith’s Grave Uncovered in Norway

The weapons and tools from the grave

The spectacular remains of what appears to be a Viking grave, most likely belonging to a blacksmith, has been uncovered in Sogndalsdalen, Norway (as reported by NRK). The grave was found by Mr Leif Arne Norberg, under a series of stone slabs in his back garden. Mr Norberg had been carrying out landscaping works when he suddenly spotted a blacksmith’s tongs, followed soon afterwards by a bent sword. On closer examination it quickly became apparent that he had stumbled upon a remarkable Viking Age find. Archaeologists from Bergen University and the County’s Cultural Department were called to the scene and the remains were subsequently excavated. The finds recovered from the grave suggest that it probably dates from the 8th or 9th century AD. They included various pieces of metalwork, a tongs, a sword and an axe, all of which will be conserved before being put on display at the University Museum of Bergen. Personally I can’t wait to find out more information about this exciting discovery.

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Friday, 1 August 2014

Viking warriors and treasures are buried beneath Dublin

There are a great number of Viking warriors buried beneath Dublin say archaeologists.

A massive research project, 15 years in the making, has revealed that beneath Dublin’s modern streets lies a trove of buried Viking warriors and artifacts.
Archaeologists say the number of Viking warrior burials in Dublin is astounding. A project cataloguing these burials was began in 1999. Now nearing its conclusion, the project will result in the publication of an 800-page tome titled ‘Viking Graves and Grave Goods in Ireland.’
“As a result of our new research, Kilmainham-Islandbridge is now demonstrably the largest burial complex of its type in western Europe, Scandinavia excluded,” says Stephen Harrison, who co-wrote the catalogue with Raghnall Ó Floinn, the director of the National Museum of Ireland. The museum houses a Viking exhibition, which includes a ninth century Viking skeleton with sword and spearhead, found in the War Memorial Park, Islandbridge in 1934.
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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

'Hammer of Thor' unearthed on the Danish Island


Danish archaeologists have solved the mystery over the significance of the Mjöllnir amulets worn by the Vikings. Indeed, they represented Thor’s hammer, the researchers said. 


The rune-inscribed Mjöllnir amulet [Credit: National Museum of Denmark] 

More than 1,000 intricately carved pendants shaped like hammers have been found across Northern Europe since the first millennium A.D. 

Although it was widely believed these amulets were hammers, a debate remained over their true meaning. The objects’s unusual shape, featuring a short handle and a symmetrical head, raised doubts whether they represented something else entirely. 

Now a 10th-century Viking amulet unearthed in Købelev, on the Danish island of Lolland, has provided a definitive answer.

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Major Viking site discovery described as ‘mind-blowing’


A tiny County Louth village has been confirmed as home to one of the most important Viking sites in the world.

Carbon testing on trenches at a ‘virgin’ site in Annagassan have revealed that the small rural community once housed a Viking winter base, one of only two in Ireland.
The other went on to become Dublin but the Annagassan site, 50 miles north of the capital, was believed to be the stuff of mythology and folklore until now.
Geophysical tests funded by Dundalk’s County Museum have allowed scientists to make the big breakthrough.
They have now confirmed that the Linn Duchaill site, beside the river Glyde and south of Dundalk Bay, was where the Vikings brought their long ships or longphorts to be repaired.
It was also the base for inland raids as far as Longford and north to Armagh.
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Monday, 16 June 2014

Preserving the Battle of Hastings from contamination


The Battle of Hastings is regularly fought all over again by enthusiastic re-enactors, before large crowds of spectators. The problem is that they are depositing material that could compromise the archaeology of the historic site. But now the University of Huddersfield's Dr Glenn Foard -- one of the world's leading battlefield archaeologists -- is developing a unique project designed to unearth whatever genuine material survives from 1066. 


The East Sussex 1066 site gets the vote as one of the world's 10 best historical re-enactments.  Hastings is described as "the most-remembered armed conflict in British history" and  the re-enactments every year now involve thousands of participants and spectators  around the world [Credit: University of Huddersfield] 

The first stage, likely to take place in spring 2015, would be to spend a week machining away the top layers of soil at a substantial area of the battlefield, in order to eliminate modern artefacts. Then there would be a search for genuine remains from the battle of 1066. 

An important dimension of the project would be public involvement. Trained archaeologists would carry out the actual survey, but there would be parallel sessions nearby, partly aimed at children and parents, which would provide insights into archaeology, including the use of metal detectors to survey a site.

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Monday, 9 June 2014

VIKING AGE REVNINGE WOMAN: AN EXCEPTIONAL FIND


newly discovered female figurine amulet from Revninge in the east of Denmark represents a very interesting find due to her remarkably detailed Viking Age dress.
On April 22, 2014, Paul Uniacke had started to explore a field near Revninge with his metal detector – several items had already been recovered when to his astonishment a small fine figurine appeared. He instantly recognised it as Viking Age and immediately contacted Østfyns Museums, who confirmed his thoughts and started the process of conservation.

New knowledge

It is not always easy to imagine how people of the Viking age really looked. However, the discovery of this small gilt silver figurine contains a wealth of detail giving new knowledge about costume and jewellery of the period.
Archaeologist Claus Feveile, Department of Landscape & Archaeology at Østfyns Museums, explained, “Small characters from the Viking period are extremely rare and Revninge-woman’s dress is incredibly detailed which will contribute to the discussion on the appearance of clothes and how they might have been worn.”

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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

East Lothian skeleton may be 10th Century Irish Viking king

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop with part of the East Lothian skeleton which historians believe could be an Irish Viking king

A skeleton discovered on an archaeological dig in East Lothian may be a 10th Century Irish Viking who was king of Dublin and Northumbria.
King Olaf Guthfrithsson led raids on Auldhame and nearby Tyninghame shortly before his death in 941.
The remains excavated from Auldhame in 2005 are those of a young adult male who was buried with a number of items indicating his high rank.
They include a belt similar to others from Viking Age Ireland.
The find has led archaeologists and historians to speculate that the skeleton could be that of King Olaf or one of his entourage.
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Monday, 19 May 2014

Possible Viking settlement in the Ålands found


According to archaeologists aerial infrared images suggest the existence of a late Iron Age settlement, possibly the largest such find ever in the Åland Islands or all of mainland Finland. 


The highest point of Åland Islands: summit of Orrdalsklint, in Saltvik 
[Credit: RainoL/Panoramio] 

The aerial imaging highlighted a depression 40 metres deep and 12 metres wide which might have been the site of a massive hall used to host gatherings of ancient Vikings. No other similar find of this size has ever been discovered in the Åland of on the Finnish mainland. 

The imaging project followed observations of depressions which resembled the outlines of late Iron Age structures from other parts of Scandinavia. Once the images revealed the outline of the hall, cautious excavation turned up personal ornaments cast in silver and bronze, and which point to the site as an important location in the Viking world.

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Friday, 16 May 2014

The Vandals: victims of a bad press?


Copper 42 nummi coin showing a Vandal warrior. Although it does not carry a king’s name, it is possible that this coin was made during the time of Gelimer (AD 530-3), and thus he may be the intended identity of the cloaked figure with a spear. The reverse shows the mark of value in Roman numerals (including the long-tailed L (=50) typical of Latin inscriptions in Vandal Africa, and also seen on Gelimer’s silver coinage). Above is the fine image of a horse’s head, the traditional emblem of Carthage since Punic times. TC,p241.2.Car

The name of the Vandals is synonymous today with wanton violence and destruction. But it seems to me that, just like the Vikings, the Vandals have suffered from a bad press. The surviving accounts of their sack of Rome in AD 455, of their further piratical raids around the Mediterranean, and of their persecution of the Catholic inhabitants of North Africa are all presented through the eyes of their enemies and opponents: the Roman and Byzantine Empires and the established Church. Clearly, the Vandals were regarded as the ‘bad guys’ of the day and we, too have been led into thinking of them as wild barbarians, intent on the destruction of Rome and its civilisation.
But how balanced a picture do we get from the contemporary accounts? We do not, after all, have the Vandal side of the story, although we should probably discount the suggestion that they were invited into North Africa, their final home, in support of the Roman governor. He may have been made a scapegoat later for the Vandal conquest of the region.
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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

DORSET VIKING AGE MASS BURIAL PUBLICATION


In 2009 during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology made one of the most exciting, and disturbing, archaeological discoveries in Britain in recent years. Around 50 skeletons, predominantly of young adult males, were found in an old quarry pit. All had been decapitated. Their bodies were thrown into the grave, while their heads were placed in a pile located at one edge.

Archaeologists knew they had found something special as they uncovered the tangle of human bones, but it was only as the scientific analysis of the skeletons progressed that the full international significance of the discovery became clear. What the archaeologists had found was a mass grave of executed Vikings.

Rare find

Oxford Archaeology Project Manager David Score said: “To find out that the young men executed were Vikings is a thrilling development. Any mass grave is a relatively rare find, but to find one on this scale, from this period of history, is extremely unusual.”
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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Did the Vikings Travel to Madeira?


MADEIRA, MACARONESIA—Dates for a sample of fossilized bone from a house mouse suggest that the rodents were carried to the island of Madeira by European colonists before 1036, or 400 earlier than previously thought. (The Portuguese took possession of Madeira in 1419.) “Current populations of house mice on Madeira show similarities in mitochondrial DNA with those in Scandinavia and northern Germany, but not with those in Portugal,” Josep Antoni Alcover of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies told Phys.org. Could the mice have traveled to the island with the Vikings? Further morphologic and genetic studies of the fossils are needed. “There are no historical references so far about the Vikings traveling to Macaronesia,” Alcover added.

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Man landing on Madeira could be four centuries prior to its colonization by the Portuguese


According to the results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, house mice may have landed on the island before 1036, most likely transported by a ship. The article suggests that the introduction of this species would result in an ecological disaster.
Until now, the arrival of the man to Macaronesia was documented in two waves: one being aboriginal, limited to the Canary Islands about two millenniums ago; and the other colonial, from the 14th century onwards, which took place in every island of the archipelago. According to historical data, the Portuguese took official possession of Madeira in 1949, when the colonization was started.
The team of researchers, which is also composed of scientists from Germany and the University of La Laguna (Canary Islands, Spain), has analyzed two samples of bones found in Ponta de São Lourenço. The tiny size of the first sample has made impossible to date it, but the second sample has been dated between 900 and 1030, which leads to the earliest evidence for the presence of mice on Madeira Island.
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Thursday, 1 May 2014

Vikings Online Course


Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers 

12 May to 25 July 2014


Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers is an online archaeology course run by the University of Oxford's Department of Continuing Education.
The course runs for ten weeks and successful completion carries an award of ten CATS points. Students write two short assignments as part of the course.
Online forums for each unit enable students to discuss the topic being studied, and help from the online tutor is always available
You can find more details here...
You can find details of other online archaeology courses here...

Metal detectorists unearth Viking gold


After hours of searching through the mud with metal detectors, treasure hunters Frank Pelle and Bent Gregersen made the discovery of their lives on a ploughed field in the Danish island of Bornholm earlier in April. 




X-ray scans revealed 250 gold and silver coins dating back to Viking days 
[Credit: Bornholms Museum] 

The two lucky gold-diggers found an ancient Viking gold treasure hidden in the ground. 

"It was an amazing feeling, for we had searched for hundreds of hours without luck," Pelle told Ekstra Bladet. 

After studying x-rays of collected earth samples, Bornholms Museum, the local archaeological museum, estimated that the treasure of 250 gold and silver coins was buried in the ground in the 1080s.

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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Skeletons of foetus, heavily pregnant woman and crammed men found at York church

The foetal skeleton found at All Saints in York © Courtesy All Saints Church

The bones of a foetus and its heavily pregnant mother have been found in a chamber of All Saints church in York, where three men were found “shoved” into a tomb with grave markings designed to ward off evil spirits during the early 13th century.

Ancient serviceable drains, pottery fragments dating from Roman times to the 18th century, entrenched Viking pottery and Anglian pieces with possible links to the baptism of St Edwin, the 7th century King of Northumbria, have also been discovered in the Lady Chapel, where a medieval-style tile pavement has been laid in an English parish church for the first time in 500 years.


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Medieval account of Irish battle borrowed from the Iliad


As Ireland marks the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf – portrayed as a heroic encounter between Irish and Vikings which defined the nation’s identity - new research argues that our main source for what happened may be more literary history than historical fact. 


An 1826 painting of the Battle of Clontarf by the Irish artist, Hugh Frazer 
[Credit: Isaacs Art Centre/Wikimedia Commons] 

The standard account of the Battle of Clontarf – a defining moment in Irish history which happened 1,000 years ago this week – was partly a “pseudo-history” borrowed from the tale of Troy, new research suggests. 

The findings, which are to be published in a forthcoming book about the intellectual culture of medieval Ireland, coincide with extensive celebrations in Dublin marking the millennium of Clontarf, which was fought on Good Friday, April 23, 1014.

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Swedes open coffin of 850 year old king


Scientists pried open the 850-year-old casket of King Erik the Holy on Wednesday, hoping to find out more about the king, his crown, and his eating habits. 


Legend has it the bone damage was a fatal blow from when he was killed on ascension in 1160 
[Credit: Bertil Ericson/TT] 

"This was a very special occasion, especially considering the importance of Saint Erik religiously in Sweden," Uppsala Cathedral Chaplain Lars Åstrand told The Local. 

The casket contained the bones of King Erik, who was later made a saint, together with a gilded copper crown decorated with semi-precious stones. 

"The crown is unique - there's nothing as old as this of its kind in Sweden. It's certainly the oldest medieval royal crown in the country," Åstrand said.

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Monday, 28 April 2014

Vikings Live: bringing our shared history to the cinema screen

Vikings Live presenter Bettany Hughes

Bettany Hughes, historian, author and broadcaster, presenter of Vikings Live from the British Museum
When you’re about to handle an archaeological artefact, interesting things happen to your body. In anticipation of the pleasure to come, your heart starts to race a little faster, the hair on the back of your neck might begin to rise, palms can become sticky. And of course there is the nagging knowledge that the security of that unique, precious – sometimes priceless – traveller in time is, physically, in your hands.
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Vikings Live on the horizon

Vikings Live presenters, from left: Michael Wood, Bettany Hughes and Gareth Williams

Michael Wood, historian and broadcaster, presenter of Vikings Live from the British Museum
Hotfoot back from Shanghai where I am filming The Story of China, and now very excited about tomorrow night at the British Museum! We had a production meeting yesterday going through the script and suddenly the spine-tingling ‘liveness’ of it all felt very immediate. Vikings Live is now really coming together, with a series of very exciting scenes and a team of terrific contributors. Gareth, the exhibition curator, will even be sweltering in full Viking war-gear to explain the ethos of a warrior society. A string of inspiring experts will be your guides through the glitter and violence of the age, led by everybody’s favourite museum director / magician, Neil MacGregor, who has now turned his hand to A History of the Viking World in a Thousand Objects!
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Building a Viking boat today


Mike Selwood, Assistant Boat Manager, National Maritime Museum Cornwall
In September 2013, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall was approached by the British Museum and asked if we would produce something Viking to be filmed for theirVikings Live cinema broadcast, after seeing the Bronze Age boat replica that we had built and launched in March 2013.
Of course, we said yes. After plenty of chats with Gareth Williams, the curator of the BP exhibition Vikings: life and legend and Patricia Wheatley, Executive Producer of Vikings Live, our boat restoration team started to build the stem section of a Viking-style boat, to be constructed using traditional methods.
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Friday, 11 April 2014

Log boat dating back 4,500 years found in Lough Corrib


A 4,500-year-old log boat is among 12 early Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval craft that have been located in Lough Corrib, along with several Viking-style battle axes and other weapons.
The vessels were discovered by marine surveyor Capt Trevor Northage while mapping the western lake to update British admiralty charts.
Investigative dives were subsequently carried out last summer by the underwater archaeology unit (UAU) of the National Monuments Service, and radiocarbon dating of samples was then conducted.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, who was informed of the finds recently, has described them as “exceptional”.
The three Viking-style battle axes recovered from one of the vessels will be a centrepiece in the National Museum’s Battle of Clontarf commemorative exhibition, which is due to open later this month.
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Viking artefacts, logboats found in Irish lake


A 4,500-year-old log boat is among 12 early Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval craft that have been located in Lough Corrib, along with several Viking-style battle axes and other weapons. 

A researcher documents one of the Lough Corrib finds [Credit: RTE News] 

The vessels were discovered by marine surveyor Capt Trevor Northage while mapping the western lake to update British admiralty charts. 

Investigative dives were subsequently carried out last summer by the underwater archaeology unit (UAU) of the National Monuments Service, and radiocarbon dating of samples was then conducted. Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, who wa

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Vikings: hearts of darkness?

Slave collar, St. John’s Lane, Dublin, E173:X119. © National Museum of Ireland

Tom Williams, Exhibition Project Curator, British Museum
The tidal current runs to and fro […] crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! … The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899).
Here, surely, we have a passionate and evocative description of the Vikings: bold adventurers stepping forward onto the world stage, ready to set a blaze on four continents and pave the way for the nations that would rise in their wake.
In fact, this passage, taken from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, describes the explorers, buccaneers, settlers and merchants – ‘the dark ‘interlopers’ of the eastern trade, and the commissioned ‘generals’ of the East India fleets” – who had set out from the Thames from the 16th to the 19th century, laying the foundations of the British Empire and changing the world forever.
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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Book Review: An Early Meal - a Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg


Raiders... conquerors... fierce in battle and strong in family. These are the images that the world has of Vikings. We know where they lived, and to some degree how they made a living. We know which gods they worshipped and how. Yet the bulk of our knowledge consists of broad brush strokes that omit the nuances of everyday life. The Vikings recorded many things, from The Sagas to business transactions and personal letters. But beyond a brief and occasional mention, two of the many things they didn’t write about were what they ate and how they prepared their meals. The Vikings left no recipes.

To that end An Early Meal, by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg, is a triumph. It is a triumph of a book in the fields of both culinary history and world foods that rips the shroud of mystery off Viking cuisine. It is also the only book available with recipes that even approach authentic Viking Age dishes.

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Monday, 31 March 2014

Researchers suggest Vikings used crystals with sun compass to steer at night

Credit: Soren Thirslund

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers working in Hungary has proposed that a sun compass artifact found in a convent in 1948 might have been used in conjunction with crystals to allow Vikings to guide their boats even at night. In their paper published inProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences, the team describes theories they've developed that might explain how Viking sailors were able to so accurately sail to places such as Greenland.
Since the discovery of the sun compass fragment,  have theorized that Viking sailors used them to plot their course—at least when the sun was shining. They didn't have magnetic compasses, however, which suggest they must have had some other means for steering in the evening or the later hours. In this latest effort, the researchers describe a scenario where the Vikings might have used a type of crystal that they called a sunstone to help them use light from the sun below the horizon as a guide.
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Forget GPS: Medieval Compass Guided Vikings After Sunset

The Uunartoq disc was discovered in an 11th century convent in Greenland in 1948. It is thought to have been used as a compass by the Vikings as they traversed the North Atlantic Ocean from Norway to Greenland.
Credit: Copyright Proceedings of the Royal Society A; Balazs Bernath; Alexandra Farkas; Denes Szaz; Miklos Blaho; Adam Egri; Andras Barta; Susanne Akesson; and Gabor Horvath

Often regarded as ruthless robbers, the Vikings were also impressive mariners capable of traversing the North Atlantic along a nearly straight line. Now, new interpretations of a medieval compass suggest the sea robbers may have skillfully used the sun to operate the compass even when the sun had set below the horizon.

The remains of the supposed compass — known as theUunartoq disc— were found in Greenland in 1948 in an 11th-century convent. Though some researchers originally argued it was simply a decorative object, other researchers have suggested the disc was an important navigational tool that theVikings would have used in their roughly 1,600-mile-long (2,500 kilometers) trek from Norway to Greenland.

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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

'Awesome' Viking warship 'struck terror into people'


There are ghosts at the British Museum.

Hulking, hairy, bloodthirsty warriors grunting in unison as they row the biggest warship of its kind the world has ever known.

Can the gallery curator see them, or am I the only one? He laughs -- a little nervously: "Yes, you do get a sense of them."

Looming before us is Roskilde 6, the largest Viking ship ever discovered, carefully reconstructed after 1,000 years languishing beneath the waves. At 37 meters long it's double the size of the boat Christopher Columbus sailed to America.

Ghost armies or not, it is a sight to behold. The ship's fearsome metal frame seemingly rises from a watery netherworld on a mission to conquer the globe -- once and for all.

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Sunday, 9 March 2014

ikings: Life and Legend review – a stirring tale of shock and oar


The British Museum showcases the poetry, boats and bling of the marauding 11th-century Norsemen who, above all else, understood curves…

Three of the Lewis Chessmen, c.1150-1200, discovered on Lewis, Shetland, and thought to originate from Norway. Photograph: British Museum
Anyone who has even dipped a toe in the briny sagas of the Viking kings will know that the stag outing the itinerant Norsemen prized above all others always began something like this: "On Saturday the fleet-lord throws off the long tarpaulin, and splendid widows from the town gaze on the planking of the dragon ship. The young ruler steers the brand new warship west out of the Nio, and the oars of the warriors fall into the sea… " Those lines come from the 11th-century court poet Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, and they describe the characteristic actions of the fleet of Harald Hardradra (Harold the Hard Ruler), the last great Viking king, who fought unsuccessfully to extend his Norwegian monarchy to Denmark and then Britain. He died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 along with his poet.
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Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Vikings are here…


Gareth Williams, Exhibition Curator, British Museum
Lo, it is nearly thirty-five years since the Vikings last came to this Museum, and nobody believed that such an influx of fantastic material from overseas (as well as the UK) could be made…*
To be fair, the BP exhibition Vikings: life and legend lacks some of the drama of the original Viking attack on Lindisfarne in 793. We haven’t had fiery dragons in the sky (unless you count the Aurora Borealis coming unusually far south), and there hasn’t been much in the way of destruction or slaughter. Nor is it likely that this exhibition will be remembered 1200 years after the event, although in an age of globalised communication, there is no doubt that the exhibition has attracted considerably more notice in the last few days than the attack on Lindisfarne did at the time. Nevertheless, as the largest Viking exhibition in the UK for over 30 years, it has the potential to shape our definition of the Viking Age.
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Friday, 28 February 2014

Vikings in Russia

Tom Williams, Project Curator: Vikings, British Museum
Scandinavians traditionally do rather well at the winter Olympics – for perhaps obvious reasons – but their Viking ancestors would have been no stranger to some of the delights of Sochi. Skis were used and valued in the North. Earl Rognvald I of Orkney boasted that (among several other skills) he could ‘glide on skis’, and the god Ullr was also associated with skiing. In fact, he has been taken as a sort of unofficial patron of the winter ski community, whose members often wear medallions depicting the god – there would no doubt have been a good number of Ullr talismans among the skiers in Sochi.
And, while the bob-sleigh may have been unknown, sledges of various kinds are certainly known from Viking burials, including a particularly beautiful example that was found in the famous boat burial from Oseberg in Norway.

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Monday, 24 February 2014

EARLY CHRISTIANS IN VIKING DENMARK

An Early Viking Christian? Image: Sydvestjyske Museum

Excavations at the Domskirke in Ribe, Denmark began in 2008 and analysis of the results lend new insight into early Christianity, where this may have been one of the first places in the country where a small enclave of Christians worshipped and died.
Studies have now shown that there may have been Christian Vikings in Ribe around AD865. Denmark officially became a Christian country around the year AD965 when Harald Bluetooth announced his deed on the Jelling stone (see below). It now seems possible that 100 years before this countrywide conversion, Christian Danish Vikings were living, dying and being buried in Ribe.

Early Christian burials

In the excavations conducted by the Southwest Jutland Museums between 2008-2012 around the Domskirke, the archaeologists found over 70 burials from the earliest period of activity. The tombs provide a unique insight into the early Christian burial customs, and have become be a major source of debate in Denmark.
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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Die geheimen Codes der Wikinger


Wikinger liebten Geheimcodes. Einige sind schon lange bekannt, andere stellen Runologen immer noch vor Rätsel. Dem Linguisten Jonas Nordby von der Universität Oslo ist es jetzt gelungen, mit dem Jötunvillur Code eine weitere Geheimschrift zu knacken.

Codierte Botschaften müssen nicht immer erhabenen Inhalts sein. Bei weitem nicht jeder Geheimcode verrät ein Schatzversteck oder Ort und Datum eines militärischen Manövers. Die allermeisten Botschaften, die in einer Geheimschrift verfasst werden, sollen vor allem eins: Spaß machen. Wahrscheinlich hat jeder in der Schule seinem besten Freund Zettel zugesteckt, auf denen er ihn in Kalle Blomquists Räubersprache zum "totrorefoffofenon umom einonson" aufgefordert hat. Oder in der Löffelsprache um ein "treleweffelewen ulewum eileweins" gebeten? Was würde ein Archäologe der Zukunft mit einem dieser Zettel anfangen?

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Sunday, 16 February 2014

900-Year-Old Viking Message Decoded, Reads 'Kiss Me'


The mystery of a 900-year-old Viking message has finally been solved. Cryptologists, put down your cipher devices, because the formerly incomprehensible code that's been haunting your dreams reads in part: "Kiss me."
A runic artifact that reads: "Kiss Me". Photographer: Jonas Nordby.
The baffling Jötunvillur code, which dates back to as early as the 9th century, has popped up in over 80 different Norse inscriptions, puzzling runologists (those who study the Viking rune alphabets) for some time. That is, until Jonas Nordby, a runologist from the University of Oslo, valiantly broke the code, realizing a simple pattern amongst the writings.
"For the jötunvillur code, one would replace the original runic character with the last sound of the rune name," he explained in an interview with Forskning.no. "For example, the rune for 'f', pronounced 'fe,' would be turned into an 'e,' while the rune for 'k,' pronounced 'kaun,' became 'n.'"
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Mysterious code in Viking runes is cracked


Why did Vikings sometimes use codes when they wrote in runes? Were the messages secret, or did they have other reasons for encrypting their runic texts? Researchers still don’t know for sure. 


A rather forthright message written in code: “Kiss me” is etched into a piece of bone found in Sigtuna in Sweden, dating to the 12th or 13th century. The code is in cipher runes, the most common code known from medieval Scandinavia. This variety is called ice runes [Credit: Jonas Nordby] 

But Runologist K. Jonas Nordby thinks he has made progress toward an answer. He has managed to crack a code called jötunvillur, which has baffled linguists and historians for years. 

His discovery can help researchers understand the purpose behind the mystery codes.

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Mysterious code in Viking runes is cracked


A runic code called jötunvillur has finally been decrypted. It just might help solve the mystery of the Vikings’ secret codes.

Two men, Sigurd and Lavrans, carved their names both in code and in standard runes on this stick, dated from the 13th century and found at the Bergen Wharf. This helped researcher Jonas Nordby crack the jötunvillur code. (Photo: Aslak Liestøl/Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo)

Why did Vikings sometimes use codes when they wrote in runes? Were the messages secret, or did they have other reasons for encrypting their runic texts? Researchers still don’t know for sure.

But Runologist K. Jonas Nordby thinks he has made progress toward an answer. He has managed to crack a code called jötunvillur, which has baffled linguists and historians for years.

His discovery can help researchers understand the purpose behind the mystery codes.

Read the rest of this article...