Friday, 11 September 2020

Metal detectorist unearths 1,150-year-old Viking board game

 



The 37 original pieces on a board commissioned by auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb
(Dix Noonan Webb)

A metal detectorist has unearthed a viking board game in Lincolnshire dating back to 872 AD.

Mick Bott, a retired miner, made the rare discovery of a complete set of 37 pieces used in Hnefatafl — a chess-like game popular with soldiers for its strategic nature — at a site next to the River Trent.

The 73-year-old had spent 20 years searching for items at the location where, thanks to his efforts, historians now know Vikings set up camp throughout the winter of 872 AD.

From his first detecting session at the Torksey site in 1982, Mr Bott and two fellow detectorists unearthed hundreds of coins, strap ends, brooches, and mounts, all of which were from the ninth century.

“It was later on after showing many of our finds to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge that the experts realised that this was the Viking winter camp of 872/3 when several thousand men of the Viking army overwintered,” Mr Bott said.

Discovering a lost Viking waterway

 

The discovery of a series of lost waterways across West Mainland Orkney offers new insight into trade and transport across the area in the medieval period. 
[Image: University of St Andrews]

New research involving a combination of geophysical mapping, sediment sampling, and the study of place-names has identified a network of waterways that ran through West Mainland Orkney in the Viking and late Norse period.

Examples of Old Norse place-names can be found all over northern Scotland and the Isles, originating in the medieval period, AD 790-1350, and reflecting when Scandinavian earls held power in Orkney. The recent research was prompted by the observation that there are several places that have names with sea- or boat-related connotations but are located far inland in central Orkney today. These include Greenay (meaning shallow waters) and Knarston (derived from the Old Norse words for a transport vessel and a farm where such vessels were moored). Scientific investigations have now been able to shed light on this mystery, revealing that these sites were in fact located along a previously unknown series of ancient waterways.

These lost waterways are difficult to recognise on the surface because of modern agricultural activity and artificial drainage networks. However, the recent research (published in the Journal of Wetland Archaeology: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14732971.2020.1800281), which was carried out by a team from the University of the Highlands and Islands, the University of St Andrews, and the University of Wales, was able to identify them using remote-sensing geophysical methods, combined with environmental information from sediment samples in cores taken from multiple sites across the area.

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THIS NORWEGIAN ISLAND CLAIMS TO BE THE FABLED LAND OF THULE

 



Greek explorer Pytheas traveled to what is now the British Isles and farther north in a trireme, exploring and mapping much of the coastline. He wrote of Thule, an island that people have searched for ever since. This illustration is by John F. Campbell from the 1909 book The Romance of Early British Life. (Chronicle/Alamy)

Residents of Smøla believe they live in the northernmost location mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman literature. Other contenders say not so fast.

On a Monday late in April 2020, the tiny, rocky, sparsely populated Norwegian island of Smøla, which had been sealed off from the outside world for three months, reopened its one point of access, a ferry terminal that connects it to the coastal cities of Trondheim and Kristiansund. The move brought joy to the residents of Smøla, who often travel to the mainland for supplies and recreation. It also gladdened tourists and adventurers, particularly those with an interest in the fabled land of Thule, also known as ultima Thule, whose exact location in the world has been debated for over two millennia. According to one recent school of thought, Smøla is the island with the strongest claim to that location: reopening Smøla thus meant that it was once again possible to set foot on Thule.

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Monday, 10 August 2020

Yarm Viking helmet 'first' to be unearthed in Britain

The Viking helmet was essential personal protective equipment for a warrior
DURHAM UNIVERSITY

A Viking helmet unearthed in Yarm in the 1950s is the first to ever be found in Britain, according to new research.

Found in Chapel Yard by workmen digging trenches for new sewerage pipes, the corroded, damaged artefact is a rare, 10th century Anglo-Scandinavian helmet.

A research project led by Dr Chris Caple also found it is only the second near-complete Viking helmet found in the world.

It has been on display at Preston Park Museum since 2012.

The age of the helmet had caused much debate until now.

Researchers used evidence from recent archaeological discoveries as well as analysis of the metal and corrosion to reveal its past

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A new analysis of 1st Temple-era artifacts, magnetized when Babylonians torched the city, provides a way to chart the geomagnetic field – physics’ Holy Grail – and maybe save Earth The Bible and pure science converge in a new archaeomagnetism study of a large public structure that was razed to the ground on Tisha B’Av 586 BCE during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. The resulting data significantly boosts geophysicists’ ability to understand the “Holy Grail” of Earth sciences — Earth’s ever-changing magnetic field. “The magnetic field is invisible, but it plays a critical role in the life of our planet. Without the geomagnetic field, nothing on Earth would be as it is — maybe life wouldn’t have evolved without it,” Hebrew University Prof. Ron Shaar, a co-author of the study, told The Times of Israel. In the new study published in the PLOS One scientific journal, lead author and archaeologist Yoav Vaknin harvested data from pieces of floor from a large, two-story building excavated in the City of David’s Givati parking lot. Minerals embedded in the dozens of floor chunks were heated at a temperature higher than 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius) and magnetized during the slash and burning of ancient Jerusalem, and therefore offered up geomagnetic coordinates. Read the rest of this article...


An iron helmet that was discovered in Yarm, North Yorkshire, during sewer work in the 1950s has been confirmed to be an extremely rare Viking-era helmet, only the second nearly complete Viking helmet in the world and the first and only one found in Britain.

It was referred to as the Viking helmet from the beginning, but its real age has been an open discussion since its find. It has design elements found in earlier forms from the Anglo-Saxon and Vendel era, and because the only other helmet in the world confirmed to date to the Viking era, the Gjermundbu Helmet found in Haugsbygd, Norway, in 1943, was not a direct comparison, it was difficult to conclusively identify the Yarm Helmet as an Anglo-Scandinavian piece. A new study by Durham University researchers has used recent archaeological finds and analysis of the iron and corrosion products to narrow down its age of manufacture. It is indeed an Anglo-Scandinavian helmet made in northern England in the 10th century.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Lost Viking waterway found in Orkney

The lost Viking waterway likely connected farms on Orkney Mainland to the power bases of the Norse earls on the north west coast at Birsay. PIC: St Andrews University.

The route was discovered after a series of Old Norse place names in the centre of the mainland, which were connected to sea and boats despite being many miles from the sea, attracted interest from researchers.

Now it is believed that Vikings were using a route from Harray in the central mainland through the Loch of Banks to a portage at Twatt before reaching the Loch of Boardhouse and ultimately the coastal powerbases of the Norse Earls at the Brough of Birsay, a tidal island off the very tip of the north west coast.

The waterway network would have provided a shallow route through which the Vikings were able to haul both their boats and heavy goods, such as grain.

Taxes and rents may have been gathered from the farms around Harray and transported on the waterway to Birsay with the route also offering a way to the waters of Scapa Flow and the North Atlantic.

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Ancient Viking waterway discovered in Orkney


A lost Viking canal system that acted as a trade and transport highway, has been discovered running through Orkney.

The route connects the North Atlantic with the Scapa Flow and crosses the Scottish archipelago’s mainland.

A series of Old Norse place names around the island, connected to the sea and boats, first sparked the interest of researchers who then began investigations.

Modern scientific methods, geophysical mapping and sediment samples have now revealed that the area was connected through a series of ancient canals.

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Monday, 27 July 2020

Norway's Gjellestad burial mound belonged to the Iron Age elite

The soil samples were taken from the mound construction, in the presumed subsoil
and in the trench for the ship burial [Credit: NIKU]

Recent geoarchaeological and geophysical analysis show that the construction of the Gjellestad ship mound was carefully planned and executed.

Five soil samples from the burial mound have been analyzed by researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) and the University of Oslo. These were taken during excavations done by the Museum of Cultural History during autumn of 2019.

One of these samples was taken from the ship grave itself, from within the layer of soil inside the ship. The other samples were taken from the remnants of the mound that surrounded the ship.

The purpose of the analyses was to determine if these were able to reveal anything about what is visible in the 2018 dataset from the ground-penetrating radar (GPR) examinations, and if this could provide more information about how the mound was constructed.

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Sunday, 26 July 2020

Vikings had smallpox and may have helped spread the world's deadliest virus

A 1200-year-old smallpox-infected Viking skeleton found in Oland, Sweden
[Credit: The Swedish National Heritage Board]

Scientists have discovered extinct strains of smallpox in the teeth of Viking skeletons - proving for the first time that the killer disease plagued humanity for at least 1400 years.

Smallpox spread from person to person via infectious droplets, killed around a third of sufferers and left another third permanently scarred or blind. Around 300 million people died from it in the 20th century alone before it was officially eradicated in 1980 through a global vaccination effort - the first human disease to be wiped out.

Now an international team of scientists have sequenced the genomes of newly discovered strains of the virus after it was extracted from the teeth of Viking skeletons from sites across northern Europe.

Professor Eske Willerslev, of St John's College, University of Cambridge, and director of The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, University of Copenhagen, led the study.

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Friday, 24 July 2020

Researchers find earliest confirmed case of smallpox

Massacred 10th century Vikings are seen having been found in a mass grave, at St John’s College, Oxford Photograph: Thames Valley Archaeological Services/PA

The Vikings are known for their intrepid seafaring, fearsome fighting and extensive trading, but it seems it may not only have been goods and weapons they carried on their travels – they could also have carried a deadly disease.

Researchers say they have found the world’s earliest confirmed case of smallpox, revealing the disease was widespread across northern Europe during the Viking age.

“I think it is fair to assume the Vikings have been the superspreaders,” said Eske Willerslev, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Cambridge and director of the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre at the University of Copenhagen, who led the research.

Smallpox, a deadly infectious disease with symptoms including pus-filled blisters, is caused by the variola virus. Once described by the 18th-century English physician Edward Jenner as the “most dreadful scourge of the human species”, in the 20th century alone the disease is thought to have killed between 300 million and 500 million people.

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Vikings spread smallpox around Europe in the 7th Century


Extinct strains of smallpox have been found in the teeth of Viking skeletons, indicating the disease was widespread in northern Europe during the 7th Century, scientists say.

An international team of researchers analysed the genetic material of the ancient strains and found their structure to differ from the modern smallpox virus which was eradicated in the 20th Century. They say the findings, published in the journal Science, pushes the date of the confirmed existence of smallpox back by 1,000 years.

The researchers believe Vikings may have helped spread the disease, although it is unclear whether these ancient strains were fatal. They say knowing more about the evolutionary history of viruses, such as the deadly smallpox, could help in the battle against new and emerging infectious diseases.

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Viking brooch is first of its kind for Manx National Heritage

The oval brooch in its as-found state. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

A Viking brooch is a rare find of a high status woman and a first for the Isle of Man collections say experts
A collection of rare Viking Age finds including two rare and highly decorated oval brooches have been declared treasure on the Isle of Man.

First discovered in December 2018 by metal detectorists John Crowe and Craig Evans, the two brooches are made from bronze with silver wire decoration and most likely gilded, dating to around AD 900-950.

Experts believe the brooches would have been worn by a woman of some status.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Archaeological complex Haithabu and Danewerk


This special World Heritage series presents the diversity of natural and cultural heritage from a bird's eye view: architectural highlights, varied cultural landscapes, parks and natural reserves. From Aachen Cathedral (a World Heritage since 1978) to the monastery island of Reichenau, from the Wadden Sea to Berlin's Museum Island, from Cologne Cathedral to the mining region in the Erzgebirge Ore Mountain region (a World Heritage since 2019) - the #DailyDrone has flown over all 46 German World Heritage sites.

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Monday, 20 July 2020

Unknown Viking trading place discovered by master’s student

Here, at Sandtorg by Tjelsund, Tor-Kjetil discovered a trading place that existed as early as the 800s. (Photo: Tor-Kjetil Krokmyrdal)

With the help of a metal detector, Tor-Kjetil discovered what appears to be the oldest trading place in Northern Norway to date. Now he’s switching jobs, making archeology a full-time engagement.

In his newly published archaeology master’s thesis delivered at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tor-Kjetil Krokmyrdal has shown that a trading place existed in the Viking Age at Sandtorg in Tjelsund, in Harstad Municipality.

Krokmyrdal found objects that can be dated all the way back to the 800s, which makes Sandtorg the first trading place we know of thus far in Northern Norway.

“This discovery means that from now on, researchers need to re-think how societies and trade functioned in this region in the Viking Age and the Early Middle Ages” archaeologist Marte Spangen says, who has been supervising Krokmyrdal in his thesis work.

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Sunday, 28 June 2020

First Viking ship excavation in a century begins in Norway

The excavation was launched by Norway's climate and environment minister on Friday
AFP

Archaeologists in Norway have begun the first excavation of a Viking ship in more than a century.

The vessel was discovered in a burial site in Gjellestad in the south-east of the country two years ago.

Although it is believed to be in poor condition, the find remains significant as only three other well-preserved Viking ships have been discovered in the country.

The excavation is expected to last five months.

Knut Paasche, an expert from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research said that only part of the ship's timber appeared to have been preserved, but added that modern techniques could allow archaeologists to discover its original shape.

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Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Oldest Viking settlement possibly unearthed in Iceland

The oldest of the two Viking longhouses at Stöð dates from around A.D. 800, several decades before the commonly accepted date of the settlement of Iceland in A.D. 874.
(Image: © Bjarni Einarsson)

It dates back decades before Vikings are supposed to have settled the island.

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest Viking settlement in Iceland.

The ancient longhouse is thought to be a summer settlement built in the 800s, decades before seafaring refugees are supposed to have settled the island, and was hidden beneath a younger longhouse brimming with treasures, said archaeologist Bjarni Einarsson, who led the excavations.

"The younger hall is the richest in Iceland so far," Einarsson told Live Science. "It is hard not to conclude that it is a chieftain's house."

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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Archaeologists Discover Viking Toilet in Denmark


Archaeologists excavating a settlement on the Stevns Peninsula in Denmark suggests they have discovered a toilet from the Viking Age.
Archaeologists from the Museum Southeast Denmark were conducting a study for pit houses, when they found a hole feature that they have identified as a toilet, possibly the oldest ever found in Denmark and bringing new revelations into the toilet habits of Vikings living in the countryside on the Peninsula.

Many studies have been carried out on privy buildings from the Viking Age and early Middle Ages in towns and cities, but very few have been conducted on farmsteads from this period.

A macrofossil and pollen analyses found mineralised seeds (caused by high levels of phosphate) and concentrations of fly pupae that indicates the sediments accumulated in the hole were human faeces. The pollen analyses also discovered insect-pollinated plants, often used for creating honey or mead for human consumption.

PhD student Anna Beck from the Museum Southeast Denmark has had resistance over the interpretation from academics. Toilets are mentioned in the Icelandic sagas, but are generally described as separate buildings and differ in the interpretation for the hole toilet being proposed.

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Saturday, 13 June 2020

The Emperor of Stones

(Helge Andersson) Rök runestone, Sweden

In the language of the Vikings, Old Norse, rök means “monolith,” and no other runestone stands out from its peers in more ways than Sweden’s Rök. The five-ton stone measures eight feet tall and its five sides are covered with the longest runic inscription in existence—some 760 runes divided into 28 lines. And, while the vast majority of runestones date to after the mid-tenth century A.D., the Rök was inscribed much earlier, around A.D. 800. “It’s the emperor of runestones,” says Henrik Williams, a runologist at Uppsala University. “Nothing can compare with it.”

Although scholars are united in recognizing the Rök’s singularity, with regard to its meaning all they can agree on is that it was set up by a local chieftain named Varinn as a memorial to his son Vamoth. The stone’s inscription has defied attempts at interpretation since the mid-nineteenth century, when it was transcribed after the Rök was removed from a structure into which it had been built centuries earlier. Decoding the inscription is made especially difficult as it features several styles of writing, including the earliest form of runes, called Elder Futhark, and two types of cipher. It’s not clear in what order the sections of the text are supposed to be read—or if it was even intended to be understood by mortals at all. “I don’t think this was ever meant to be read by humans,” says Bo Gräslund, an archaeologist at Uppsala University. “It was only meant for the gods.”

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Viking Age Excavation Could Rewrite the Story of Iceland’s Settlement

Photo: Bjarni F. Einarsson

A Viking Age excavation in East Iceland is revealing a more nuanced history of the settlement of Iceland, involving seasonal settlements, wealthy longhouses, and walrus hunting long before the island was settled permanently. The site, known as Stöð and located in Stöðvarfjörður fjord, shows human presence in Iceland decades before AD 874, the accepted date for when Iceland was permanently settled.

One of the Largest Longhouses Found in Iceland
Bjarni F. Einarsson, leader of the excavation at Stöð, took the first digs at the location in the autumn of 2015. The excavation is ongoing but has already produced findings that illuminate the early history of Iceland. “We are currently excavating what is certainly a Viking-Age farmstead, dating back to 860-870 AD according to my estimate.” The longhouse is among the largest found in Iceland, 31.4m (103ft) long. “It is also the richest longhouse ever excavated in Iceland. We have found 92 beads and 29 silver objects, including Roman and Middle-Eastern coins.” The bead horde at Stöð is twice as large as the next two largest found in Iceland combined. In fact, it is one of the very largest ever found at a Viking-Age site in all of Scandinavia.

Older Longhouse Predates Settlement By Decades
Even more interestingly, the farm is built on the ruins of an even older longhouse. “It was built inside the fallen walls of the older structure that appears to have been huge, at least 40m (131ft) long.” To put this in context, the largest longhouses found in Scandinavia measure 50m (164ft). “It also appears to be at least as old as the oldest structures we have previously excavated in Iceland. Based on radiocarbon dating and other evidence, I estimate this structure dates to around 800 AD.”

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Sunday, 31 May 2020

Norway couple find Viking grave under floor of their house

The couple were pulling up the floor to install insulation. Photo: Nordland County Council

A couple in northern Norway were pulling up the floor of their house to install insulation when they found a glass bead, and then a Viking axe. Now archeologists suspect they live above an ancient Viking grave
"It wasn't until later that we realised what it could be," Mariann Kristiansen from Seivåg near Bodø told Norway's state broadcaster NRK of the find. "We first thought it was the wheel of a toy car." 

Archaeologist Martinus Hauglid from Nordland county government visited the couple last Monday and judged taht find was most likely a grave from the Iron Age or Viking Age.

"It was found under stones that probably represent a cairn. We found an axe dated from between 950AD and 1050AD and a bead of dark blue glass, also of the late Viking period," he told The Local. 

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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Melting ice reveals an ancient, once-thriving trade route

Upper left: an object interpreted as a tong (a clamp for holding fodder on a sled or wagon), dated to the Late Roman Iron Age; right: a similar, undated object, also from the pass area; lower left: a historical example from Uppigard Garmo, pre-dating c. 1950. Credit: Glacier Archaeology Program & R. Marstein/Lars Pilø et al.

High in the mountains of Norway, melting ice has led to the discovery of an ancient remote mountain pass, complete with trail markers and artifacts from the Roman Iron Age and the time of the Vikings. The remains reveal this route served a dual function historically: It was once a significant passageway for moving livestock between grazing sites as well as for inter-regional travel and trade. This particular receding ice patch is known as Lendbreen, and because of its tame geologic features, hundreds of artifacts have been pristinely preserved. Most are from the Viking Age, providing an odd inland perspective to the age-old tales of their audacious maritime journeying.

Glaciers and ice patches throughout the world's high mountain regions are receding, leaving behind precious artifacts, like Ötzi the ice man and his tool kit, that have been buried under ice for centuries. The rate of melt has been accelerating over the past few decades as a result of the warming climate. In the 1980s, glaciers lost less than a foot of ice per year, on average. That number increased every decade so that by 2018, glaciers around the world were losing mass at a pace of three feet per year. This rise in melt drastically propelled the field of glacier and ice patch archaeology—especially in Scandinavia, the Alps and North America—as archaeologists raced to collect artifacts uncovered by this process.

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Monday, 18 May 2020

Fungus is destroying a buried Viking ship. Here's how Norway plans to save it.

Image: © Lars Gustavsen/NIKU)

Archaeologists are racing against the clock to save the remains of a buried Viking ship from a ruthless foe: fungus. 

If the project is successful, the 65-foot-long (20 meters) oak vessel — called the Gjellestad ship — will become the first Viking ship to be excavated in Norway in 115 years, said Sveinung Rotevatn, the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment. 

"Norway has a very special responsibility safeguarding our Viking Age heritage," Rotevatn told Live Science in an email. "Now, we are choosing to excavate in order to protect what remains of the find, and secure important knowledge about the Viking Age for future generations."

The ship is buried at a well-known Viking archaeological site at Gjellestad, near Halden, a town in southeastern Norway. But scientists discovered the vessel only recently, in the fall of 2018, by using radar scans that can detect structures underground. The scans revealed not only the ship, but also the Viking cemetery where it was ritually buried.

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Thursday, 14 May 2020

Norway to excavate first Viking ship burial mound in 100 years


In October 2018, a geophysical survey of a field in Halden, southeastern Norway, revealed the presence of Viking ship burial. The landowner had applied for a soil drainage permit and because the field is adjacent to the monumental Jell Mound, archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) inspected the site first. Using a four-wheeler with a georadar mounted to the front of it. The high-resolution ground-penetrating radar picked up the clear outline of a ship 20 meters (65 feet) long.

The ship was found just 50 cm (1.6 feet) under the surface. It was once covered by a burial mound like its neighbor, but centuries of agricultural work ploughed it away. Subsequent investigation of the area found the outlines of at least 11 other burial mounds around the ship, all of them long-since ploughed out as well. The georadar also discovered the remains of five longhouses.

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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Norway To Excavate Viking Ship, First Time In 100 Years


Gjellestad, Norway: The site of the discovery of a viking ship burial site. ERICH NAU, NIKU

The Norwegian government has confirmed it will provide substantial funding to begin an excavation of the Gjellestad Viking ship. It will be the first full excavation of a Viking ship in Norway for more than 100 years.

Despite high recent government expenditure because of the coronavirus crisis, the government has included the expected excavation bill of 15.6 million Norwegian kroner ($1.5 million) in its revised budget.

A time sensitive project

While the Gjellestad ship has been buried for more than 1,000 years, time is of the essence. Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn, said that getting the ship out of the ground is urgent.

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Tuesday, 5 May 2020

De-faced Skulls and Babies Were Buried in Viking Homes


A new Viking research paper determines parts of dead Norse folk, especially children, were kept beneath homes after the deceased had been buried.

So often sensationalized, glamorized and mystified, 11th century Scandinavia was often a dark and blood-thirsty realm where the upper classes ruled by sword and flame. While the glorified elites of the Viking world were often burned in boats wooden longboats, day to day, the bodies of common Norse people were often discarded crudely, with no pomp and ceremony, and now it has become clear that parts of smashed-skulls and even dead infants bodies were buried beneath doorways and floors in homes.

Consulting the skulls of arcane universal knowledge
Archaeologist Marianne Hem Eriksen from the University of Oslo , who authored the new study which has been published in  World Archaeology , said “Parts of corpses were sometimes placed around farms and inside long houses” and that this was probably not a random act. The Norwegian researcher has studied 40 archaeological fragments from skulls unearthed around greater Scandinavia dating from the Iron Age around 250 BC until about 1050 AD, which was at the end of Viking Age. And testimony to the aforementioned violence, one of the analyzed samples was the whole skull of a 25-40 year old man with its face slashed off, discovered unceremoniously dumped in a well outside a 9th century pit house in Aarhus, Denmark.

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Macabre death rituals in the Viking Age

The skull of a man, 25-40 years, with his face cut off with a sharp weapon. The head was found in a well outside a pit house from the 9th century in Aarhus, Denmark 
[Credit: Rogvi N. Johansen/Moesgaard Museum]

New research has put a question mark on the popular stereotype perpetuated in literature and cinema that Vikings were burned in boats or burial mounds together with valuable items on their way to Valhalla, the fabled hall where fallen warriors rest.

According to new research, Vikings kept bits of skulls and even dead infants in their homes, among other things, under doorways and floors, national broadcaster NRK reported.

Archaeologist Marianne Hem Eriksen at the University of Oslo has studied 40 archaeological finds of skull remains around Scandinavia from the Iron Age, found from about 250 BC until about 1050 AD, which corresponds to the end of the Viking Age.

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The global millennium: how the year AD 1000 was more globalised than we might think


Globalisation is a phenomenon that defines and challenges the modern world. Trade, technology, culture, conflict: today, all span continents and hemispheres. And the roots of this global connectedness stretch back much further than we might imagine.

A new system of global pathways formed in the year 1000, following the arrival of Vikings in what’s now north-eastern Canada. Trade goods, people and ideas moved along these newly discovered routes. Globalisation affected both those who went to new places (traders, explorers, slaves) and those who stayed at home (who experienced religious change, riots, and onerous labour conditions to produce goods for overseas markets).

There’s no single historiographical view of when globalisation began but, rather, two dominant paradigms: one locates the start of globalisation in the late 1970s, the other much earlier, around 1500. The seventies witnessed the full flowering of globalisation, notably in terms of the outsourcing of manufacturing and the ease of travel. And around the turn of the 16th century, Columbus and da Gama (and, a little later, Magellan) tied together the world in a way that hadn’t occurred before.

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Sö 90 Runestone, Eskilstuna N, Sweden


This runestone once destroyed by an explosion has been painstakingly reassembled to save its history.

WHEN DRIVING AROUND LAKE MÄLAREN, VISITORS will come across several old Viking remains. These valuable pieces of history are interesting waypoints for tourists, however, this wasn’t always the case. Södermanland Runic inscription 90 (Sö 90) is a great example of this time.

The runestone is undated, but is believed to be around 1,000 years old. It stood in a field in Hammarby undisturbed for centuries. However, during the 1800s it was hindering the developing farms in the region from expanding.

The stone wasn’t viewed as important and was thus blown out of the ground using explosives. Pieces of the stone were left scattered about. Those pieces were fortunately left undisturbed and were discovered by future archaeologists. A team was successfully able to reassemble the historic stone during the late 1950s.  

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Sunday, 3 May 2020

From the Vikings to WWII, the Danevirke Wall Has Seen it All


All through classical history, imposing and long walls, ramparts, and fortifications played a significant role in securing the borders of nations and kingdoms from all sorts of incursions and attacks. Some of the best examples are left to us by the ancient Romans, with their majestic limes fortifications of Europe, and the Antonine and Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland. Then there is the famous inspiring Great Wall of China , the likes of which were never replicated again.

But no matter where they were, these fortified walls and ramparts were always a great achievement. They required a lot of manpower, took a long time to erect, and were costly. But all of that was worth it - for such a wall could help guard a great area of land, making for an effective and immovable border. One such system of walled fortifications is known as the Danevirke, a lesser known, but equally important historical system of earth wall ramparts built by the Danes on the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula. Join us as we explore the complex history behind this important border!

The Earliest Traces of Danevirke in the Nordic Iron Age
The Danevirke, in Old Norse known as Danavirki, and in German as Danewerk, is today located not in Denmark, but in Germany, in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. It is believed that the earliest forms of a linear walled fortification across the neck of the Jutland Peninsula began sometime prior to 500 AD, in the Nordic Iron Age.

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Thursday, 30 April 2020

The British Museum is displaying 4 million items from its collection online

Photograph: The Lewis Chessmen. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Got some browsing time on your hands? Load up the British Museum’s website. Yesterday the museum decided to do an earlier-than-planned unveil of its revamped online collection. It’s now the biggest database of any museum in the world, with more than 4 million objects to click through. 

The collection features the museum’s most famous artefacts, like the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures, along with every item the institution holds from Ancient Egypt. 

But there are some new additions too – including 280,000 new object photographs that are being published for the first time. Among them are images of 73 portraits by Damien Hirst and a watercolour by the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti that until recently had been thought lost. You can also look for works by Kara Walker, William Hogarth and Rembrandt in a digital archive of 75,000 art prints. If you’re more into coins, they have about 50,000 of those – medieval, Tudor, the works. Fill your boots. 

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White Hugh MacNéill and his wars with the Lough Foyle vikings


White Hugh MacNéill must have regarded the Viking gathering on his very doorstep with a mixture of anger and fear, writes Kevin Mullan.

It was 866 and the local chiefain had just completed an armed tour of the North coast destroying Viking forts and scattering their settlements but now looking east from his Grianán of Aileach the king could see they were back.

It was less than 100 years since the first Viking raids in Ireland had taken place but they had now established a substantial colony in the perfect harbour of Lough Foyle.

Of this the fearsome White Hugh - recently elevated from the Kingship of Aileach to that of Ireland - could not have hoped for a clearer view.

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Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Long-forgotten Viking mountain pass found in Norway following glacier melt

General view over valley in mountains of south Norway from beside Lendbreen glacier is seen in this undated handout picture
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Due to global warming, high-elevation ice patches and glaciers have recently yielded a myriad of historical finds for archaeologists to discover.

Archaeologists have uncovered a heavily traversed glacial mountain pass in Lendbreen, Norway, utilized by travelers throughout the Viking Age, and littered with hundreds of artifacts presumed to have been used by the Vikings during that time period, according to a new study published by the Cambridge University Press on Wednesday.
Due to the warming global climate, high-elevation ice patches and glaciers have recently yielded a myriad of historical finds for archaeologists to happen upon as they finally gain access to these areas after the layers of ice once covering them have gradually melted away over time – and much faster recently.

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Melting glaciers reveal lost mountain pass and artifacts used by Vikings


The retreat of melting glaciers has revealed a lost mountain pass in Norway -- complete with hundreds of Viking artifacts strewn along it, according to a new study.

Researchers first discovered the pass in 2011 and have been examining it, and the artifacts that have been revealed as more ice melts, ever since. Dating the objects helped them reconstruct the timeline of when this pass was used and its purpose.
The new study published this week in the journal Antiquity.
In recent years, climate change has caused mountain glaciers to melt away, revealing well-preserved markers from different periods in history beneath. This is what happened in Lendbreen, Norway.

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Coring Arctic Lakes To Study Vikings

Vikings were here, but thousands of years earlier Stone Age people were, too. D’Andrea’s team hikes down to core  a small pond next to the remnants of these people’s sea-side dwellings 
[Credit: Columbia University]

Billy D'Andrea, a Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory paleoclimatologist and Center for Climate and Life Fellow is currently doing fieldwork in Norway's Lofoten Islands. He's interested in the natural factors that may have influenced the growth of northern agriculture and rise of violent Viking chieftains during the Iron Age, ca. 500 BC to 1100 AD.

The Lofoten Islands—located above the Arctic Circle—were marginal for farming, so inhabitants were probably susceptible to small temperature swings, as well as changes in sea level (two to three meters higher in the Iron Age than today).

In this area, powerful Viking rulers and their predecessors left behind hundreds of dwellings, boathouses, and other structures. D'Andrea and his colleague, Nicholas Balascio, want to understand how the Vikings influenced the land, and vice versa, as their culture took hold, and learn why Viking chiefdoms collapsed.

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Saturday, 25 April 2020

Who was Edward the Elder? A brief guide to the Anglo-Saxon king


Who was Edward the Elder?

He was the son of King Alfred and Ealhswith of Mercia. A man of Wessex, he was probably born in the 870s and died in 924. After his father’s death in 899, and like Alfred, he was called king of the Anglo-Saxons, reflecting his overlordship of both Wessex and Mercia. He was married three times and had an estimated 14 children. His son, Aethelstan, succeeded him. He lived in a time when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had not yet coalesced into England, and when Vikings held sway in East Anglia and Northumbria.

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Monday, 20 April 2020

Melting Ice Exposes Mountain Pass Used by Vikings, Including Ancient Dog and Leash

Glacial archaeologists performing fieldwork at Lendbreen, Norway.
Image: L. Pilø et al., 2020/Antiquity

Archaeologists in central Norway have uncovered evidence of a heavily traveled mountain passageway that was used during the Viking Age. Hundreds of beautifully preserved items were found atop a melting glacier, in a discovery that was, sadly, made possible by global warming.

New research published today in Antiquity describes a forgotten mountain pass at Lendbreen, Norway, that was in use from the Iron Age through to the European medieval period.

Located on Lomseggen Ridge, the passageway is absolutely littered with well-preserved artifacts, including mittens, shoes, horse snowshoes, bits of sleds, and even the remains of a dog still attached to its collar and leash. Radiocarbon dating of these artifacts is painting a picture of how and when this pivotal mountain pass was used, and its importance to both local and outside communities.

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Thursday, 16 April 2020

Melting ice reveals lost viking artefacts on mountain pass

Image Credit : Antiquity Journal

Climate change is leading to the retreat of mountain glaciers.
In Norway, hundreds of rare archaeological finds have been revealed by melting ice in a lost mountain pass at Lendbreen in Innlandet County.

The finds tell a remarkable story of high-altitude travel in the Roman Iron Age and the Viking Age.

“A lost mountain pass melting out of the ice is a dream discovery for us glacial archaeologists,” says Lars Pilo, first author of the study and co-director for the Glacier Archaeology Program.

“In such passes, travellers lost many artefacts that became frozen in time by the ice. These incredibly well-preserved artefacts of organic materials have great historical value.”

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The Hunt for the Lost Mountain Pass

Viking Age spear, originally found in one piece in front of the Lendbreen ice patch. 
Photo: Vegard Vike, Museum of Cultural History.

Global warming is leading to the retreat of mountain glaciers. Surprisingly, this has created a boon for archaeology. Incredibly well preserved and rare artifacts have emerged from melting glaciers and ice patches in North America, the Alps and Scandinavia. A new archaeological field has opened up – glacial archaeology. The archaeological finds from the ice show that humans have utilized the high mountains more intensely than was previously known – for hunting, transhumance and traveling. New important discoveries are made each year, as the ice continues to melt back.

As glacial archaeologists, our dream discovery is a site where an ancient high mountain trail crossed non-moving ice. On such sites, past travelers left behind lots of artifacts, frozen in time by the ice. These artifacts can tell us when people travelled, when travel was at its most intense, why people travelled across the mountains and even who the travelers were. This information has great historical value.

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'Spectacular' artefacts found as Norway ice-patch melts

A horse snowshoe found during 2019 fieldwork at Lendbreen. 
Photograph: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice.com

Discoveries exposed by retreating ice include snowshoe for horses and bronze age ski

The retreat of a Norwegian mountain ice patch, which is melting because of climate change, has revealed a lost Viking-era mountain pass scattered with “spectacular” and perfectly preserved artefacts that had been dropped by the side of the road.

The pass, at Lendbreen in Norway’s mountainous central region, first came to the attention of local archaeologists in 2011, after a woollen tunic was discovered that was later dated to the third or fourth century AD. The ice has retreated significantly in the years since, exposing a wealth of artefacts including knitted mittens, leather shoes and arrows still with their feathers attached.

Though carbon dating of the finds reveals the pass was in use by farmers and travellers for a thousand years, from the Nordic iron age, around AD200-300, until it fell out of use after the Black Death in the 14th century, the bulk of the finds date from the period around AD1000, during the Viking era, when trade and mobility in the region were at their zenith.

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Friday, 3 April 2020

The Fastest Viking Ship Ever Found

A digital reconstruction shows that the Tune Viking Ship must have been a fast sailing  vessel that could also be rowed. Illustration by 7reasons for NIKU

Even though it was discovered more than 150 years ago, modern digital archaeology techniques have revealed many of the mysteries surrounding the Tune Viking ship. It now seems likely the Tune ship could cross the North Sea powered by a sail large enough to make it the fastest Viking ship ever discovered.

Modern techniques help shine a light on historic finds

Recent developments in digital archaeology, notably the use of georadar as a non-intrusive method of mapping sites of interest, have revealed several exciting Viking ship burial sites in Norway. Yet some of the digital tools and techniques can also prove useful in expanding our knowledge and understanding of existing finds.

There are only three Viking ships from burial sites in Norway that are well-preserved. All three—Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune—are on display at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum. The Tune ship was discovered in 1867 on an island farm near Fredrikstad in south-east Norway. It has been the least understood of the three ships—until now.

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Æthelflæd: the Lady of the Mercians


She was a queen in all but name, but Aethelflaed, the daughter of Alfred the Great, is barely mentioned in contemporary chronicles of the Anglo-Saxon era. Writer Jonny Wilkes wonders whether England owes more to her than to her famous father

When Æthelflæd was a baby her father Alfred, destined for greatness, became King of Wessex. At around 16 years old, she was married to the Lord of the Mercians and so placed next to the seat of power of a neighbouring Anglo-Saxon kingdom. In her 20s, she helped to build a string of fortifications and patronise churches; in her 30s, she took up the mantle of ruling in place of her indisposed husband and defeated the Vikings in battle; and in her 40s, on her husband’s death, Æthelflæd was chosen to lead above all male contenders.

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Tuesday, 31 March 2020

New delay for Cork Events Centre as Danes say ancient deeds prove Vikings own site

Events Centre - Under new management?

Cork's long-delayed Events Centre has been hit by yet another hold-up as the Danish Government claims ownership of the city centre site on behalf of its former Viking owners.

The Danish culture ministry last week alerted their Government about the discovery of ancient land deeds, in the University of Copenhagen archives, which they say "prove" ownership of most of Cork City centre.

Academics at the university say the 11th Century land titles, made out to King Wulf Hardasson, clearly state that the Viking king and his rightful heirs shall lay claim to the "Great Marsh of Munster" in perpetuity.

And as the deeds were never legally dissolved after the last vikings left their settlement in Cork, the site where the long-delayed Events Centre was supposed to be built is still - legally - the property of any living descendants of the last Viking ruler of Cork.

The Danish embassy in Dublin has now lodged a formal claim with the Department of Arts, Heritage and Culture and Irish officials believe this could lead to a very lengthy legal battle with the living heirs of King Wulf Hardasson.

One Departmental official told CorkBeo; "They're saying they've traced his only living male heir, he's a plumber called Lars Sorenson who lives in Aalborg. The Danes are arguing that as the deeds were never dissolved, technically, this guy is the Viking overlord of most of Cork City."

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