Friday, 27 July 2018

Archaeological Find Near Reykjavík

The archaeological site. Photo/Ragnheiður Traustadóttir

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

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

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

How to decorate like a Viking

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

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

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

But what colours did the Vikings use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, 18 June 2018

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Archaeologists uncover 'treasure trove' of artefacts at Pictish fort

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, 26 April 2018

Swedish Archaeologists Uncover Brutal 5th-Century Massacre


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

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

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

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Swedish archaeologists reveal 5th Century massacre at Sandby borg

Team member Clara Alfsdotter arranges the remains of one victim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, 23 April 2018

Skeletons of first Copenhageners discovered under City Hall Square

Secret dig yields startling find (photo: Copenhagen Museum)

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

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

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

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

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Archaeologists may have found Copenhagen’s oldest church

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Archaeologists find silver treasure on German Baltic island

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Uncovering the Galloway Viking Hoard, layer by layer

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

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

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

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

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

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Slavs competed with the Vikings on these boats


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

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

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

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

Germans find 'Harald Bluetooth' medieval treasure

Harald Bluetooth might have buried the treasure while fleeing from enemies

Treasure linked to the reign of 10th Century Danish King Harald Bluetooth has been dug up in northern Germany.

An amateur archaeologist and a 13-year-old boy found a silver coin on the Baltic island of Rügen in January when scanning a field with metal detectors.

Experts kept the find secret until a team dug up 400sq metres (4,300sq ft) of land at the weekend.

They found braided necklaces, a Thor's hammer, brooches, rings and about 600 coins, probably buried in the 980s.

"This trove is the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic sea region and is therefore of great significance," said lead archaeologist Michael Schirren.

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Monday, 16 April 2018

Computer simulations show Viking's sunstone to be very accurate

The "Lofotr" viking ship and the smaller "femkeiping". Both recosntructions based on excavations from the Gokstad find. Credit: Geir Are Johansen/Wikipedia

A pair of researchers with ELTE Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary has run computer simulations that suggest that tales of Vikings using a sunstone to navigate in cloudy weather might be true. In their paper published in Royal Society Open Science, Dénes Száz and Gábor Horváth describe the factors that contributed to their simulations and what they found by running them.

For the time period 900 to 1200 AD, Vikings, by nearly all accounts, ruled the northern Atlantic. Their skill in building strong boats and in navigation allowed them to travel throughout the North Atlantic. Prior research has suggested the Vikings used a type of sundial to navigate, which was apparently quite accurate. But what did they do when it was cloudy or foggy? Viking tales passed down through the generations claimed it was through the use of sunstones, which allowed Viking navigators to find the sun even on cloudy days. But proving the tales true has been problematic—no sunstone has ever been found on or near a Viking shipwreck. A crystal was found on a 16th-century English shipwreck in 2002—and English sailors could have learned to use them from the Vikings—but much stronger evidence is needed.

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Boy unearths treasure of the Danish king Bluetooth in Germany

Discovery by a 13-year-old and an amateur archaeologist leads to hoard linked to king who brought Christianity to Denmark

Part of the hoard linked to Bluetooth, the Danish king who reigned from around AD958 to 986. Photograph: Stefan Sauer/AFP/Getty Images

A 13-year-old boy and an amateur archaeologist have unearthed a “significant” trove in Germany which may have belonged to the Danish king Harald Bluetooth who brought Christianity to Denmark.

René Schön and his student Luca Malaschnitschenko were looking for treasure using metal detectors in January on northern Rügen island when they chanced upon what they initially thought was a worthless piece of aluminium.

But upon closer inspection, they realised that it was a piece of silver, German media reported.

Over the weekend, the regional archaeology service began a dig covering 400 sq metres (4,300 sq ft). It has found a hoard believed to be linked to the Danish king Harald Gormsson, better known as “Harry Bluetooth”, who reigned from around AD958 to 986.

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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

An Icelandic Epic Predicted a Fiery End for Pagan Gods, and Then This Volcano Erupted

The Codex Regius, an Icelandic collection of poems about pagan gods, contains 
a version of the Vǫluspá.
Credit: Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty

A series of Earth-shattering volcanic eruptions in Iceland during the Middle Ages may have spurred the people living there to turn away from their pagan gods and convert to Christianity, a new study finds.

The discovery came about thanks to precise dating of the volcanic eruptions, which spewed lava about two generations before the Icelandic people changed religions.

But why would volcanic eruptions turn people toward monotheism? The answer has to do with the "Vǫluspá," a prominent medieval poem that predicted a fiery eruption would help lead to the downfall of the pagan gods, the researchers said.

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Monday, 19 March 2018

Viking expert certain Norse seafarers visited Miramichi, Chaleur Bay

Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, says she believes Vikings had summer camps in New Brunswick's Miramichi and Chaleur Bay area. 
(Contributed/Rob Ferguson)

Did Vikings visit New Brunswick's Miramichi and Chaleur Bay areas? According to the research done by Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, they did. 

"I'm really convinced that the Vikings did visit that area. Not all my colleagues would agree with me," said the woman who's been studying Vikings for 50 years.

While she is certain the Vikings did spend time in Miramichi and Chaleur Bay, she says she is not hopeful of ever finding anything to prove it.

Wallace said she determined that the second location that Vikings visited in North America, known as "Hóp," meaning "tidal lagoon," was in the Miramichi and Chaleur region after she studied the Vikings sagas. She also drew on her extensive work at L'Anse aux Meadows, located on the very northern tip of Newfoundland. 

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Archaeologists Closer to Finding Lost Viking Settlement

The only known Viking site in North America is located at L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. It was declared a World Heritage site.
Credit: WendyCotie/Shutterstock

A lost Viking settlement known as "Hóp," which has been mentioned in sagas passed down over hundreds of years, is said to have supported wild grapes, abundant salmon and inhabitants who made canoes out of animal hides. Now, a prominent archaeologist says the settlement likely resides in northeastern New Brunswick.

If Hóp is found it would be the second Viking settlement to be discovered in North America. The other is at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland.

Over the decades, scholars have suggested possible locations where the remains of Hóp might be found, including Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick (on the east coast of Canada), Nova Scotia, Maine, New England and New York. However, using the description of the settlement from sagas of Viking voyages, along with archaeological work carried out at L'Anse aux Meadows and at Native American sites along the east coast of North America, an archaeologist has narrowed down the likely location of Hóp to northeastern New Brunswick. The likeliest location there? The Miramichi-Chaleur bay area. 

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Thursday, 8 February 2018

Mass grave of Viking army contained slaughtered children to help dead reach afterlife, experts believe

The grave of the four youngsters who may have been killed in a burial ritual  
CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL 

A mass grave of Viking warriors found in Derbyshire was accompanied by slaughtered children in a burial ritual enacted to help the dead reach the afterlife, archaeologists believe.

Experts from the University of Bristol have reexamined a huge pit of bones uncovered in the 1970s and 80s in Repton.

Examinations at the the time suggested the grave spanned centuries, but new radiocarbon analysis has revealed the skeletons actually belong to soldiers from the Great Viking Army, which drove Burgred, the king of Mercia into exile in 873AD.

The excavators also found four youngsters aged between eight and 18 buried together in a single grave with a sheep jaw at their feet, which they dated to the same period. At least two showed signs of traumatic injury suggesting they may have been sacrificed in a ritual to accompany the dead.
Bristol archaeologist Cat Jarman said: “The grave is very unusual. I don't know of any examples of four young people buried in a single grave like this from anywhere else in England in this period.

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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Viking imported finds discovered in cemetery works


EXPANSION WORKS OF BYNESET CEMETERY AT STEINE CHURCH IN TRONDHEIM, NORWAY HAS LED TO THE DISCOVERY OF AN IMPORTED CLASP OR BROOCH DATING FROM THE VIKING ERA.

The find is thought to be a gold-plated silver fitting from a book brought to the area during the Viking age.

Raymond Sauvage from NTNU’s Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, and the project manager for the excavations said “We know that the Vikings went out on raids. They went to Ireland and brought things back”

“You don’t make discoveries like this everywhere. There are only a few areas where people had the resources to go out on such voyages.”

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Monday, 5 February 2018

Radiocarbon dating reveals mass grave did date to the Viking age

A team of archaeologists, led by Cat Jarman from the University of Bristol's Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, has discovered that a mass grave uncovered in the 1980s dates to the Viking Age and may have been a burial site of the Viking Great Army war dead.


One of the female skulls from the Repton charnel [Credit: Cat Jarman]

Although the remains were initially thought to be associated with the Vikings, radiocarbon dates seemed to suggest the grave consisted of bones collected over several centuries. New scientific research, published in Antiquity, now shows that this was not the case and that the bones are all consistent with a date in the late 9th century. Historical records state that the Viking Great Army wintered in Repton, Derbyshire, in 873 A.D. and drove the Mercian king into exile.

Excavations led by archaeologists Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle at St Wystan's Church in Repton in the 1970s and 1980s discovered several Viking graves and a charnel deposit of nearly 300 people underneath a shallow mound in the vicarage garden.

The mound appears to have been a burial monument linked to the Great Army.

An Anglo-Saxon building, possibly a royal mausoleum, was cut down and partially ruined, before being turned into a burial chamber.

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This Mass Grave May Belong to 'Great Viking Army'

Bones are yielding new clues about the massive, mysterious Viking forces that invaded England.

A photo taken at a 1982 excavation of the gravesite shows remains from what may belong to the Great Viking Army. 
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTIN BIDDLE

For years, archaeologists were stumped. What happened to the Great Viking Army, a massive force that seized great swaths of England in the 9th century but left barely a trace?
Archaeologists now report that a mass grave in England may contain nearly 300 Viking warriors—the only remains of the Great Viking Army’s warriors ever found.Archaeologists first uncovered the burial site in the 1980s, in Derbyshire, England, and thought it might contain remains from the Great Viking Army, also known the Great Heathen Army. But there was one problem—radiocarbon dating of the site revealed that the remains were too old to be Viking invaders.
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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Midlands mass grave was burial site for Viking 'Great Heathen Army' war dead, new study reveals

The powerful Norse army was sent to invade the four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that constituted England in 865 AD.

One of the female skulls excavated from the Repton burial site Cat Jarman 

In the 70s, a mysterious mass grave complex, containing the remains of hundreds of people, was unearthed by archaeologists in Repton, Derbyshire. The initial signs indicated that the burial site was associated with a Viking army, however, radiocarbon dating seemed to pour cold water on this hypothesis, suggesting that the bones had actually been left there over several centuries.

Now, new research has revealed that, in fact, the remains are consistent with a date in the 9th century. Based on these findings, Cat Jarman and colleagues from the University of Bristol's Department of Anthropology and Archaeology suggest that the mass grave was a burial site for the war dead of the Viking Great Army.

This military force – known by the Anglo-Saxons as the Great Heathen Army – was a powerful coalition of Norse warriors mainly originating from Denmark, although some came from Sweden and Norway, who banded together under a unified command to invade the four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that constituted England in 865 AD.


Historical records indicate that this army spent the winter at Repton in 873 AD, driving the king of Mercia – one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, centred on the midlands – into exile in the process.

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Melting Glaciers Could Reveal How Our Ancestors Dealt With Changing Climates

While some archaeologists dig with trowels and shovels, others use a warming planet to their advantage.


Archaeologist holding a c. 1400-year-old arrow, lost reindeer hunting in the high mountains of Oppland, Norway, during the Late Antique Little Ice Age. 
PHOTOGRAPH BYJULIAN MARTINSEN, SECRETS OF THE ICE OPPLAND COUNTY COUNCIL

When Lars Pilø, co-director of the Glacier Archaeology Program at Oppland County Council, noticed Norway was experiencing a particularly warm autumn in 2006, the archaeologist turned to the mountains. If climate change was thawing glacial ice, what did that mean for the artifacts that were emerging from the melt? So, starting officially in 2011, Pilø and an international team took to Norway's icy Jotunheimen and Oppland mountains to see what ancient objects they could rescue from the snowmelt.

Over the years, the archaeologists uncovered thousands of artifacts, some of which date back 6,000 years. Since the ice acts like a giant freezer and preserves the objects, the finds look like they could have been uncovered yesterday. (Read: "Alaska's Thaw Reveals—And Threatens—A Culture's Artifacts")

"The moment these artifacts melt out of the ice, they're immediately vulnerable to the elements," says James H. Barrett, a University of Cambridge environmental archaeologist.

The glacier archaeologists detailed their findings in a Royal Society Open Science paper published January 24. Pilø and Barrett are authors on the paper.

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Friday, 2 February 2018

Bones clue to 'lost' Viking army which made England

The mass grave was first excavated in the 1970s and 80s
Martin Biddle

A lost Viking army which was a "key part" of the creation of England may have been identified by archaeologists.

More than 250 skeletons found at St Wystan's church, Repton, Derbyshire, have been dated to the 9th Century.

Chronicles state a "large heathen army" began to hack its way across England in 866AD, toppling Anglo-Saxon kings until being halted by Alfred the Great.

Cat Jarman from the University of Bristol said: "This army had left almost no trace, but maybe here it is."

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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Unique Viking runes discovered in Denmark

Runologist and senior researcher Lisbeth Imer takes a closer look at the newly discovered runes.  (Video: Kristian Højgaard Nielsen)


“These are the runes we’ve been missing,” says archaeologist.

A comb with a runic inscription of the word “comb,” perhaps doesn’t sound so sensational. But it is.

The comb dates to the early Viking Age around 800 CE. Just a handful of runic texts from this period exists.

The comb was discovered during excavations of a Viking Age market place in Denmark’s oldest town Ribe.

Alongside the comb, archaeologists also discovered a runic inscription on a small plate of bone or antler.

Together, the two objects reveal details from a crucial period of Viking history, says archaeologist and excavation leader Søren Sindbæk from Aarhus University, Denmark.

“These are the runes we’ve been missing. We’ve waited generations to be able to dig into this,” says Sindbæk.

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Viking-Era Stone Carved with Runes Found in Norway

This whetstone (a stone used for sharpening knives) has letters known as runes engraved on it, archaeologists found. Discovered recently during excavations in Oslo, the stone dates back to the Middle Ages, a time when the Vikings flourished in Norway
Credit: Karen Langsholt Holmqvist/NIKU

A stone carved with symbols known as runes and dating to the Middle Ages has been discovered during an excavation ahead of a railway-construction project in Oslo, Norway.

The runes, which were found engraved on a whetstone (a stone used for sharpening knives), date to sometime around 1,000 years ago when the Vikings (also called the Norse) flourished in Norway. The runic writing system conveyed a language and could be used to record and convey information as well as cast spells. Each rune formed a letter or sign and a combination of runes could spell out a word. Who engraved the runes on this newly discovered stone is unknown.

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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Bronze Age Arrows and a Viking Sword – The 2017 Fieldwork Was Awesome!

The Storfonne ice patch, photographed in September 2014 during a major melt. Notice the light grey lichen-free zone surrounding the ice. This area was exposed by ice melt in the last 15-20 years. Photo: Lars Pilø, Secrets of the Ice/Oppland County Council.

Both sites had only seen short visits prior to this field-season. This had resulted in a number of artifact recoveries, especially arrows, found close to the melting ice. However, we knew that there were other finds on these sites, and that they were lying on the surface, exposed to the elements. The main job would be to rescue these artefacts. To achieve this, we planned to conduct a systematic and thorough survey of the lichen-free zone (where the ice has melted recently) surrounding the ice on both sites.

The Lauvhøe ice patch

The Lauvhøe ice patch was up first. The earliest finds from this site were reported in 2007: three arrows, dating to the Iron Age and the medieval period. Even with these remarkable finds, the site had to wait ten years for a proper systematic survey. This may sound harsh, but with the short time window available for surveys each year, other sites with more and older finds had to be surveyed first. Lauvhøe’s turn had finally come this year.

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Monday, 15 January 2018

Viking centre discovered in Cork city predates Waterford settlement

The latest discoveries at the South Main Street site confirm Cork’s significance in the Hiberno-Norse world, archaeologist says

Cork was a significant centre for Vikings in Ireland with an urban centre that predates the Viking settlement in Waterford, a new report on the excavation of the city’s event centre has revealed.

According to the report by Cork City Council executive archaeologist, Joanne Hughes, the latest discoveries at the South Main Street site confirm Cork’s significance in the Hiberno-Norse world.

In the report presented to members of Cork City Council, Ms Hughes said that excavation of the site by archaeologist Dr Maurice Hurley for developers BAM, was highly revealing about Cork’s past.

She explained that the site of the former Beamish and Crawford Brewery adjacent to the south channel of the Lee had been divided into three separate sections for excavation purposes.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Viking Spear from the Lendbreen Ice Patch


The Lendbreen ice patch, September 1974. Young student Per Dagsgard from Skjåk was visiting the ice patch to search for remains from ancient reindeer hunting. Little did he know that he would make the archaeological discovery of a lifetime on this day – a find still surrounded by mystery.

The Discovery

Dagsgard hiked from the valley up to the ice patch in about two hours. When he arrived at the lake in front of the ice, he could see that the ice patch had melted back considerably in the previous years.

Dagsgard went around the lake and came close to the lower part of the ice patch. He suddenly saw a long wooden stick lying among the stones. A large iron object was situated at one end of the stick. When he got closer, it became clear to him that it was a complete spear, with both the spearhead and the shaft preserved. As Dagsgard had a keen interest in history, he knew that Viking Age arrowheads had been found at the Lendbreen ice patch previously. His immediate thought was that the spear dated to the Viking Age as well. He was right.

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Monday, 27 November 2017

Denmark’s first Viking king printed in 3D

Gorm the Old’s bones are printed in a range of colours (Photo: Marie Louise Jørkov)

For the first time ever, bones from the famous Danish Viking king, Gorm the Old, have been reconstructed and printed in 3D.

Gorm the Old was the first to call himself king of Denmark. He was also the first to use the name ‘Denmark’ for the country he reigned over for decades until his death in 958 CE.

Even though the bones are damaged and parts of the skeleton are missing, being able to hold pieces of one of Denmark’s greatest kings is a unique experience, says archaeologist Adam Bak, curator at Kongernes Jelling, National Museum of Denmark, who facilitated the reconstruction.

“It’s a great feeling to stand with them in your hand, turning them over, and looking at them. From a pure science communication perspective, it’s so much better to have a ‘real’ bone in your hand than to read a dry text about a, historical person. I can’t deny that I’ve also played Hamlet with his skull,” says Bak.

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Archaeologists uncover ancient Viking camp from the 870s in village of Repton

University of Bristol students excavated a Viking camp dating to a winter in the 870s (PA)

A Viking camp that dates back to the 870s has been been unearthed by archeologists in the small village of Repton in Derbyshire.

The new discoveries were located at a campsite in the village, which has been known about since the 1970s.

Techniques including ground penetrating radar were used to reveal evidence for workshops and ship repairs over a much larger area.

A team from the University of Bristol also discovered structures, dating from the winter of 873-874, such as paths and possible temporary buildings.

Excavations showed these to be gravel platforms that may have held temporary timber structures or tents.

There were fragments of Saxon millstones and a cross fragment from the monastery, as well as broken pieces of weaponry including fragments of battle-axes and arrows.

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New Research on Viking Army Camp at Repton

(Courtesy Cat Jarman)

Archaeologists have turned up new evidence about a ninth-century Viking overwintering camp in the Derbyshire village of Repton, according to a report from Yahoo News. The site, which was occupied by a Viking army in the winter of 873-4, was previously excavated starting in the 1970s and was thought to have been limited to a fortified D-shaped enclosure measuring just a few acres. Now, a team from the University of Bristol has found evidence of structures and activities including metalworking and ship repair in the area outside this enclosure. Among the items found there were lead gaming pieces, fragments of battle-axes and arrows, and nails with roves, which are a telltale feature of Viking ship nails. The finds show that the Viking camp was larger and host to a wider range of activities than had been previously known, said Cat Jarman of the University of Bristol. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, when the Vikings arrived in Repton in 873, they drove the Mercian king Burghred overseas. The researchers also confirmed that a mass grave at the site containing at least 264 people dates to the time of the overwintering camp and likely holds Viking war dead. For more on the Vikings in England, go to “Vengeance on the Vikings.”

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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

When the Gloves Come Off – Why We Do Not Use Gloves to Handle Artifacts in the Field


Ever since we started publishing pictures of our crew holding artifacts without using gloves, we have taken some heat in the Facebook comment sections. People have been worrying (or even cringing) about bad effects of touching the artifacts with bare hands. Their worry is that this could contaminate the artifacts with body oils or DNA. This blogpost explains why using gloves in the field is not necessary.

Body oils and other residues

When artefacts are handled in museums, you will see the museum staff wearing gloves while holding the objects. This is done to protect the artifacts from getting into contact with body oils and other residues on the person’s hand. It may seem like an obvious conclusion that the artifacts should also be handled wearing gloves in the field. However, this is rarely seen in practice. Why is there a difference in procedures?

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Haggis originally brought to Scotland by Vikings, an award winning Scottish butcher argues

ICELANDIC “SLÁTUR” A Scottish butcher argues the Scottish national dish, Haggis, was originally brought to Scotland by Vikings, making it a descendant of the Viking delicacy still eaten in Iceland, slátur. Photo/Arnþór Birkisson.

ICELANDIC “SLÁTUR” A Scottish butcher argues the Scottish national dish, Haggis, was originally brought to Scotland by Vikings, making it a descendant of the Viking delicacy still eaten in Iceland, slátur. Photo/Arnþór Birkisson.

A Scottish butcher who has spent the past few years researching Haggis recipes argues it dates back to the Viking invaders of the British Isles the UK newspaper The Telegraph reports. The paper argues the research of award-winning Scottish butcher Joe Callaghan, who has spent the last three years studying haggis shows “Scotland’s national dish is an ‘imposter’… invented by Vikings”. Callaghan also argues the original Scottish ingredient is deer, not sheep.
The "natonal dish of Scotand", invented by Vikings

Haggis is a dish very similar to the Icelandic delicacy slátur: A sausage made by stuffing a sheep's stomach with diced innards of sheep, liver as well as lungs and heart, mixed with a oatmeal, onion, pieces of sheep suet (solid white fat) as well as seasoning. Haggis is considered the “national dish” of Scotland, occupying an important place in Scottish culture and national identity.

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Scotland's national dish is an 'imposter' and was invented by Vikings, claims master butcher

Scotland’s famous national dish is an ‘imposter’ and has been faking it as native for centuries, says an award-winning butcher


Scotland’s famous national dish is an ‘imposter’ and has been faking it as native for centuries, says an award-winning butcher who has traced haggis and its recipe back to Viking invaders.

Joe Callaghan, of Callaghans of Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, has been researching the savoury pudding for three years and claims that the evidence is clear - haggis should be made with deer, not sheep.

He also claims it was not invented by the Scots, but was instead left behind by marauding Norsemen as they plundered the Scottish coastline during the ninth century.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The small piece of silver was found at a Viking fortress in Køge, Denmark.

The box brooch on the left was found in a grave at Fyrkat, Denmark. The silver fitting discovered at Borgring, on the right, is almost identical to the ornamentation at the front of the Fyrkat box brooch. (Photo: Nationalmuseet/Museum Sydøstdanmark)

A small silver fitting has been found during excavations of the Viking fortress “Borgring” in Køge, east Denmark. It resembles one of the three missing parts of a distinctive Gotlandic box brooch previously discovered at the Fyrkat fortress in Hobro, north of Borgring.

The Fyrkat grave was one of Denmark’s richest female graves from the Viking Age, and belonged to a shaman or sorceress who the Vikings would have held in extremely high regard.

If the silver fitting found at Borgring really did originate from the same box brooch it would suggest that the woman had travelled between the castles, which were presumably built by Harold Bluetooth--king of Denmark between 958 and 987 CE.

“It will be incredible if this fitting is connected with the find from Fyrkat. If this really is where it comes from then it’s like finding a needle in the ocean,” says archaeologist Jeanette Varberg, a curator at Moesgaard Museum, Denmark. Varberg was not involved in the excavations at Borgring.

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