Sunday, 15 November 2015

Viking link to the North East of Scotland

Their exploits are more linked to the Northern Isles and the west coast of Scotland, with monastries raided, islanders murdered and gold and silver plundered. But new research - and a clutch of archaeological finds - has now suggested that the North East may not have escaped the fury of the Norsemen afterall. 

Vikings in Scotland have been more associated with the Northern Isles and the west coast, but research suggests they may have had a foothold in the north east too  [Credit: The Scotsman] 

Academics at Aberdeen University have been working to fill the “blank space” of Viking activity in Aberdeenshire and Moray, with written history barely touching on the area so far. Using finds recorded through the Treasure Trove system and the input a team of metal detectors in the North East, a picture of possible Viking activity in the old Pictish Kingdom of Fortriu during the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries is now emerging. 

Dr Karen Milek, senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We tend to think of Viking activity in Scotland as linked to the Northern Isles or the raids on monasteries such as Iona. We have such a good understanding of Norse culture from the Atlantic coast but no one has been talking about the North East.”

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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Explore 4,500 British Museum artifacts with Google's help

The British Museum in London holds an array of beautiful and historically significant artifacts including the Rosetta Stone, which helped historians to understand the ancient hieroglyphics used in Egypt. Today, the organisation is teaming up with Google to bring its various collections online as part of the Google Cultural Institute. The search giant has been developing this resource for years by continually visiting and archiving exhibits around the world. With the British Museum, an extra 4,500 objects and artworks are being added to its collection, complete with detailed photos and descriptions.
The most important addition is arguably the Admonitions Scroll, a Chinese text which dates back to the 6th-century. The piece is incredibly fragile, so it's only visible in the museum for a few months each year. Through the Cultural Institute, you can take a peek whenever you like -- and because it's been captured at "gigapixel" resolution you can zoom in to see some extraordinary details. All of the objects are searchable on Google's site, along with a couple of curated collections about ancient Egypt and Celtic life in the British Iron Age.
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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Detectorist finds hoard of 5,000 Anglo-Saxon coins

A hoard of more than Anglo Saxon 5,000 coins have been unearthed, including what may be a unique penny. The discovery, near Lenborough, Buckinghamshire is said to be the biggest hoard of coins in modern times. 

A hoard of more than Anglo Saxon 5,000 coins have been unearthed, including what  may be a unique coin. The 5,248 coins were found by Paul Coleman on  December 21 last year [Credit: Kerry Davies/INS News Agency Ltd] 

It includes a uniquely-stamped coin which may be the results of a mix-up at the mint, more than 1,000 years ago. No valuation has officially been placed on the coins, which have formerly been declared as treasure trove, but some experts believe they could be worth more than £1 million. 

The 5,248 coins were found by metal detector enthusiast Paul Coleman on December 21 last year. He almost decided not to dig the site when his metal detector beeped, believing he had come across a hidden manhole cover.

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Sunday, 8 November 2015

Viking longhouse discovered in East Iceland

Archeological excavations have pointed to the discovery of a Viking longhouse from the age of settlement in Iceland in Stöð, Stöðvarfjörður in East Iceland. 
On the local website, Fjarðarbyggð, it says that clues about extremely important archeological findings had appeared. An archeologist at the site says that all conclusions point to the fact that the longhouse is the settlement longhouse mentioned in the ancient Landnáma, the medieval book of settlement. The farm at Stöð is thought to be the first settlement longhouse in East Iceland.
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Thursday, 29 October 2015

Amateur archaeologist finds Viking treasure on Danish island

It’s very rare to have found so many Harald Bluetooth coins (photo: Museum Vestsjælland)

A Danish amateur archaeologist has made a stunning find on the island of Omø just off the coast of southern Zealand.
The discovery – which consists of rare silver treasure dating back to the Viking era – was made when Robert Hemming Poulsen paid a work trip to Omø to lay fibre optic cables. He brought his metal detector along and hunted for buried treasure after work.
“A treasure like this is found once every 10-15 years,” said Hugo Hvid Sørensen, a curator from Museum Vestsjælland, where the treasure is now on display. “It contains many items and is extremely well kept because it has been buried in sandy earth.”
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Hiker stumbles upon ‘extraordinary’ 1,200-year-old Viking sword

After more than a millennium buried in the snow of Norway’s mountains, a surprisingly well-preserved sword sheds light on the Viking age

Viking sword found by a hiker in Hordaland, Norway. Photograph: Hordaland County Counci

Some time near AD750, someone left a Viking sword along a mountain plateau in southern Norway. On a late October day more than 1,250 years later, a hiker named Goran Olsen picked it up.
The Hordaland County council announced this week that the hiker had discovered the sword in surprisingly pristine condition among the rocks of an old road in Haukeli, as he stopped to rest along an old road through the region’s mountains and valleys.
“It’s quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking age that are so well-preserved,” county conservator Per Morten Ekerhovd told CNN. “It might be used today if you sharpened the edge,” he added.
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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

1,200-year-old Viking sword discovered by hiker

This sword dating from c. 750 AD was discovered by a hiker in Norway. An archaeologist said the artifact was an important example of the Viking age.

A sword is probably the last thing you'd expect to find on a hike -- especially one that's more than a millennium old.
But that's what happened to a man in Norway who recently stumbled across a 1,200-year-old Viking sword while walking an ancient route.
The find, which dates from approximately 750 A.D. and is in exceptionally good condition, was announced by Hordaland County Council.
County Conservator Per Morten Ekerhovd described the discovery as "quite extraordinary."
"It's quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking age that are so well-preserved ... it might be used today if you sharpened the edge," he told CNN.
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UK buyer sought to keep Anglo-Saxon brooch in country

An elaborate Anglo-Saxon brooch that is more than 1,000 years old may be exported if a UK buyer is not found who will pay at least £8,000 for it.
The gilt bronze brooch, from the late 8th century, is one of just 12 such ornaments in existence, and it stands out from the rest for the skill and creativity employed in the creation of its unique complex leaf pattern, which could represent the Christian tree of life.
An illustration dating from the same period of the Virgin Mary in the Book of Kells shows her wearing a similar brooch, suggesting they were worn by high-status women.
Experts said the brooch is of outstanding significance for the study of Anglo-Saxon art and material culture, but it could be exported unless a UK buyer matches the £8,460 asking price.
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Friday, 23 October 2015

Hiker finds 1,200-yr-old Viking sword in Norway

A hiker travelling the ancient route between western and eastern Norway found a 1,200-year-old Viking sword after sitting down to rest after a short fishing trip. 

The sword is in such good condition it could be used today  [Credit: Hordaland Country Council] 

The sword, found at Haukeli in central southern Norway will be sent for conservation at the The University Museum of Bergen. 

Jostein Aksdal, an archeologist with Hordaland County said that the sword was in such good condition that if it was given a new grip and a polish, it could be used today. 

“The sword was found in very good condition. It is very special to get into a sword that is merely lacking its grip,” he said.

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Early Medieval Church at Seydisfjordur in Iceland

How to envisage the conversion to Christianity in Iceland? This is the question raised by archaeologist Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir in a recent article presenting the early medieval Þórarinsstaðir church in Iceland

The early Christian church site at Þórarinsstaðir in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, is an example of how religious buildings and their belongings reflect both ecclesiastical and worldly contacts in early medieval Europe.
The site was excavated in 1998–1999 and revealed, for what was then the first time in Iceland, a timber-constructed church building of two phases, dated to the early and late 11th century (Kristjánsdóttir 2004, pp. 84–95). Interestingly, the church buildings at Þórarinsstaðir appeared to be of the same form of construction as that characterizing many of the earliest churches found in Viking settlement areas in Northern Europe: an early type of stave church, here called a post church, notably one built of timber with earth-dug corner posts
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Monday, 12 October 2015

When archaeologists found the first Viking Age fortress in Denmark for 60 years last September, it was hailed as a fantastic archaeological discovery.
Now the time has come for the archaeologists to unearth the hidden secrets and legacy of the fortress, located near Køge just south of Copenhagen. A 20 million kroner grant from the AP Møller Fund and 4.5 million kroner from Køge Municipality has helped make that possible.
“With the grant, the Danish Castle Centre – a division of Museum Southeast Denmark and Aarhus University – has worked out a unique research project seeking to explore the secrets Borgring is hiding beneath Danish soil,” the Danish Castle Centre said.
“With the use of modern archaeological methods the scientists and archaeologists will investigate how the fortresses were used, how they were organised, how quickly they were built, their age and what environment, landscape and geography they were a part of.”
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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Lewis chessmen might be Icelandic in origin

Carbon dating of walrus bones found in Snæfellsnes peninsula indicates that the bones are at least 2000 years old. A large number of walrus skulls and walrus tusks have been found around Garðafjara beach on the south coast Snæfellsnes. The first skull was discovered 1884. All in all the bones of 50 walruses have been found, most in the past 50 years. Biologists argue this indicates Snæfellsnes was the home of a sizable walrus colony prior to the settlement of Iceland. 

The Lewis Chessmen: A ferocius berserker (rook), a stern king  and a contemplative queen 
[Credit: WikiCommons] 

A previous theory, explaining the concentration of bone discoveries, speculated they came from the wreck of a ship which had been carrying walrus bones to Europe. However, the existence of a large walrus colony in Iceland would have meant the accumulation of walrus skeletons and skulls which would have been discovered by the Viking age settlers of Iceland. 

Hilmar J. Malmquist, the chief of the Icelandic Natural History Museum points out in an interview with the local newspaper Fréttablaðið that such graveyards of walrus bones could also explain references to walruses in Icelandic place names, shedding light on the possible use of walrus ivory by the early settlers of Iceland who could have had access to domestic ivory found in such bone yards.

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Monday, 14 September 2015

Viking treasure hoard unearthed in Wales

A hoard of historic Viking treasure has been unearthed near Caernarfon in Gwynedd, Wales. The haul, which includes ancient ingots and fragments of coins dating back almost a thousand years to the time of King Cnut the Great, was found by treasure hunter Walter Hanks from Llanllyfni using a metal detector in Llandwrog back in March. 

Part of the hoard of Viking silver found near Caernarfon  [Credit: Robin Maggs] A total of fourteen silver pennies produced at Dublin under the Hiberno-Scandinavian ruler Sihtric Anlafsson (989-1036), which archeologists say are rarely found on the British mainland, also make up part of the find. Eight of the coins date back to A.D. 995 while the other six were believed to have been produced in A.D 1018. 

Experts believe that the hoard was purposely buried in the ground between 1020 and 1030 in a bid to store the silver - and could even have been used as part of a burial ritual. Earlier today, the astonishing discovery was officially declared treasure by the North West Wales coroner Dewi Pritchard-Jones during an inquest at Caernarfon.

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Sunday, 2 August 2015

New research on the causes of the Viking Age

The Viking hit-and-run raids on monastic communities such as Lindisfarne and Iona were the most infamous result of burgeoning Scandinavian maritime prowess in the closing years of the Eighth Century. 

The Vale of York Cup - a Christian vessel from northern mainland Europe that was  probably held by Scandinavians for some time after its capture, before finishing  its life as the receptacle for a large silver hoard buried in Yorkshire  [Credit : York Museums Trust] 

These skirmishes led to more expansive military campaigns, settlement, and ultimately conquest of large swathes of the British Isles. But Dr Steve Ashby, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wanted to explore the social justifications for this spike in aggressive activity. 

Previous research has considered environmental, demographic, technological and political drivers, as well as the palpable lure of silver and slave and why these forms of wealth became important at this stage. 

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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

New research on the causes of the Viking Age

The Viking hit-and-run raids on monastic communities such as Lindisfarne and Iona were the most infamous result of burgeoning Scandinavian maritime prowess in the closing years of the Eighth Century.

These skirmishes led to more expansive military campaigns, settlement, and ultimately conquest of large swathes of the British Isles. But Dr Steve Ashby, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wanted to explore the social justifications for this spike in aggressive activity.

Previous research has considered environmental, demographic, technological and political drivers, as well as the palpable lure of silver and slave and why these forms of wealth became important at this stage.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The last Viking and his 'magical' sword?

Have you held the sword? Have you felt its weight? Have you felt how sharp and strong the blade is?

 Langeidsverdet helfigur 
[Credit: Ellen C. Holthe, Museum  of Cultural History, University of Oslo]

 A deadly weapon and symbol of power -- jewellery for a man, with magical properties. The sword gave power to the warrior, but the warrior's strength could also be transferred to the sword. That is how they were bound together: man and weapon, warrior and sword. 

This sword was found in Langeid in Bygland in Setesdal in 2011. It is a truly unique sword from the late Viking Age, embellished with gold, inscriptions and other ornamentation. The discovery of the sword has not been published until now, when it is being displayed for the first time in the exhibition 'Take It Personally' at the Historical Museum in Oslo. 

The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man in the late Viking Age. But who was he and what magic inscriptions are set into the decoration -- in gold? Was the owner of the sword in the Danish King Canute's army when it attacked England in 1014-15?

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Sunday, 12 July 2015

Viking-age hut found in Reykjavik

Archaeologists digging on Lækjargata in central Reykjavik were looking for traces of a farm cottage built in 1799 – and found a Viking longhouse from some 900 years earlier.

The longhouse is at least 20 m long at 5.5m wide at it widest point. The ‘long fire’ in the centre of the hut is one of the largest ever found in Iceland, which visible traces suggesting it was over 5.2 m long.

“This find came as a great surprise for everybody,” says Þor­steinn Bergs­son, Managing Director of Minja­vernd, an independent association working for the preservation of old buildings in Iceland. “This rewrites the history of Reykjavik.”

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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

You(r) Archaeology – portraying the past

“You(r) Archaeology – portraying the past” - A European competition to express your view.

What is archaeology? An adventure? A pain in the neck? The appeal of the past, the magic of marvellous sites, the boredom of a dusty museum? Probably all of these together, and still more.

Up until July 31st 2015, all European citizens can answer the question and tell us about their idea of archaeology by entering a drawing, painting, photo or video in the European competition “You(r) Archaeology”.

Further details...

Monday, 29 June 2015

Rare Viking relic discovered at Perthshire dig

ARCHAEOLOGISTS delving into Scottish history believe they have discovered a rare object at a Viking-age longhouse in Perthshire

The small circular stone, with a central hole - thought to be a spindle whorl - was found by Diana McIntyre, who was on a dig with Glenshee Archaelogy Project at Lair in Glenshee.

A spindle whorl, was a weight fitted to a spindle while hand spinning textiles to increase and maintain the speed of the spin.

The stone, which is only around 5cm in diameter, has been carefully shaped to be symmetrical, but what has interested the team are the symbols and designs carved onto one surface.

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Dundee experts recreate face of Saxon man at Lincoln Castle

Facial reconstruction experts at the University of Dundee have recreated the face of a Saxon man whose skeleton was discovered on the site of an old church at Lincoln Castle.
On Monday 8th June, the new-look castle will be officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal. On that day, a new exhibition will be revealed in the Victorian Prison, sharing some of the archaeological finds unearthed during the Lincoln Castle Revealed project.
As part of the exhibition, experts at the University of Dundee have recreated the face of an Anglo Scandinavian man whose skeleton was discovered on the site of an old church within the castle grounds. The skeleton was one of ten sets of remains discovered.
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Friday, 19 June 2015

1,000-year-old wine pitcher found in Jutland

Ribe’s archaeology never ceases to surprise, and now teams from the University of Aarhus and Sydvestjyske Museum have made yet another unique find during excavations in the city’s oldest burial ground. 

The 1,000-year-old French wine pitcher was found in Ribe during excavations  of the city’s oldest burial ground [Credit: Sydvestjyske Museer] Half a metre underground in a parking lot, wedged between other urns and tombs, they have discovered a perfectly intact French wine pitcher, which is predicted to be around 1,000 years old. 

“It is a unique find,” said Morten Søvsø, the head of archaeology at Sydvestjyske Museum. 

“The pitcher is an example of the finest pottery produced in northern Europe at the time, and it has never been seen before in Denmark. The vessel reveals information about the vast trading network that put Ribe on the map during the Viking era.” 

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British scientists hunt for Viking traces in Norman DNA

British researchers on Monday began collecting the DNA of residents from Normandy in northern France in search of Viking heritage, but the project has raised concerns amongst some local anti-racism activists.
Around a hundred volunteers from the Cotentin Peninsula area are giving DNA samples to academics at the University of Leicester, who are trying to find descendants of the Vikings who invaded what is now Normandy in the 9th century.
The aim is to learn more about "the intensity of the Scandinavian colonisation" in the 9th and 10th centuries in the Cotentin Peninsula, said Richard Jones, a senior history lecturer at the University of Leicester.
That includes trying to find out whether the colonisers kept to themselves or married amongst the locals, he added.
The French volunteers have been chosen because they have surnames that are of Scandinavian origin or that have been present in France since at least the 11th century. They also qualify if all four of their grandparents lived within a 50-kilometre (30-mile) radius of their current home.
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This ancient liquor popular among Vikings may be the answer to antibiotic resistance

Scientists in Sweden are launching their own mead — an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mix of honey and water — based on old recipes they say could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Together with a brewery, the scientists, who have long studied bees and their honey, have launched their own mead drink: Honey Hunter's Elixir.
Lund University researcher Tobias Olofsson said mead had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health.
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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Hunt for Viking DNA among Normandy residents riles anti-racism activists

British scientists searching for evidence of Norse colonisation in the communities of the Cotentin peninsula warn of ‘sensitivities’ over the issue

British researchers on Monday began collecting the DNA of residents from Normandy in northern France in search of Viking heritage, but the project has raised concerns amongst some local anti-racism activists.
Around a hundred volunteers from the Cotentin peninsula area are giving DNA samples to academics at the University of Leicester, who are trying to find descendants of the Vikings who invaded what is now Normandy in the 9th century.
The aim is to learn more about “the intensity of the Scandinavian colonisation” in the 9th and 10th centuries in the Cotentin Peninsula, said Richard Jones, a senior history lecturer at the University of Leicester.
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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Orkney Islanders are 25 percent Norwegian

This is how the populace of the Orkney Islands lived 5,000 years ago. The Stone Age settlement Skara Brae is preserved so well that it is referred to as “Scotland’s Pompeii”. Recently it was discovered that the Orkney Islanders still have a surprising amount of DNA from the people who dwelled there long before the Vikings arrived. (Photo: Georg Mathisen)

They are proud of their Viking ancestors but are not as Norwegian as they might think. The lion’s share of the genes of Orkney Islanders can be traced to the native peoples who lived their several millennia before Norwegians invaded and annexed the islands in the 9th century.
Mapping genes
British and Australian researchers have mapped the genetic structure of today’s Brits. They found that the only place where the Viking inheritance is genetically strong is the Orkney Islands. Orkney were under Norwegian rule for centuries and as a result, 25 percent of Orkney Islanders’ genes can be traced to Norway.
The locals tend to be enthusiastic about their Viking heritage, which has now also been strongly identified in their genes:
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Archaeological find at Norton Bridge turns out to be from Saxon period

RCHAEOLOGISTS have discovered a wooden butter churn lid unearthed at Norton Bridge is from the Saxon period following scientific tests.
Evidence of prehistoric activity was uncovered in the same area of the site and archaeologists believed the butter churn could be from the same period.
But radiocarbon tests have revealed the lid of the butter churn dates from the early medieval period when the area was part of the Mercian kingdom.
The tests have put a fragment of wood found with the lid as dating between AD715-890, so the lid is from the same period as the Staffordshire Hoard.
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The Viking’s grave and the sunken ship

Mapping archaeological digs takes plenty of time and a lot of measuring, photographing, drawing and note taking. Now, most of this work can be done with a technique called photogrammetry. 

Detailed image of a shield boss found in what is likely a Viking’s  grave in Skaun 
[Credit: NTNU University Museum] 

Photogrammetry is a method that uses two-dimensional images of an archaeological find to construct a 3D model. 

You don't need and special glasses or advanced equipment to use make use of this new technique. Together with precise measurements of the excavation, photogrammetry can create a complete detailed map of an archaeological excavation site. 

"This is still a very new technique," say archaeologists Raymond Sauvage and Fredrik Skoglund of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's University Museum. 

Photogrammetry is in many ways much more precise than older, more time-consuming methods.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Fashionable Vikings loved colours, fur, and silk

The year is 873 and Frida is deciding what to wear. Her new red dress is finally ready, as are her freshly polished shell-shaped brooches designed to hold it in place at her shoulders. The dress is the newest cut in Viking fashion.
Of course, we don’t know exactly how such a scenario played out. Nevertheless, to a Viking woman, Frida’s dress in vibrant red with matching brooches could have been hugely popular. In fact, red and blue were among the most popular colours in the Viking Age.
But did the Vikings really have fashion on the mind?
"Yes," says Ulla Mannering from the Centre for Textile Research at the National Museum in Copenhagen.
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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Viking 'forest' language set for Nordic preschool

A rare Nordic language used by a tiny forest community is set to be taught in a preschool in central Sweden. Elfdalian, which shares some similarities with Old Norse is a hot topic at an international linguistics conference in Copenhagen this week, as Scandinavian language experts campaign to stop it dying out.

It might sound like something from Lord of The Rings or The Local's recent April Fool's Day prank but Elfdalian is a real language currently used by around 2500 people in central Sweden and is understood to date back to Viking times.

Previously regarded as a Swedish dialect, leading linguistics experts now consider it a separate language and are battling to save it, after figures emerged that less than 60 children can currently speak it.

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800-year-old rune stick unearthed during excavation of Danish city

The little stick found underneath the streets of Odense, Denmark’s third largest city, is only 8.5 centimetres in length -- but it isn’t just any old stick. The so-called rune stick was made in the early 13th century, said Odense City Museums in a press release.
Archaeologists have been digging for a long time at the excavation beneath I. Vilhelm Werners Square in Odense and they were actually just about to stop when they found three pieces of wood which fitted together to make up the rune stick.
It isn’t easy to decipher what the runes say and the stick itself is extremely fragile, explained rune expert and senior researcher Lisbeth Imer from the National Museum of Denmark in the press release.
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Monday, 27 April 2015

Viking voyages began earlier than thought

Forget about the Viking Age beginning with the brutal sacking of Lindisfarne Priory in 793. According to new research, Norwegian Vikings began long sea voyages at least 70 years earlier, but they came looking for trade not plunder.

Archeologists digging beneath the old marketplace of Ribe, have stumbled upon the remains of reindeer antlers from Norway, which they believe prove trade links with Vikings far to the north. 
"This is the first time we have proof that seafaring culture, which was the basis for the Viking era, has a history in Ribe. It's fascinating," Søren Sindbæk, a professor at the University of Aarhus and one of the others of a new study, told ScienceNordic. 
Sindbæk believes early trading trips between Norway and Denmark gave the Vikings the seafaring skills that would be used some 70 years later to strike England.

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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Reindeer Antlers Suggest Viking Age Began With Trade

Antlers from Norwegian reindeer have been unearthed in Ribe, the oldest commercial center in Denmark. The antlers have been dated to A.D. 725, some 70 years before the Viking raid on the Lindisfarne monastery in northern England. “The Viking Age becomes a phenomenon in Western Europe because the Vikings learned to use maritime mobility to their advantage. They learned to master sailing to such an extent that they get to the coast of England where the locals don’t expect anything. They come quickly, plunder the unprepared victims, and leave again—a sort of hit and run,” Søren Sindbæk of Aarhus University toldScience Nordic. The Norwegian reindeer antlers suggest that Norway’s earliest so-called Vikings developed their maritime skills through trade. “Now we can prove that shipping between Norway and the market town of Ribe was established prior to the Viking era, and trade networks helped to create the incentives and the knowledge of the sea, which made the Viking raids possible. It is the first time that we can clearly link two very important phenomena, the lock and key if you like, of the Viking Age,” he said. For more, see "The First Vikings."

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The Viking Age began in Denmark

The story of the Vikings begins in the year 793 AD, after Norwegian Vikings landed in England on the first official Viking raid. To this day, these fierce raids are the most famous of Viking stories. Now, a new study suggests a more peaceful start to Viking seafaring -- and it all began in Denmark.

 Ribe in Denmark: Scandinavia's first town and central to the beginning  of the Viking Age

Three archaeologists from the University of Aarhus (Denmark) and the University of York (UK) have shown that maritime voyages from Norway to Ribe, the oldest commercial centre in Denmark, occurred long before the Viking age officially began. 

The study shows that early Vikings travelled to Ribe in South Denmark as early as 725 AD. 

The researchers discovered deer antlers in the oldest archaeological deposits of Ribe’s old marketplace and they turned out to be the remains of Norwegian reindeer.

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Saturday, 18 April 2015

South Iceland Cave Made before Settlement

Kverkahellir is close to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Archaeologist Kristján Ahronson has concluded that Kverkarhellir, a manmade cave between waterfall Seljalandsfoss and farm Seljaland in South Iceland, was partly created around 800 AD, before the settlement of Iceland, which, according to sources, began in 874.
Ahronson presented the results of his analysis of volcanic ash layers from around the cave, among other findings, covered in his book Into the Ocean, at the University of Iceland yesterday, RÚV reports.
“We are about to identify a large dump of material that looks like waste material from construction and dates to around 800 or so,” Ahronson explained. “Kverkahellir, along with Seljalandshellir, is remarkable as it is part of a number of cave sites in southern Iceland, manngerðir hellar [‘manmade caves’], that are marked by cross sculpture.”
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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Greenland Vikings outlived climate change for centuries

New study puts down the myth that climate change killed off the thick-skinned Norsemen in Greenland. (Photo: C. K. Madsen)

In the middle of the 13th century the Vikings who had settled in Greenland encountered no less than ten years of harsh and cold winters and summers. The Norsemen, who were living as farmers, bid farewell to many of their cattle during that period.
The Greenland Vikings were also prevented from setting sail to fetch supplies from their homelands in Europe because they didn't have enough timber to build trading ships. So when Scandinavian traders didn't happen to pass by they were left entirely on their own.
But this didn't knock them out; on the contrary they lived with the worsening climate for almost 200 years during what we later would call the Little Ice Age. This is the conclusion of a new Ph.D. thesis.
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Friday, 10 April 2015

Vikings Survived Greenland’s Harsh Weather for Centuries

Vikings in Greenland survived the Little Ice Age for much longer than previously thought, according to comprehensive studies of the landscape conducted by archaeologist Christian Koch Madsen of the National Museum of Denmark. “The stories we have heard so far about the climate getting worse and the Norsemen disappearing simply don’t hold water,” he told Science Nordic. He says that there were no more than 2,500 people living in Greenland in the middle of the thirteenth century. Earlier estimates have placed the population as high as 6,000. “When the harsh climatic changes began to set in, we can see that the outermost farms were gradually abandoned. 

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Friday, 27 March 2015

DNA map of UK migration history shows Vikings drew the line at pillaging

Analysis shows less Viking DNA than expected, and no single group of Celts.

A fine-grained genetic analysis has created a detailed map of genetic variation across the UK. It gives us a clearer picture of the waves of migration that populated the UK and could also contribute to research on genetic diseases.
Obviously, people in the UK these days don’t always stick around where they were born, so people in a given region don’t necessarily share ancestry. But, if you can find people whose ancestry is closely tied to a particular region, it becomes possible to approximate what genomes would have been like a century ago, before people could move around so easily.
A paper published in Nature this week analyzed the genomes of 2039 people whose grandparents were all born within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of one another. This effectively meant that the researchers were sampling the genomes of the grandparents, whose average birth year was 1885 and who obviously had strong ties to a region. This allowed the researchers to investigate the genetic structure of the UK population before the mass movements of last century.
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The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Conquest

The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Conquest:
A Commemoration of 1066

5 - 7 Feb 2016

2016 is the 950th anniversary of the momentous year 1066, which climaxed with the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest of England. The Bayeux Tapestry commemorated the lead-up to that Conquest and we commemorate, in this conference, both historical events and the work of art. We compare The Bayeux Tapestry’s version of history with other sources and examine the cultural milieu that produced and appreciated it. We consider the ways in which the Bayeux Tapestry is unique among medieval textile furnishings; and we examine how The Bayeux Tapestry itself has been and still is being commemorated, from the nineteenth-century replica displayed in Reading to recent and current community projects that portray history in needlework.

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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Local cults of saints played a role in Scandinavian Christianisation

Parchment fragment of a medieval church book. Image: 
Sara Ellis Nilsson/University of Gothenburg

There is a clear link between the celebration of native saints and the ecclesiastical organisation that emerged in Scandinavia in the 12th century. Yet, according to a new doctoral thesis in history from the University of Gothenburg, important differences can be noted between Sweden and Denmark.

Local cults of saints emerged during the Early Middle Ages in the area of Scandinavia that was separated into the ecclesiastical provinces of Lund and Uppsala, roughly corresponding to modern-day Denmark and Sweden. Dioceses and other institutions were established in both provinces in the 11th and 12th centuries.

A Scandinavian perspective

This first-ever comparative study of all 23 native saints in both provinces yields a comprehensive Scandinavian perspective that has been missing in previous research on European cults of saints.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Discovery sheds light on medieval Kiev

When archaeologists performed a routine check on a construction site in central Kiev in late February, they were astonished to discover a medieval street hidden seven meters underground.

Archaeologists from the Kiev Center of Archaeology dig out a 11th-13th century  street on Poshtova Square in Kiev on March 10. The unique findings s how that ancient Kiev was bigger than historians had presumed  [Credit: © Anastasia Vlasova/Kyiv Post]

The remains of the wooden buildings that date back to Kievan Rus were found at the mall construction site at Poshtova Square in the Podil neighborhood near the Dnipro River.

The finding generated excitement among archaeologists and the general public.

“Podil is very well studied, which is why everyone was very surprised when we first saw the fragments of the 12th century wooden fence and house," says Ivan Zotsenko, one of the archaeologists working on the spot.

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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Ring brings ancient Viking, Islamic civilizations closer together

More than a century after its discovery in a ninth century woman’s grave, an engraved ring has revealed evidence of close contacts between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world.

Excavators of a Viking trading center in Sweden called Birka recovered the silver ring in the late 1800s. Until now, it was thought that it featured a violet amethyst engraved with Arabic-looking characters. But closer inspection with a scanning electron microscope revealed that the presumed amethyst is colored glass (an exotic material at the time), say biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer of Stockholm University and his colleagues.

An inscription on the glass inset reads either “for Allah” or “to Allah” in an ancient Arabic script, the researchers report February 23 in Scanning.

Scandinavians traded for fancy glass objects from Egypt and Mesopotamia as early as 3,400 years ago (SN: 1/24/15, p. 8). Thus, seagoing Scandinavians could have acquired glass items from Islamic traders in the same part of the world more than 2,000 years later rather than waiting for such desirable pieces to move north through trade networks.

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Islamic coins found in Viking grave from Norway

In August 2014 a hobby archaeologist found a Viking Age sword with metal detector in a field in Skaun, just south of Trondheim in Central Norway. Now, archaeologists have examined the finding and have some exciting news about the owner. 

The Viking grave [Credit: Ragnar Vennatrø/NTNU Museum  of Natural History and Archaeology] 

Having examined the grave, archaeologists at the NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Trondheim tell NRK that it is dated to about the year 950. In addition to the sword, researchers found the remains of a shield. 

"We have not managed to find out who owned the sword, but we know that he was a well travelled man", says archaeologist Ingrid Ystgaard. 

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