Thursday, 18 July 2019

Orkney - an archaeologist's paradise

Make your way all the way to the very top of Scotland, and you’ll find John O’Groats. Keep going and you’ll reach Orkney, a collection of 70 small islands and home to some of the most gorgeous scenery in the British Isles.

The islands also have a rich Scandinavian heritage: settled by the Vikings in the ninth century, Orkney is, says Dr Jane Harrison, Lecturer in Archaeology at OUDCE, ‘an archaeologist’s paradise’. Dr Harrison began working on a dig in the islands in 2004, with Dr David Griffiths, Associate Professor in Archaeology at OUDCE, who directed the Birsay-Skaill Landscape Archaeology Project, and Dr Michael Athanson, an archaeologist and map specialist at the Bodleian. The three have just published a major book about the work, Beside the Ocean: Coastal Landscapes at the Bay of Skaill, Marwick, and Birsay Bay, Orkney: Archaeological Research 2003-18 (Oxbow Books, 2019).

The dig location, at the Bay of Skaill on Orkney’s west coast, is ‘stunning’ says Dr Harrison, though often windy: ‘It can be a bit rough but very beautiful.’ From an archaeologist’s point of view, what makes Orkney so interesting is that ‘a lot of the sites are in rural areas that haven’t been touched by development’. Orkney was one of the first areas to be settled by the Vikings when they moved out of Scandinavia, but until the OUDCE team started work, only a small number of their settlement sites had been scientifically investigated. This meant there was a very rich history waiting to be discovered.

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Monday, 15 July 2019

A Man, a Horse And a Dog Found in Extremely Rare Boat Burial Unearthed in Sweden


Not one, but two incredibly rare boat burials have been excavated in Uppsala, Sweden. One of these was still intact, with remains inside of not just a human, but also a dog and even a horse, all in good condition. According to archaeologists, it is a remarkable find, and indicates the burial of a high-status male.

"This is a unique excavation," said archaeologist Anton Seiler of Swedish archaeology firm The Archaeologists. "The last excavation of this grave type in Old Uppsala was almost 50 years ago."

Ship burials are found all across Europe, particularly in Scandinavian countries, but that doesn't mean they were common. They seemed to have been reserved for the upper echelons of society, those of the very highest status. These elite individuals were interred inside a ship, or a smaller boat, often loaded with rich grave goods.

The addition of horses, dogs, and hunting birds was also not uncommon.

"It is a small group of people who were buried in this way," Seiler explained. "You can suspect that they were distinguished people in the society of the time since burial ships in general are very rare."


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Climate change threatens Greenland's archaeological sites: study

Students and scientists investigate materials found at the Norse site Iffiartarfik
[Credit: Roberto Fortuna, National Museum of Denmark]

In Greenland, climate change isn't just a danger to ecosystems but also a threat to history, as global warming is affecting archaeological remains, according to a study published Thursday.

There are more than 180,000 archaeological sites across the Arctic, some dating back thousands of years, and previously these were protected by the characteristics of the soil.

"Because the degradation rate is directly controlled by the soil temperature and moisture content, rising air temperatures and changes in precipitation during the frost-free season may lead to a loss of organic key elements such as archaeological wood, bone and ancient DNA," the report, published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, stated.

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Sunday, 7 July 2019

Viking Burial Ships Uncovered in 'Sensational' Archaeological Find


Archaeologists have discovered two Viking burial ships in the Swedish municipality of Uppsala.

A find of this type is rare in the country. In fact, only around ten discoveries of this kind have been made to date in the Scandinavian nation, according to researchers.

"This is a unique excavation, the last burial ship was examined 50 years ago," Anton Seiler, an archeologist who works with several Swedish museums, told The Local.

The two vessels—which Saeiler describes as a "sensational" find—were excavated near the grounds of a vicarage in the village of Gamla Uppsala last fall.

These types of burials, where individuals were placed in full-sized boats, were not available to the common folk. They are thought to have been reserved for individuals with high status.

"It is a small group of people who were buried in this way," Seiler said. "You can suspect that they were distinguished people in the society of the time since burial shiaps in general are very rare."


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Viking Grave Discovery In Sweden Leaves Archaeologists Stunned

A member of the Arckeologerna team at the grave site in Sweden.

Arckeologerna, National Historical Museums

Swedish authorities have announced the first viking boat grave discoveries in the country in more than fifty years. Archaeologists taking part in a routine dig in Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala), 46 miles (74km) north of Stockholm, were shocked as they unearthed the viking boat graves that included human remains.

There are only a handful of known burial sites of this kind in the country. While rare in Sweden, discoveries of viking burial sites have become more frequent elsewhere in Scandinavia. Last year, Norwegian archaeologists found remains of longhouses and at least one ship lying just below the topsoil near Halden in the south-east of Norway. Just months later, another ship discovery was made on the shores of the Oslofjord at the Midgard Viking Center in Horten.


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Thursday, 4 July 2019

Viking men were buried with cooking gear


Scientists often imagine that men’s and women’s roles during the Viking Age were clearly differentiated, archaeologist Marianne Moen says. “The illustrations show women making food and holding children, while men were active, in battle,” she says. But maybe this wasn’t the way things were. The illustration is from “Vikinger i vest” (Vikings in the West), published in 2009. 
(Illustration: Peter Duun)

What were gender roles like during Viking times? A Norwegian archaeologist thinks we often misinterpret the past based on our current cultural assumptions.
Marianne Moen says that gender roles during Viking times weren’t nearly as differentiated as we might think.

“I think we need to move away from distinguishing between men’s and women’s roles during the Viking times,” she said. Moen has completed her PhD on Viking Age gender roles at the University of Oslo. Her research shows that upper-class men and women generally were buried with the same types of items — including cooking gear.

Moen went through the contents of 218 Viking graves in Vestfold, a county on the southwest side of Oslo Fjord, and sorted the artefacts she found according to type. Many of the graves were richly equipped with everything from cups and plates to horses and other livestock.

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Monday, 3 June 2019

Long-lost Lewis Chessman found in Edinburgh family's drawer


A medieval chess piece that was missing for almost 200 years had been unknowingly kept in a drawer by an Edinburgh family.

They had no idea that the object was one of the long-lost Lewis Chessmen - which could now fetch £1m at auction.

The chessmen were found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 but the whereabouts of five pieces have remained a mystery.

The Edinburgh family's grandfather, an antiques dealer, had bought the chess piece for £5 in 1964.

He had no idea of the significance of the 8.8cm piece (3.5in), made from walrus ivory, which he passed down to his family.

They have looked after it for 55 years without realising its importance, before taking it to Sotheby's auction house in London.

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Lewis chessmen piece bought for £5 in 1964 could sell for £1m

The newly discovered medieval Lewis warder chess piece was missing for almost 200 years. Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Sotheby's/PA

A small walrus tusk warrior figure bought for £5 in 1964 – which, for years, was stored in a household drawer – is a missing piece from one of the true wonders of the medieval world, it has been revealed.

The Lewis chessmen were found in 1831 in the Outer Hebrides and became beloved museum collections in London and Edinburgh. They have also become well known in popular culture from Noggin the Nog to Harry Potter.

But of the 93 pieces found, five were known to be missing. Until now. On Monday the auction house Sotheby’s announced it had authenticated a missing piece and would sell it in July with an estimated value of between £600,000 and £1m.

The missing piece, measuring 8.8cm in height, is a Lewis warder and – 55 years ago – was purchased for £5, about £100 in today’s money.

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Monday, 27 May 2019

Sensasjonell runestein funnet i Østfold

Karoline Kjesrud jobber for å identifisere runene på den slitte runesteinen. 
(Foto: Kulturhistorisk museum, Universitetet i Oslo)

Arkeologer har funnet en runestein som stammer fra 400-tallet, i Øverby i Rakkestad.

Det er uvanlig å finne runesteiner, og så gamle runesteiner er oppsiktsvekkende, mener Danmarks ledende ekspert på runer, Lisbeth Imer.

Den eldste danske runesteinen er fra starten av 700-tallet.

– Det er litt av en sensasjon. Vi er grønne av misunnelse her i Danmark, sier Imer, som er seniorforsker ved det danske Nationalmuseet.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

A gold serpent pendant from Viking Age Denmark

Photo: Southwest Jutland Museums.

This beautiful serpent pendant was recently discovered near Gørding in Denmark by Jean Stokholm and Doris Birch Mathiesen. Fashioned out of gold and decorated using the filigree technique, it most likely dates from the the 10th century AD.

It was originally suspended via a loop formed out of gold wire that was ornamented with a pair of green glass beads. Serpent pendants such as this one are known from across Viking Age Scandinavia and it has been suggested that they may have been associated with fertility or the god Odin (see Graslund, p. 126). This new find now forms part of the Southwest Jutland Museums.

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Sunday, 19 May 2019

The riddle of Winchester Cathedral's skeletons

A reconstruction of Queen Emma's bones is on display but her skull is not completely intact making it too difficult to create a 3D model of her
Image copyright WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

For centuries bones believed to be the remains of Anglo-Saxon and early Norman rulers and bishops have been kept in mortuary chests in Winchester Cathedral.

Over the years the skeletal remains have been mixed up and moved around, resulting in some confusion over whose they are.

Fresh research has now dated the contents of the chests and established that the only bones from a mature female are likely to be those of Queen Emma of Normandy.

But that is only the first piece in a puzzle researchers from the University of Bristol are now trying to solve.

They will use DNA extracted from the bones to try to establish the identity of the other 22 people whose remains were in the wooden caskets.

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Friday, 17 May 2019

'Queen's bones' found in Winchester Cathedral royal chests

The six chests have been found to hold the remains of at least 23 individuals
JOHN CROOK / WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

Bones held in mortuary chests in Winchester Cathedral could include those of an early English queen, researchers have found.

The contents of six chests have been analysed and radiocarbon-dated.

University of Bristol biological anthropologists found they contained the remains of at least 23 individuals - several more than originally thought.

One is believed to be that of Queen Emma who was married to kings of England, Ethelred and Cnut.

Although the chests, originally placed near the high altar, had inscriptions stating who was supposed to be within them, it was known the names bore no relation to the actual contents.

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Thursday, 16 May 2019

Bones unidentified for centuries may belong to one of England’s most historically important queens

Anglo-Saxon bones dating back 1,000 years ( Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral )

Early England’s forgotten monarchs are set for a high-profile comeback – more than 1,000 years after they died.

Scientists are investigating the remains of up to 18 Anglo-Saxon kings and queens to try to determine their identities, potentially including the pivotal figure of Queen Emma. Emma of Normandy was the wife of two kings and the mother of two others, and one of the most significant figures of late Anglo-Saxon England.

The trove is believed to be the largest assemblage of medieval royal skeletal material ever scientifically analysed anywhere in the world.

For hundreds of years, some 1,300 royal and other high status bones have been kept in elaborate wooden caskets in what was, back in Anglo-Saxon times, England’s de facto capital city, Winchester.

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Arctic Vikings Field School- Igaliku, South Greenland


Arctic Vikings Field School- Igaliku, South Greenland
Institute for Field Research
June 22 to July 23 2019
This field school is a four-week adventure in a rugged environment that will provide students with a crash course in Arctic Archaeology. Participants will learn how to identify sites and features through landscape survey, perform “keyhole” excavations, and learn how to document their observations quickly and efficiently. Students will not only learn about archaeological field methods but will also have the chance to interact with the local community and gain insight into emerging issues regarding the impact of global climate change on cultural resources in the Arctic. Due to the ongoing issues surrounding the loss of organic deposits in South Greenland, emphasis will be placed on rapid and efficient intervention techniques in the field. This program is RPA certified (Register of Professional Archaeologists) and will benefit students who plan to pursue cultural resource management work in the future.

Further Details...

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Archeologists believe Norway find is rare Viking ship burial

This handout picture released on March 25, 2019 by Vestfold Fylkeskommune shows Funnplass, 
where a ship's grave probably originated from the Viking Age has been discovered on a plain among the burial mounds in Borreparken in Vestfold, eastern Norway

Archeologists believe they have found a rare Viking ship burial site in a region of Norway known for its Viking-era treasures, Norwegian officials said Monday.

Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), experts found a ship-shaped anomaly near other Viking burial mounds in the Borre Park in Vestfold county, southeast of Oslo.

"The GPR data clearly show the shape of a ship, and we can see weak traces of a circular depression around the vessel. This could point to the existence of a mound that was later removed," Terje Gansum, leader of the department for cultural heritage management in Vestfold county, said in a statement.

He said researchers would carry out further investigations to try and assess the size of the preserved find.

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Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Norway finds another Viking ship


The fields and forests of Borre in Vestfold run along the west side of the Oslo Fjord, in a county that has produced Norway’s other famed Viking ships. 
PHOTO: Vestfold fylkeskommune


On an open field along the Oslo Fjord, among grave mounds from the Viking Age, archaeologists have found what they believe is another buried Viking ship. The discovery was made with the help of georadar that shows a ship-shaped object.

The ship’s form was actually first spotted nearly two years ago, but many examinations were needed in order to confirm that it’s another Viking ship. Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s government minister in charge of climate and the environment, announced the discovery on Monday along with the local Vestfold County Governor Rune Hogsnes.

“It’s not every day we find a new Viking ship, so this is really exciting,” Hogsnes told reporters at a press conference Monday morning. “For us locals it’s no surprise. A lot of treasures from the Viking times are hidden under the turf in our county.”

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Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Home of 7th Century princess unearthed in Coldingham

The dig concentrated on ground around Coldingham Priory in the Borders
DIGVENTURES/AERIAL-CAM

Archaeologists believe they have found remains of the long-lost home of a 7th Century princess in the Borders.

A monastery was founded near the village of Coldingham by Princess Æbbe nearly 1,400 years ago.

It was destroyed by Viking raiders in the 9th Century and previous attempts to pinpoint its location have failed.

However, excavations led by DigVentures have found traces of a large, narrow ditch which they believe was the boundary of the religious settlement.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Yes, That Viking Warrior Buried with Weapons Really Was a Woman

An illustration of what the female warrior may have looked like.
Credit: Drawing by Tancredi Valeri; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.

The ancient warrior was given a prestigious Viking burial, complete with deadly Viking weapons, a bag of gaming pieces (possibly to represent military command) and two horses, one bridled for riding. This mighty warrior — long thought to be be a man — made headlines in 2017 when researchers in Sweden announced that the individual was, in fact, a woman.

The intense scrutiny that followed caught the researchers by surprise.

The barrage of questions from the public and other scientists was unrelenting: Were the researchers sure they had analyzed the right bones? Was there more than one body in the burial, of which one was surely a man? And if the warrior's sex was indeed female, is it possible they were a transgender man? [See Images of the Viking Woman Warrior's Burial]

Now, in a new study published online yesterday (Feb. 19) in the journal Antiquity, the researchers of the original study have reaffirmed their conclusion that this mighty individual was a woman. The new study addresses all the questions people raised, and more.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Archaeologists Make 'Very Special' Viking Era Discovery in Norway


Gjellestad, Norway: The site of the discovery
ERICH NAU, NIKU


Almost one thousand years after the end of the Viking Age, Norwegian archaeologists have made a sensational find near Halden in the south-east of Norway. The burial mound and adjacent field harbour several longhouses and at least one ship burial.

Digital data visualizations reveal the well-defined 20-meter-long ship-shaped structure, with indications that the lower part is well preserved. Incredibly, the ship lies just below the topsoil, with just 50cm separating it from the fresh air.

The discovery was made quite by accident when a local farmer wanted to dig ditches to solve an ongoing drainage problem in a boggy field. In previous years trenches in the area had turned up items of interest, so archaeologists from Østfold county decided to try a non-intrusive method of analysis before giving the work the go-ahead.

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Vikings Were Fearless. Except When It Was Too Cold

Aerial view of the Greenland ice sheet from a helicopter.
Credit G. Everett Lasher / Northwestern

Greenland was balmy when the Vikings invaded, a new study based on isotopes in flies has proven, and they left as the glaciers bore down

Vikings evoke many associations, none of which involve relaxing on the seaside and smelling flowers on a balmy evening. The Scandinavian warriors are more usually perceived as being roughnecks in horned helmets who laughed off subzero temperatures. And maybe they did, but a new study by Northwestern University, published this week in Geology, has proven the theory that when the Vikings braved the violent northern seas and conquered Greenland from auks in the 10th century, the island’s climate was less merciless and more Mediterranean.

Also, the Vikings suddenly disappeared from Greenland in the middle of the 15th century, just as the warm snap was ending and the glaciers were sweeping down. A combination of factors seems to have crushed the formerly prosperous settlement, but cold seems to have been key. They could either go native and become horn-helmeted Inuits, or leave. They left.

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Ancient DNA from Viking Graves Proves the Fierce Fighters Rode Male Horses

Modern Icelandic horses are likely descended from the horses that Vikings were buried with, 
more than 1,000 years ago.
Credit: Albína Hulda Pálsdóttir

Vikings who settled in Iceland more than 1,000 years ago valued their horses so much that the men were buried with their trusty steeds. And DNA analysis of these treasured animals recently proved that the horses consigned to the grave with their manly owners were males, too.
For decades, archaeologists have studied the contents of hundreds of Viking graves in Iceland. Many of these graves also contained the remains of horses that appeared to have been healthy adults when they died.
Because the horses seemed well cared for in life — before they were killed and buried, that is — they were considered to be important to the men whose remains lay nearby. Recently, scientists conducted the first ancient DNA analysis of bones from 19 horses in Viking graves, and found that nearly all of the animals were male, a tantalizing clue about vanished Viking culture
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