Thursday, 28 May 2020

Melting ice reveals an ancient, once-thriving trade route

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

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

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

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Monday, 18 May 2020

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

Image: © Lars Gustavsen/NIKU)

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, 14 May 2020

Norway to excavate first Viking ship burial mound in 100 years


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

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

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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Norway To Excavate Viking Ship, First Time In 100 Years


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

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

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

A time sensitive project

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

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Tuesday, 5 May 2020

De-faced Skulls and Babies Were Buried in Viking Homes


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

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

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

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Macabre death rituals in the Viking Age

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Sö 90 Runestone, Eskilstuna N, Sweden


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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 3 May 2020

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


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

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

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

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