Saturday, 17 April 2021

Viking DNA and the dangers of genetic ancestry tests

Just to be clear, these aren’t real Vikings (TM Productions Limited)

Anna Källén, associate professor of archaeology and researcher in heritage studies, Stockholm University; and Daniel Strand, PhD in history of ideas at Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism, Uppsala University 

A Middle-Aged white man raises his sword to the skies and roars to the gods. The results of his genetic ancestry test have just arrived in his suburban mailbox. His eyes fill with tears as he learns that he is ‘0.012 per cent Viking’. These are the scenes from a video advertisement for the TV-series Vikings.

This man is certainly not the only one yearning for a genetic test to confirm his Viking ancestry. A plethora of companies around the world market DNA-tests that promise to provide scientific facts about your identity. These companies often claim to provide a complete view of your ancestry, even though they in reality only compare your DNA with other customers in their database. 

According to recent estimates, over 26 million people from across the world have purchased a genetic ancestry test. In the wake of this hype, researchers have begun to investigate how the tests affect our perceptions of ourselves. How do people make sense of a test result stating that they are, for instance, ’35 per cent Ashkenazi Jewish’, ’27 per cent British’ or ‘4 per cent western Asian’?

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Tuesday, 6 April 2021

To Save Norway’s Stave Churches, Conservators Had to Relearn a Lost Art

For more than 800 years, the stave church of Borgund, Norway, has towered over the surrounding village. Conservators face a constant struggle to protect the historic wooden building from the elements. HÅKON LI

TO STEP INTO ONE OF Scandinavia’s surviving stave churches is to enter the past. Shadows shift and tell stories in the elaborate carvings of intertwined beasts that are hallmarks of the churches’ unique architecture. Sounds reverberate off the timber as if traveling across centuries. The air feels dense with the tang of hewn wood, peat smoke, and pine tar.

As early as the 11th century, builders began erecting these churches all over the region. Much of Europe was raising massive cathedrals of stone during this period, but the Scandinavians knew wood best. While each house of worship was unique, all of them had staves, or load-bearing corner posts joined to vertical wall planks with a tongue-and-groove method.

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Friday, 12 March 2021

Swedish Viking hoard: how the discovery of single Norman coin expands our knowledge of French history


In the autumn of 2020, I was contacted by the field archaeology unit of the Swedish National Historical Museums, who are also known as the Archaeologists. They were excavating at a Viking-age settlement at Viggbyholm just north of Stockholm. During routine metal detecting of the site, they had located a very exciting find: eight silver necklaces and other silver jewellery along with 12 coins, everything delicately wrapped up in a cloth and deposited in a pot. In other words, a genuine Viking silver hoard.

As a professor in numismatics, the study of currency, I have spent my life becoming an expert in coins, so was called to help them learn more about this exciting discovery. It turned out to be a very interesting find. Most of the coins were the types that we usually see in Sweden: English, Bavarian, Bohemian (Czech) and Islamic coins as well as imitations of Islamic coins. But one of the coins was unusual.

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Thursday, 11 March 2021

When unfolded, these ancient gold foil figures reveal embracing couples

Here, the best preserved of the gold foil figures that were recently found at the site of Aska in Sweden. All the figures show couples embracing.
(Image credit: Björn Falkevik)

Archaeologists in Sweden have discovered nearly two dozen gold foil figures that have engravings of couples embracing each other. 

The figures, which date back about 1,300 years, were found in the remains of a great hall on a platform mound, a human-made structure, at the site of Aska in Sweden. The researchers are still trying to piece together the broken figures to uncover more about them.

"Our best estimate is that we have 22 foil figures. The exact number is not quite clear because most are fragmented, and there is some uncertainty as to which fragments go together," Martin Rundkvist, an archaeology professor at the University of Lodz in Poland, wrote in a report recently uploaded to academia.edu, a site where researchers can upload papers. The report has not been published in a peer reviewed journal. 

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Sunday, 21 February 2021

Romanian Authorities Recover ‘Unique’ Stolen Viking Helmet


Romanian police specialising in heritage crimes on February 7 recovered a medieval helmet “of Viking origin” that disappeared a decade ago, and which they called “unique in Romania” and very rare in the rest of Europe in an announcement issued on Friday.

A Romanian expert in historical illustration, Radu Oltean, said the helmet dated from the 11th century. It was first discovered in 2010 during refurbishment work on the river Siret, in northeast Romania, but it was never handed over to the state preservation services and the authorities lost track of it.

The investigation that led to the recovery of the precious item started in December 2020, when police officers got information about its whereabouts.

The helmet “can be dated to between the 11th and the 13 centuries and represents a type of helmet most often found in the Baltics and Kiev Rus,” the police said, offering no additional information on how the helmet disappeared, or where it was kept.

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Viking Warriors in Poland: Overcoming Identity Crisis


Viking Warriors in Poland: Overcoming Identity Crisis

Paper by Leszek Gardeła

Given at the 2019 European Association of Archeologists conference in Bern, in September 2019

Abstract: Since the discovery of a richly furnished Viking Age weapon grave in the cemetery at Ciepłe in Pomerania in the year 1900, there has been an uncritical tendency among many Polish archaeologists to consider male graves with opulent goods and military equipment as belonging to Scandinavian warriors. To this day, numerous scholars are convinced that the people buried with lavishly decorated spurs and horse tack in the cemetery at Lutomiersk in Central Poland also came from Northern Europe or at least that they had strong connections with Scandinavia or Rus. The same conviction pertains to rich weapon graves from places like Luboń and Łubowo in Greater Poland.

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Thursday, 18 February 2021

Viking age artefacts discovered on Isle of Man declared treasure

Kath Giles, left, who found the hoard, and Allison Fox, curator for archaeology at Manx National Heritage, with the Viking age items. Photograph: Manx National Heritage Museum

Hoard found by amateur detectorist dates to AD950 and includes gold arm ring and large silver brooch

A collection of Viking age artefacts has been discovered on the Isle of Man and been declared treasure by the island’s coroner of inquests.

The find, which is considered to be internationally significant and believed to be more than 1,000 years old, consists of a gold arm ring, a large silver brooch, at least one silver armband and other associated finds. They are believed to have been buried in about AD950, and were discovered late last year by an amateur metal detectorist on private land.

As the items have been legally declared as treasure, Manx National Heritage on behalf of the Isle of Man government will be custodians of the finds. The findings will eventually be part of the permanent collections on display at the Manx National Heritage Museum.

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Isle of Man Viking jewellery found by metal detectorist

The items, dating back to 950 AD, include a rare gold arm ring MNH

A "stunning" collection of 1,000-year-old gold and silver Viking jewellery has been discovered on the Isle of Man by a metal detectorist.

Retired police officer Kath Giles made the find on farm land in the north of the island.

The horde includes a gold arm ring and a "massive" silver brooch dating back to 950 AD.

It was unearthed in December but has been revealed for the first time during a coroner's hearing.

Manx National Heritage's curator of archaeology Allison Fox said the arm ring in particular was a "rare find".

Ms Fox said she immediately knew she had found "something very special" and was "thrilled" at the discovery, which is likely to be worth several thousand pounds.

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Sunday, 7 February 2021

Jorvik plans largest online Viking Festival


York Archaeological Trust is planning to host the world’s largest online Viking Festival later this month.

Currently all of its attraction are closed and its annual Viking Festival has been cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

So, instead it is going to host a 6 day festival including chart-topping music, livestreamed events for all ages, virtual tours and the first ever 360 degree immersive video of JORVIK Viking Centre’s world-famous ride through Viking-age York.

“For many people, the February half term is synonymous with Vikings as we’ve been hosting a festival for over 35 years, whether that be families drawn by the thrilling combat displays and spectacle of hundreds of Vikings marching through the city, or academics here for our annual Symposium, where the latest research from all over the world is presented by leaders in the field of Viking studies,” said Gareth Henry, Events Manager for York Archaeological Trust.

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Monday, 1 February 2021

A Viking Archaeologist Shares 6 of the Most Fascinating Finds From a Slew of Recent Discoveries Made in Melting Ice

Archaeologists working to discovered Viking artifacts uncovered by ice melt at the Lendbreen ice patch. Photo courtesy of Secrets of the Ice.

Global warming has unlocked hundreds of Viking artifacts from the ice of the Norwegian mountains in recent years.

In November, archaeologists from the Secret of the Ice project, part of Norway’s Glacier Archaeology Program, discovered 68 arrows spanning a period of 6,000 years—a record for any frozen archaeological site—on the Langfonne ice patch, an ancient Viking hunting ground.

A few months earlier, scientists announced discoveries that had been frozen in the rapidly melting Lendbreen ice patch, which was once part of a Viking trade route.

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Friday, 22 January 2021

Georadar Reveals 15 Burial Mounds And 32 Viking Age Mysteries In Northern Norway

The ground was frozen and the field was covered with a fine layer of snow – 
ideal conditions for this type of archaeological research
[Credit: Arne Anderson Stamnes, NTNU University Museum]



GPR sends electromagnetic signals down into the subsurface, and some of these signals are reflected back when they encounter structures deeper down in the ground. This is how archaeologists obtain a kind of X-ray of objects two to three meters below the surface.

Stamnes quickly finds that the ground here is content rich, to put it mildly.

"The results are astonishingly good and they whet your appetite for more, says Nordland county archaeologist Martinus A. Hauglid.

One of the region's largest burial mounds

"Our findings included traces of 15 burial mounds, and one of them appears to contain a boat grave. Both the size and design of the burial mounds are typical of the period 650 to 950 CE—that is, what we call the Merovingian Period and Viking Age," says Stamnes.

"A lot of the mounds are big. The largest burial mound has an inner dimension of 32 meters and must have been a towering presence in the landscape," he says.

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Monday, 18 January 2021

Birka: The Mysterious Demise of a Majestic Viking Trading Center

 Hill fort in Birka. Part of Birka and Hovgården world heritage site. 

(Arild Vågen/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The Viking Age in Europe brought a lot of key events and innovations, and greatly shaped the future of things that were to come. But there is a popular misconception that the Vikings were all about raiding and pillaging as they sailed to the West and the East. While they did sail all over and raided, traded, and brought kingdoms to their knees, the Vikings were also proficient in many other regards. Their major ports and settlements around Scandinavia were in many ways the hubs of trade and wealth - and Birka was one of the major settlements. An influential trading emporium, Birka was the place where all the goods from Eastern Europe and the Orient were handled, as well as goods from Scandinavia and Finland. Today, its remains lie just 30 kilometers outside of the Swedish capital of Stockholm. What is the story and the fate of this rich Viking city? 

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Monday, 21 December 2020

£1m grant to investigate secrets of Viking-age Galloway hoard uncovered by metal detectorist

pieces from the 10th-century treasure trove, known as the Galloway Hoard, which was found by a metal detectorist in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by NMS in 2017, will go on display in an exhibition next year.

National Museums Scotland (NMS) will carry out the three-year project, entitled “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow to examine the objects in detail.

The 10th-century treasure trove, which was found by a metal detectorist in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by NMS in 2017, will go on display in an exhibition next year.

The research will involve precise dating of the items and, it is hoped, identification of their places of origin, which are thought to range from Ireland to the Byzantine empire and perhaps beyond.

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Researchers win £1m grant to unlock secrets of Viking-era treasure trove


The Galloway Hoard has been acquired by National Museums Scotland.
Photograph: National Museums Scotland/PA 

Researchers in Scotland hope to unlock the secrets of a stunning Viking-age hoard after a receiving a £1m grant to examine the provenance of the 10th century haul that lay undisturbed for a thousand years before being unearthed by a metal detectorist.

The incredible discovery of the Galloway Hoard, comprising more than 100 objects including silver jewellery and ingots, was made in September 2014 in a field in Dumfries and Galloway. It has since been acquired by National Museums Scotland (NMS).

NMS will carry out a three-year project, “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow, to examine in detail the objects, due to go on display in an exhibition next year.

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Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Norway excavates a Viking longship fit for a king


Pyramids, castles, palaces: symbols of power and status have taken many forms down the ages, and for the Vikings what really counted was the longship.

This month Norwegian archaeologists hope to complete their excavation of a rare, buried longship at Gjellestad, an ancient site south-east of Oslo. It is the first such excavation in Norway for about a century.

Most of the ocean-going ship has rotted away over the centuries, but archaeologist Dr Knut Paasche believes the layout of the iron nails will still enable a replica to be built eventually.

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) revealed it to be about 19m (62ft) long and 5m (16ft) wide - putting it on a par with the well-preserved Oseberg and Gokstad Viking ships on display in Oslo.

Those ships were found on the western side of the wide Oslo Fjord.

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Largest Viking DNA Study

(Dorset County Council/Oxford Archaeology)

Viking mass grave, England
The largest-ever study of Viking DNA has revealed a wealth of information, offering new insights into the Vikings’ genetic diversity and travel habits. The ambitious research analyzed DNA taken from 442 skeletons discovered at more than 80 Viking sites across northern Europe and Greenland. The genomes were then compared with a genetic database of thousands of present-day individuals to try to ascertain who the Vikings really were and where they ventured. One of the project’s primary objectives was to better understand the Viking diaspora, says University of California, Berkeley, geneticist Rasmus Nielsen.

It turns out that the roving bands of raiders and traders, traditionally thought to have come only from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, were far more genetically diverse than expected. According to Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, one of the most unexpected results was that the Viking Age of exploration may have actually been driven by outsiders. The researchers found that just prior to the Viking Age and during its height, between A.D. 800 and 1050, genes flowed into Scandinavia from people arriving there from eastern and southern Europe, and even from western Asia.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Special Viking grave with beads and brooches found in Central Norway


Maria Vestvik and Elise Kjørsvik from the NTNU Museum at the Viking grave. 
(Photo: Eystein Østmoe, NTNU University Museum)

She was placed in a burial chamber and took several hundred miniature beads with her on her last journey. Who was the woman who was buried by Valsøyfjord over 1000 years ago?

It had been an uneventful excavation season at Hestnes in Heim municipality. After several weeks of digging, archaeologists had found nothing but some post holes and cooking pits.

When traces of some kind of rectangular construction emerged, field manager Eystein Østmoe didn’t think they had found anything exciting. On the contrary: it was most likely the remains of some modern, boring artefact.

But he changed his mind when a dark layer of soil with a greasy texture surfaced. This often signals the remains of a human body that has been lying in the ground for a very long time.

“It was a big surprise. There weren’t any other graves nearby,” says Østmoe.

“And it was an even bigger surprise when the grave turned out to be something we’ve hardly ever seen before in Central Norway,” he adds.

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Melting ice patch in Norway reveals large collection of ancient arrows


An arrow from c. AD 700 as it was found lying on the stones in the scree, close to the melting ice. Credit: Innlandet Fylkeskommune

A team of researchers affiliated with a host of institutions in Norway and one in the U.K., has unveiled their findings after collecting and studying a very large number of ancient arrows they found near a melting ice patch in Norway's Jotunheimen Mountains. In their paper published in the journal The Holocene, the group describes how they kept their research secret to avoid the possibility of others contaminating the site and what they have learned about the arrows thus far.

Back in 2006, archeologist Reidar Marstein found an ancient shoe lying near a melting ice patch (which subsequent recent has shown to have formed approximately around 5600BC) in the Jotunheimen Mountains. The shoe was initially believed to have been from the Viking era, but subsequent study showed it to be approximately 3,300 years old.

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Thursday, 26 November 2020

Swedish runestones open gateway to ancient Viking civilization

 The Jarlabanke Bridge is a common starting point for a tour of Runriket, a collection of ancient runestones in Sweden that sheds light on the country's Viking past. The original bridge once helped Vikings cross over a bog.


Vallentuna, Sweden (CNN) — Drive north of the Swedish capital for about half an hour and you'll reach the lakeside district of Vallentuna, a pleasant community with cobblestone churches, picnic areas and playgrounds.

It's also a journey deep into Sweden's ancient Viking past.

Scattered among Vallentuna's greenery are dozens of mystical runestones that form the gateway to a 1,000-year-old Viking civilization now believed to be one of Scandinavia's most significant historic sites.

Known as Runriket, or Rune Kingdom, this collection of more than 100 Viking age runestones -- ancient lichen-crusted slabs of Old Norse inscriptions -- are beautiful relics that shine a light on modern Sweden's past, revealing surprising truths about its ancestors.

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Friday, 6 November 2020

Slaves in the Viking Age: how prevalent were enslaved people in Viking societies?

 “The Vikings were not only slavers, but the kidnapping, sale and forced exploitation of human beings was always a central pillar of their culture.” So says Professor Neil Price in his thought-provoking new book The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings.


The place of slavery in Viking culture isn’t something that always gets referenced in popular history, so I asked Professor Price why that was when I interviewed him for the HistoryExtra podcast.

“Slavery studies in the Viking Age have been attracting more and more attention over the past 15 years or so. It’s one of those things I think that we’ve always known about. Every description of raids that comes from that time talks about people being taken away into captivity. It’s not like we didn’t know. And even if you look at the later sources, like the famous Icelandic sagas, there are lots of enslaved people in those stories.

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Saturday, 24 October 2020

CBA Festival of Archaeology

 The Council of British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology runs from 24 October to 1 November.  The situation with the Corona Virus means that many of the events will be digital, although there will be a number of live events. Please use the search facility on their webpage to see the various events that are offered.


You can find their website here…

Please note that EMAS archaeological Society has offered a quiz on little known archaeological sites in South East England.

You can find a link to the quiz on the EMAS home page here…

Test your knowledge and see how much you know about the archaeology of the area!

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Check out a Lidl bit of ancient history beneath city supermarket

 

Lidl merchandising Manager Colm Kelly takes a photo of a stone-lined cistern which was fed with water from a gully outside the cottage which was built around AD 1070, and was excavated and is now visable through a glass floor at the new Lidl Store on Dublin’s Aungier St.Picture 
Credit:Frank McGrath 14/10/20

The remains of an 11th-century medieval structure is the centrepiece of Lidl's newest Dublin supermarket on Aungier Street.

The supermarket features several significant archaeological finds that can be seen throughout the shop, including the 18th century Aungier Theatre staircase, an 11th century sunken-floored structure and the 18th century Longford Street Arches.

Covered by a rectangle of glass flooring, the most impressive feature is the medieval remains of the humble abode.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

DNA testing sheds light on old Viking murder mystery

 

The grave was first uncovered 39 years ago (photo: Roskilde Museum)

Almost 40 years after the famous ‘Gerdrupgraven’ discovery was made near Roskilde, archaeologists uncover key piece of evidence 

One of the top draws at Roskilde Museum is the Gerdrup Grave, a 1,000-year-old Viking interment discovered 39 years ago just north of Roskilde in the tiny hamlet of Gerdrup.

The grave contains the skeletons of a man and a woman, and archaeologists have long speculated who they might be and why they were buried together.

Another element of the mystery is that the man was killed at some point and buried next to the woman. 

The Gerdrup Grave has another important aspect to it: it was the first discovery that proved that Viking women were buried along with a weapon – in this case a lance.

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Saturday, 10 October 2020

1,200-year-old pagan temple to Thor and Odin unearthed in Norway

 

The god house (shown here in a digital reconstruction) was strongly built of beams and walls of wood; some lasted for hundreds of years. It included a central tower, patterned on Christian churches seen in lands further south.
(Image: © University Museum of Bergen)

The remains of a 1,200-year-old pagan temple to the Old Norse gods such as Thor and Odin have been discovered in Norway — a rare relic of the Viking religion built a few centuries before Christianity became dominant there.

Archaeologists say the large wooden building — about 45 feet (14 meters) long, 26 feet (8 m) wide, and up to 40 feet (12 m) high — is thought to date from the end of the eighth century and was used for worship and sacrifices to gods during the midsummer and midwinter solstices.

DNA Analysis Suggests Mother and Son Were Buried in Famous Viking Grave

 



The male skeleton's neck and legs were arranged in an unnatural position, while the woman's remains were held in place by large stones. (Roskilde Museum)

New DNA evidence has identified two people buried in a 1,000 year-old Viking grave as a mother and son, reports the Copenhagen Post.

Previously, researchers had speculated that the man, who may have been hanged, was an enslaved individual sacrificed and buried alongside the noblewoman he served in life.

“It’s an incredibly exciting and surprising result we have here,” Ole Kastholm, an archaeologist at Denmark’s Roskilde Museum, where the remains are on display, tells TV 2 Lorry. “We need to thoroughly consider what this means.”

Archaeologists excavated the burial, known as the Gerdrup Grave, in 1981. The fact that the woman was buried with what appeared to be a lance helped overturn scholars’ assumptions about gender in Viking society. Since the site’s discovery, researchers have found a number of other Viking women buried with weapons, which could identify them as warriors or symbolize their elite status.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

British museum will send Viking skeleton home to Denmark to be reunited with 1,000-year-old 'relative' after he was butchered in 1002 'ethnic cleansing' massacre

 

A Viking skeleton from AD 1002 at the Museum Resource Centre in Oxfordshire today

A British museum will send a Viking skeleton that was butchered in an ethnic cleansing massacre in AD 1002 to its home in Denmark to be reunited with its 1,000-year-old relative. 

The skeleton, known as SK1756, is being held at Oxfordshire County Council's Museum Resource Centre and is one of at least 35 men and boys believed to be victims of the St Brice's Day massacre in Oxford in AD 1002.

The slaughter is said to have taken place after King Aethelred II of England ordered the execution of dozens of Danish raiders, settlers and their children.

But DNA has revealed that a male skeleton discovered during an excavation in Denmark could be a relative such as an uncle, nephew, grandfather, grandson or half-brother - and experts want to reunite them.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Runestone Discovered in Sweden Provides Window Into Viking Past


While plowing a field on his family farm in Småland, southern Sweden, Lennart Larsson came across a large stone. Larsson put the stone, which is 6 feet high (2 m) and 3 feet wide (1 m), to one side and planned to use it as a stepping stone for a new staircase in his home. After finishing a day of plowing, he checked the stone again and to his amazement “on the underside of the stone were runes!” reports the Nattidningen Svensk Historia . The farmer and his family contacted the local Västerviks Museum about the runestone, who then inspected the discovery. Runestones are invaluable to researchers as they are windows into the Viking past. The artifact is expected to provide insights into a crucial period when the old Viking world was giving way to a new Christian world .

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Monday, 28 September 2020

The only Viking helmet ever found in the UK

 


Collections Officer Christine Hutchinson of Preston Park Museum in Stockton on Tees on a locally-found Viking helmet that is the only one of its kind in the UK
This is the only Viking helmet to be found in the UK and only the second near complete one to be found in the world, so it’s an amazing discovery.

It was however found back in the 1950s by workmen digging trenches for sewage pipes in Yarm – just down the road from us – and we know that no archaeological surveys were done at the time. So up until very recently there was always a kind of question mark over it.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Sweeping DNA Survey Highlights Vikings’ Surprising Genetic Diversity

 

Vikings' maritime expeditions brought them out of Scandinavia and into Northern Europe, where they intermingled with local populations. (Pmxfuel)

The term “Viking” tends to conjure up images of fierce, blonde men who donned horned helmets and sailed the seas in longboats, earning a fearsome reputation through their violent conquests and plunder.

But a new study published in the journal Nature suggests the people known as Vikings didn’t exactly fit these modern stereotypes. Instead, a survey deemed the “world’s largest-ever DNA sequencing of Viking skeletons” reinforces what historians and archaeologists have long speculated: that Vikings’ expansion to lands outside of their native Scandinavia diversified their genetic backgrounds, creating a community not necessarily unified by shared DNA.

As Erin Blakemore reports for National Geographic, an international team of researchers drew on remains unearthed at more than 80 sites across northern Europe, Italy and Greenland to map the genomes of 442 humans buried between roughly 2400 B.C. and 1600 A.D.

Friday, 11 September 2020

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

 



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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering a lost Viking waterway

 

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

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

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

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

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THIS NORWEGIAN ISLAND CLAIMS TO BE THE FABLED LAND OF THULE

 



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

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

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

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Monday, 10 August 2020

Yarm Viking helmet 'first' to be unearthed in Britain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Lost Viking waterway found in Orkney

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

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

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

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

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

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Ancient Viking waterway discovered in Orkney


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

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

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

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

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Monday, 27 July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 26 July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 24 July 2020

Researchers find earliest confirmed case of smallpox

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

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

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

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

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

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Vikings spread smallpox around Europe in the 7th Century


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

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

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

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Viking brooch is first of its kind for Manx National Heritage

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Archaeological complex Haithabu and Danewerk


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

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Monday, 20 July 2020

Unknown Viking trading place discovered by master’s student

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 28 June 2020

First Viking ship excavation in a century begins in Norway

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

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

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

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

The excavation is expected to last five months.

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

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Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Oldest Viking settlement possibly unearthed in Iceland

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Archaeologists Discover Viking Toilet in Denmark


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

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

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

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

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Saturday, 13 June 2020

The Emperor of Stones

(Helge Andersson) Rök runestone, Sweden

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

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

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

Photo: Bjarni F. Einarsson

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

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

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

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