Monday, 28 November 2022

Medieval Iceland: A Timeline


A look at the events and history of Iceland between the ninth and fifteenth centuries.

Iceland’s history begins with its exploration and settlement, with a unique type of nation forming. By the mid-thirteenth century it would suffer its own civil war and then come under the control of Norway (and later Denmark). During the later Middle Ages, Iceland would be hit hard by natural disasters and plague.

Early-ninth century – a few Irish monks are the only inhabitants of Iceland

860 – a Norse sailor named Naddoðr gets lost while sailing to the Faroe Islands. He lands in Iceland and explores the territory for a short time before sailing back to the Faroes. He names the land Snæland (Snowland).

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Monday, 21 November 2022

The ancient golden treasure rewriting Danish history


A chance discovery is shedding new light on early Norse history, after two old school-friends, armed only with a metal detector stumbled across a gold treasure trove.

More than 20 gold artefacts, weighing almost a kilo, were found buried in a field in the Danish village of Vindelev. Hidden for almost 1,500 years, the treasure includes Roman medallions and ornate pendants called 'bracteates' - some as large as a saucer.

There are mysterious inscriptions and never-seen-before runes, which researchers think are some of the earliest references to Norse gods.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2022

The Viking Axe

A ‘Danish’ Axe discovered in the Thames River. it dates from the 11th century.
Photo by Medievalists.net

Few weapons were so feared or as evocative as the axe used by the Vikings in their feuds and in battle, as well as on their raids throughout Europe in the eighth and ninth centuries and beyond. With its long shaft, wielded in both hands, its iron head and sharp edge, it was formidable indeed – cleaving heads and bodies at a single blow. But what was it really like?

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Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Archaeologists Unearth Trove of Viking Age Jewelry in Sweden

All of the jewelry archaeologists unearthed from a Viking Age site north of Stockholm 
Courtesy of Acta Konserveringscentrum

Archaeologists in Sweden have unearthed a once-in-a-lifetime trove of jewelry dating back an estimated 1,000 years to the Viking Age. Despite their age, the pieces are in near-pristine condition and look like they’re “almost completely new,” says Maria Lingström, one of the archaeologists who made the find, in a statement.

Researchers with the National Historical Museums in Sweden were digging at a Viking Age settlement in Viggbyholm, a neighborhood north of Stockholm, when they stumbled upon a small ceramic pot tucked beneath the remnants of a building’s wooden floors. Inside, they found eight torque-style neck rings, one finger ring, two pearls and two arm rings. They also found a linen pouch that contained 12 coin pendants (which are coins used as jewelry).

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Thursday, 3 November 2022

Metal detectorist stumbles across Viking treasure hoard in Norway

In the ninth century A.D., this treasure might have bought half a cow. 
(Image credit: Brigit Maixner)

Using a metal detector in a field, a Norwegian man stumbled upon a number of silver pieces dating back to the Viking Age.

Many people dream of finding buried treasure, but very few people actually do. For one man in central Norway that dream became a reality just before Christmas last year, when he took his metal detector for a stroll in a field near his home and unearthed a hoard of silver fragments from the Viking Age.

At first, Pawel Bednarski wasn't sure of the value of the fragments he'd found buried under just a couple of inches of soil. There were a pair of rings, what looked like chopped-up Arabic coins and fragments of a silver bracelet, among other pieces. But when he reached out to local historians and archaeologists, the truth became clear: This was a significant find.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

2 Viking swords buried upright might have connected the dead to Odin and Valhalla

This sword has a preserved pommel (a knob at the end of the handle) with a "button" on top.
(Image credit: The Archaeologists/National Historical Museums, CC BY)

Archaeologists in Sweden excavating a Viking grave field have uncovered two burials containing swords standing upright.

Archaeologists in Sweden have unearthed two Viking swords in neighboring graves that were buried upright, as if they were standing on their points.

Whoever installed the iron swords perpendicular to the surface about 1,200 years ago clearly did so on purpose, as it would have taken a lot of effort — possibly involving a rock or hammer — to wedge the weapons roughly 16 inches (40 centimeters) into the ground, archaeologists told Live Science. 

"The placement of the swords reflects an action with a lot of symbolism," Anton Seiler(opens in new tab), Fredrik Larsson(opens in new tab) and Katarina Appelgren(opens in new tab), archaeologists at Arkeologerna, an archaeology firm in Sweden that is part of the government agency National Historical Museums, told Live Science in an email. "When you find swords in graves — which you don't do very often — they often lie beside the buried individual, as a faithful companion on the voyage to the next world."


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The mysterious Viking runes found in a landlocked US state


Did Vikings find their way to a remote part of Oklahoma? Some in a small community believe so, thanks to controversial runic carvings found in the area.

"[Farley] spent the majority of her adult life researching the stone," said Amanda Garcia, Heavener Runestone Park manager. "She travelled all around the US, went to Egypt and went to different places looking at different markings."

Faith Rogers, an environmental-science intern and volunteer at the Heavener Runestone Park, led me down a cobblestone path toward one of the 55-acre woodland's biggest attractions – which is also one of the US' biggest historical mysteries. We were deep in the rolling, scrub-forest foothills of the Ouachita Mountains in far eastern Oklahoma, and we were on our way to view a slab of ancient sandstone that still has experts scratching their heads and debating about the eight symbols engraved on its face. 

Some believe that these cryptic inscriptions are runes (ancient alphabetical characters) carved into the towering stone circa 1000 CE by Norse explorers who travelled up the Arkansas River to this remote part of landlocked America.

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Sunday, 30 October 2022

Harald Hardrada: King of Norway


Coming back to Norway meant that Harald Hardrada had two relatives to deal with – Sweyn and Magnus. It would make for an interesting path to the Norwegian throne. 

By 1043 the wheel of fortune had turned once more, and the family of Harald Hardrada was triumphant. While Harald had busied himself in his exile waging war across the wine-dark sea in the employ of the empire of the Romans, his nephew Magnus, the illegitimate son of Harald’s half-brother King Olaf II, had become the figurehead of a powerful bloc of Norwegian aristocrats disaffected by the burdens and excesses of Danish overlordship. With their support and after a decade of warfare, Magnus was able to not only secure his hold on Norway, doing much to establish and disseminate notions of royal authority, but also capture the throne of Denmark. Their traditional enemies and tormentors had all fallen by the wayside or been bent to purpose. Cnut the Great and his sons, their power fragmented by internecine rivalries and squabbles, all fell victim to illness and tragedy while the Norwegian aristocrats who had overthrown and then slain Olaf II had all reconciled themselves to Magnus and the notion of Norwegian kingship.

Magnus, whose role in the political unification of Norway and establishment of the kingdom has all too often been overlooked and undervalued, is known to history as Magnus the Good. He earnt this epithet we are told by the 13th-century saga material because rather than seek revenge against his father’s killers and perpetuate a destructive blood feud, Magnus chose to forgive them and work together in challenging Danish hegemony over Norway. Of course, Magnus was only eleven when he was first proclaimed king in 1035, therefore despite the support of several powerful advocates, such as his stepmother Queen Astrid and her brother King Arnud Jacob of Sweden, the extent to which he could have struck back against his aristocratic sponsors is highly questionable. Harald’s epithet of Hardrada on the other hand translates into English into something along the lines of the severe or stern. Wars fought between those famed for their decency and gentleness of heart and those known for their severe and forceful nature seldom last long.

And it was to be war, for Harald arrived in Scandinavia intent upon seizing the throne of Norway for himself. Perhaps he felt like he had come too far, seen too much and served too many simply to present himself to his nephew as just another poor relation, a potential military proxy and advisor in a royal court already replete with vested interests and aristocratic affinities. Harald had departed Constantinople with considerable haste with a meagre handful of ships and a few hundred diehard followers at the most. Yet he was a force to be reckoned with.

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Saturday, 29 October 2022

Landscapes of the Norman Conquest


An exciting new book “Landscapes of the Norman Conquest” by Trevor Rowley has now been published.

For a long time, the Norman Conquest has been viewed as a turning point in English history; an event which transformed English identity, sovereignty, kingship, and culture. The years between 1066 and 1086 saw the largest transfer of property ever seen in English History, comparable in scale, if not greater, than the revolutions in France in 1789 and Russia in 1917. This transfer and the means to achieve it had a profound effect upon the English and Welsh landscape, an impact that is clearly visible almost 1,000 years afterwards.

Although there have been numerous books examining different aspects of the British landscape, this is the first to look specifically at the way in which the Normans shaped our towns and countryside.

The castles, abbeys, churches and cathedrals built in the new Norman Romanesque style after 1066 represent the most obvious legacy of what was effectively a colonial take-over of England. Such phenomena furnished a broader landscape that was fashioned to intimidate and demonstrate the Norman dominance of towns and villages.

The devastation that followed the Conquest, characterised by the ‘Harrying of the North’, had a long-term impact in the form of new planned settlements and agriculture. The imposition of Forest Laws, restricting hunting to the Norman king and the establishment of a military landscape in areas such as the Welsh Marches, had a similar impact on the countryside.

You can find further details here…

Viking beadmakers’ secrets revealed in new study


The Viking Age bead makers were more advanced than previously believed. New research shows that craftsmen in Denmark around the year 700 used sophisticated and sustainable methods when they gave old Roman glass mosaics new life as glass beads.

Ribe was an important trading town in the Viking Age. At the beginning of the 8th century, a trading place was established on the north side of the river Ribe, to which traders and craftsmen flocked from far and wide to manufacture and sell goods such as brooches, suit buckles, combs and coloured glass beads.

When glass became a scarce commodity in the Early Medieval period, coloured glass cubes – so-called tesserae – were torn down from mosaics in abandoned Roman and Byzantine temples, palaces and baths, transported North and traded at emporia towns such as Ribe, where the beadmakers melted them down in large vessels and shaped them into beads.

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Viking silver treasure uncovered in Täby in Stockholm

 
A unique treasure hoard dating from the Viking Age has been uncovered in Täby, Stockholm. Consisting of arm rings, coins and eight torque-style neck rings. Photo: The Archaeologists

A 1000-year-old silver hoard containing several beautiful torque-style neck rings, arm rings and coins has been discovered in Viggbyholm, Täby, outside Stockholm. “This is something you probably only experience once in a lifetime”, says Maria Lingström at The Archaeologists, National Historical Museums in Sweden.

The treasure was found during an archeological excavation of a Viking Age settlement in Täby outside Stockholm, an area thought to have been inhabited for several hundred years. The archeologists have found more than 20 houses and buildings, the earliest dating from around 400 AD, continuing into the Viking Age (800–1050 AD) and early Middle Ages. The treasure was buried under what was once a wooden floor in a building. The coins were deposited in a pouch made of linen, which together with the jewellery had been put into a small ceramic pot.

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Viking unhacked silver hoard found in Sweden


Sweden sees Norway’s Viking hack silver hoard and raises with a Viking hoard of silver jewelry and coins in pristine unhacked condition. The hoard was discovered in an excavation of the Viking settlement of Täby, outside Stockholm. It was cached under the wooden floor of one of the Viking Age (800-1050 A.D.) houses about 1,000 years ago.

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Saturday, 22 October 2022

Secrets Of Iron Age Power Center Uppåkra Revealed By Archaeologists


New excavations in Uppåkra are at the forefront of cutting edge archaeological techniques. By combining big data, data modeling and DNA sequencing, researchers are currently solving significant parts of a historical puzzle. Perhaps we will learn whether the Justinianic Plague, the forerunner of the Black Death, reached Uppåkra. Until now, this has been uncertain.

Torbjörn Ahlström, professor of Historical Osteology at Lund University stands on a hill outside Lund. His gaze falls on the fertile soil that has served people in the area for centuries.

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Thor’s hammer amulet found in Sweden


Archaeologists have discovered a lead Thor’s hammer amulet dating to the late 10th century in Ysby in southwestern Sweden’s Halland province. The hammer was unearthed at the site of future housing construction. Previous investigations at the site revealed archaeological remains from the Neolithic and Iron Age, but this is the first artifact from the Viking era discovered there. It’s also the first Thor’s hammer amulet found in Halland.

The amulet is 3 centimeters (1.18 inches) long and cast in lead in the stylized shape that represents Thor’s dwarf-crafted hammer Mjölnir. It has a hole in the shaft where a string or a tie of some sort was threaded through so it could be worn as a pendant. One side of the hammer’s head is engraved with an interlacing pattern.

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Wednesday, 5 October 2022

10 of the Best Viking Museums in Europe

 
Image Credit: Tim Graham / Alamy Stock Photo

Get in touch with your inner Norseman and discover the greatest Viking museums across Europe.

The Viking Age is undeniably a fascinating period in history, inspiring countless books, films, television shows and somewhat questionable Halloween costumes. Characters such as Ragnar Lothbrok and Leif Erikson have become household names, while Norse Gods are not only subjects of old legends but modern blockbusters. Viking Museums help shed some light on this period which is often misunderstood, debunking many famous myths while showing a multifaceted view of early medieval Scandinavian life.

Here are ten of the best Viking museums across Europe, ranging from open-air museums where history is re-enacted to Viking ships and buildings that survived the elements.

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Tuesday, 27 September 2022

How Vikings Influenced the Modern English Language


Knowledgable linguist Rob Watts of RobWords explained how the Old Norse language of the Vikings had a profound effect upon the modern English language with many very important words.

The Vikings raided, pillaged… and changed our language. Their Old Norse words invaded English and many remain to this day

This effect includes gender pronouns (she, he, them), key verbs (to be, to take, to crawl, to guess, to trust), words of violence (slaughter, ransack, club, knife, berserk), clothing words (skirt, shirt, shorts), words with “SK” origins (shabby, scabby, scatter, shatter, ship, skipper), doubled-up words (bathe, bask, ditch, dike, shriek, screech), English place names (Derby, Grimsby, Braithwaite, Langthwaite), Scottish place names (Jura, Lerwick), and surnames (Anderson, Carson, Harrison, MacAskill, MacArthur, MacIvor), and Norse gods (Thor, Tuesday, Wednesday).

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Sunday, 18 September 2022

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers (Online Course)


The University of Oxford online course will run from Wednesday, 28 Sep 2022 to Friday 09 Dec 2022 

You can find further details here...

Reykjavík 871±2


IN 2001, ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS ON Aðalstræti unearthed the remains of a tenth-century longhouse with a wall dating back to 871±2, the oldest evidence of human habitation in Reykjavík.

The year is based on the layer of tephra deposited from a volcanic eruption in the Torfajökull area, which has been found all over Iceland and placed around 871 by carbon dating, with a range of possible inaccuracy of two years either way. The eruption coincides with the early years of Iceland’s settlement age, when the Norsemen started to migrate across the sea, as told by later medieval texts dealing with Icelandic history.

Managed by the City Museum, the Settlement Exhibition of Reykjavík 871±2 gives visitors a rare glimpse into the Viking Age, with the entirety of the excavated ruins displayed in the basement alongside a various collection of artifacts, from pieces of relics to everyday tools. Utilizing interactive multimedia, the exhibit gives an immersive experience and takes visitors back to the days of yore.

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Viking Textiles Show Women Had Tremendous Power


Cloth from Viking and medieval archaeological sites shows that women literally made the money in the North Atlantic

Archaeology has a representation problem. For most of the time that scholars have been probing the human past, they have focused mainly on the activities of men to the exclusion of women. There are a couple reasons for this bias. One is that the kinds of artifacts that tend to preserve well are made of inorganic materials such as stone or metal, and many are associated with behaviors stereotypically linked to men, such as hunting. Another reason is that early archaeologists were mostly men and more interested in men's work than in women's. As a result, our understanding of past cultures is woefully incomplete.

In recent years archaeologists have sought to fill that gap in our knowledge, in part by taking a closer look at traditionally ignored remains such as textiles, which had long been dismissed as trivial. Cloth rarely survives the centuries because it decomposes easily except under ideal preservation conditions. But even in a fragmentary state, it contains a wealth of information about the people who made and used it.

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Thursday, 11 August 2022

Excavation in Seyðisfjörður Unearths Jewelry from Earliest Period of Settlement

Photo: Fjörður – Seyðisfjörður fornleifar – Facebook


Archaeologists in Seyðisfjörður have excavated jewelry that dates from 940 – 1100, just after the initial settlement of Iceland. Notably, one of the beads found in the excavation even bears the colours of the Icelandic national flag.

Remarkably well-preserved structures in Seyðisfjörður

Archaeological digs have been underway in Seyðisfjörður, a fishing village in the East Fjords of Iceland, since 2020. Due to the high slopes of the valley, Seyðisfjörður is subject to land slides, and local authorities plan to build defensive barriers to protect the village, which has suffered damage in recent years. However, these same land slides have also preserved archaeological sites in the region particularly well. Archaeologists have been called in to perform exploratory digs where the defensive barriers will be erected, and have found remarkably intact manmade structures and artifacts such as game pieces and pearls.

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Medieval Artifacts Uncovered in Iceland


SEYðISFJÖRðUR, ICELAND—Traces of a farmstead dated to the earliest settlement of Iceland have been uncovered in the East Fjords of the island by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Ragnheiður Traustadóttir, according to Iceland Review. The site is situated in a valley where landslides from the high slopes and tephra from volcanic eruptions have protected archaeological materials and provided a means of dating them. So far, researchers have found human remains; the bones of a horse; a spear; a boat; and jewelry, including a red, white, and blue bead dated to between A.D. 940 and 1100. To read about a Viking Age site in Iceland's lava fields, go to "The Blackener's Cave."

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Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Vikings Actually Reached the Americas Long Before Columbus

Reconstructed Viking-Age building next to the site of L'Anse aux Meadows.
(Image: Glenn Nagel Photography)

Vikings were active at a Newfoundland settlement nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, research suggests.

On the northernmost tip of the northernmost peninsula of Newfoundland, Canada, is a prehistoric Viking settlement known as L’Anse aux Meadows. The site has been explored by archaeologists since the 1960s, but a firm date for the settlement has proven elusive.

Research published in Nature adds some much-needed clarity to the issue. A team led by archaeologist Michael Dee from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands provides new evidence showing that Vikings were active at L’Anse aux Meadows by 1021 CE — exactly 1,000 years ago. In an email to Gizmodo, Dee said his team’s findings represent the “first, and only, known date for Europeans in the Americas before Columbus,” who crossed the Atlantic in 1492 CE. 

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Wednesday, 22 June 2022

New Thoughts on Eastern Europe's Medieval Source of Ivory


TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—According to a statement released by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), researchers led by James Barrett of the NTNU University Museum analyzed nine walrus snout bone fragments unearthed in 2007 during a construction project in Kyiv, an important trading city in the medieval period. In 2019, Barrett and his colleagues determined that Western Europe obtained most of its walrus products from Norse settlers in Greenland, although it was still thought that the ivory used in Eastern Europe came from the Barents Sea, which is located off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia. The researchers determined that five of the nine bone fragments had a genetic signature indicating they came from a genetic group of walruses only found in Greenland, while the chemical analysis of isotopes from the bones suggests that seven of the nine animals could have come from the region of Greenland. 

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The Worst Year Ever to Be Alive in History

The worst year to be alive? Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano that threw transatlantic travel into a tailspin several years ago after it erupted, sending plumes of smoke over the North Atlantic, the UK and the continent. Another Icelandic volcano could have caused enormous disruption in the year 536 as well, according to new research.
Credit: Árni Friðriksson/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

The volcanic explosions of the year 536 caused modern-day researchers to state recently that that year was definitively “the worst year to be alive” in history.

A strange and unsettling fog, which even deprived the world of the sun’s warmth, plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness both day and night for a year and a half starting in 536, causing untold misery across the globe.

The Byzantine historian Procopius made a record of the time and wrote that: “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year.”

“One of the worst years to be alive”
Michael McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past, says that in Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods, if not the worst year to be alive.”

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Sunday, 19 June 2022

Archaeologists find Viking Age shipyard

Image Credit : Paul Parker – Stockholm University

Archaeologists excavating at Birka on the island of Björkö, Sweden, have discovered a Viking Age shipyard.

Birka, commonly referred to as Sweden’s first town, was established during the mid-8th century AD on the shores of Lake Mälaren. The town emerged as a major trading hub for merchants and tradesmen across Europe and beyond.

Excavations conducted by researchers from Stockholm University uncovered a stone-lined depression on the shore zone with a wooden boat slop at the bottom. The team also discovered large quantities of boat rivets, whetstones made from slate and woodworking tools, suggesting that the site was a Viking Age shipyard.

Sven Isaksson, Professor of Archaeological Science at Stockholm University said: “A site like this has never been found before, it is the first of its kind, but the finds convincingly show that it was a shipyard.

Through systematic survey, mapping and drone investigations, we can now show that Birka, in addition to the urban environment, also has a very rich maritime cultural landscape with remains of everything from jetties to boat launches and shipyards.”

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Ivory found in Kyiv in 12th century originated from Greenland - study


Fragments of walrus tusks unearthed in 2007 were traced back to Greenland, indicating that trading routes in the Middle Ages were more advanced than previously thought.

Nine fragments of walrus ivory from as early as the 12th century that were found in a 2007 archaeological dig in Kyiv were found to have originated in Greenland, indicating that pan-European trading routes in the middle ages were more developed than previously thought, a new study found.

The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences" on April 6, used a number of advanced scientific methods in order to verify that the ivory fragments were indeed from Greenland, which at the time was the main source of walrus ivory.

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Monday, 13 June 2022

Silver coin featuring famous Viking king unearthed in Hungary

The small silver coin was found near the Hungarian village of Várdomb. It dates to between 1046 and 1066 and is inscribed with the name of the Norwegian king.
(Image credit: Tamás Retkes)

A metal detectorist has discovered a small silver coin marked with the name of a famous Viking king.  However, it was unearthed not in Scandinavia, but in southern Hungary, where it was lost almost 1,000 years ago.

The find has baffled archaeologists, who have struggled to explain how the coin might have ended up there — it's even possible that it arrived with the traveling court of a medieval Hungarian king.

The early Norwegian coin, denominated as a "penning," was not especially valuable at the time, even though it's made from silver, and was worth the equivalent of around $20 in today's money.

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Sunday, 22 May 2022

World’s largest ever DNA sequencing of Viking skeletons reveals they weren’t all Scandinavian

An artistic reconstruction of ‘Southern European’ Vikings emphasising the foreign gene flow into Viking Age Scandinavia.
image: Jim Lyngvild

Invaders, pirates, warriors – the history books taught us Vikings were brutal predators who travelled by sea from Scandinavia to pillage and raid their way across Europe and beyond.

Now cutting-edge DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland will rewrite the history books as it has shown:

Skeletons from famous Viking burial sites in Scotland were actually local people who could have taken on Viking identities and were buried as Vikings.

Many Vikings actually had brown hair not blonde hair.

Viking identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry. The study shows the genetic history of Scandinavia was influenced by foreign genes from Asia and Southern Europe before the Viking Age.

Early Viking Age raiding parties were an activity for locals and included close family members.

The genetic legacy in the UK has left the population with up to six per cent Viking DNA. 

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Surprising DNA study finds Vikings weren’t all Scandinavian

Researchers have shown that not all Vikings were from Scandinavia. 
(CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Invaders, pirates, warriors – the history books taught us Vikings were brutal predators who travelled by sea from Scandinavia to pillage and raid their way across Europe and beyond.

Now cutting-edge DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland will rewrite the history books as it has shown:

Skeletons from famous Viking burial sites in Scotland were actually local people who could have taken on Viking identities and were buried as Vikings.

Many Vikings actually had brown hair not blonde hair.

Viking identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry. The study shows the genetic history of Scandinavia was influenced by foreign genes from Asia and Southern Europe before the Viking Age.

Early Viking Age raiding parties were an activity for locals and included close family members.

The genetic legacy in the UK has left the population with up to six per cent Viking DNA. 

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Tuesday, 17 May 2022

An intact Viking ship burial held riches—and a surprising mystery


Vikings are often depicted as warmongering seafarers from Scandinavia, men who set out on expeditions to plunder distant lands. The lives of women of the Viking age factor less into the fantasy; many imagine them at home, tending to their lands, children, and elderly while the powerful men in their family were away. But evidence shows Viking women also held positions of power. 

In fact, the grandest single Viking grave ever found belonged not to a man, but to two women—one about 75 years of age, the other around 50—who were buried in a funerary longship on the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg, Norway. Their burial was one of history's most exciting Viking-era discoveries.

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Friday, 13 May 2022

Uncovering the Secrets of a Forgotten Viking Town

Approximately 45,000 artifacts and some 50,000 skeletal remains and animal bones were uncovered in the massive, decades-long excavation at Borgund. Today, a bed of grass once again hides the medieval town.
JARLE SULEBUST/CC BY-SA 3.0

THREE HUNDRED MILES NORTHWEST OF Oslo, Norway, nestled between replicas of medieval turf homes and 19th-century farmhouses at the sleepy Sunnmøre Museum, is a meadow. With impressive mountains and a crystalline lake in the distance, many wouldn’t even notice the blanket of grasses. But this meadow has secrets to tell.

Beneath the undulating greenery and centuries of mud are the remains of the lost town of Borgund. Beginning in the late 10th century, this meadow would have been alive with activity. During the town’s heyday, boatbuilders would have been busy crafting majestic ships, while traders hawked their wares. Children playing along wooden sidewalks might have been overheard by weavers crafting massive sail cloths within their small wooden houses. For most of us, it’s hard to picture life in this town entombed in dirt—that’s where the Borgund Project comes in.

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Wednesday, 11 May 2022

The Vinland Mystery


How a husband-and-wife team proved Leif Erikson beat Columbus to North America

‘In this great ocean, many have found still another island, which is called Vinland, since there grow wild grapes. But beyond, everything is filled with intolerable ice and terrible fog.’ – Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (c1070)

Up until the 1960s, the existence of a pre-Columbian Norse settlement on the North American continent had long been hypothesised but never proven. That finally changed when a Norwegian husband-and-wife team – the explorer Helge Ingstad and the archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad – pieced together historical hints that led them to pursue the fabled settlement on the island of Newfoundland in present-day Canada, far north of where other historians believed Norse ruins might be found. This 1984 National Film Board of Canada documentary tells the remarkable story of how the Ingstads were eventually able to confirm that mysterious mounds in this remote stretch of Newfoundland were indeed Norse in origin, forever reshaping modern perspectives on European and North American history.

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Wednesday, 4 May 2022

The new cutting edge tour of Orkney that takes users headfirst into 5,000 years of history

The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae is a highlight of any trip to Orkney. PIC: HES.

Visitors to the Orkney Isles can now immerse themselves in more than 5,000 years of history on a digital tour that takes them deep into the story of the islands and the people and stories that shaped them.

The fascinating past of islands is being retold for the digital age with an app that combines drone footage and 3D scans with tales of the historic events that create the island’s mesmerising timeline.

Interviews with the archaeologists who have helped illuminate millennia of human activity in the far north are also included.

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Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Viking hoard dodges auction bullet


Here’s an intriguing case of unintended consequences in cultural heritage law.  Meet the Everlöv Hoard:

The Everlöv Hoard is a large group of more than 950 silver objects –912 coins, 40 pieces of jewelry — from the Viking Age discovered in southern Sweden’s Skåne province in the 1980s. The oldest coin dates to the 9th century, the youngest to 1018, indicating the hoard was assembled in the late Viking era. The composition of the objects mark them as a single deposition, but the original find site is unknown.

Many of coins are from Bavaria, which is unusual in Swedish hoards. The hoard also contains an unusually high number of Anglo-Scandinavian coins, ie, coins struck by Scandinavian kings in imitation of the ones struck by the king of England. Among the objects are several extremely rare pieces: a buckle with intricately enlaced zoomorphic figures decorated with filigree and granulation, a Slavic lunula and an oversized jewelry bracteate minted by Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, aka Saint Henry the Exuberant.

The discovery was not made in the usual way; nobody found it by metal detecting or in a happy ploughing accident. It was not dug up at all, in fact. The current owner found it in a chiffonier that had been passed down through generations of the family. (Side note: finding a Viking silver hoard in an old piece furniture has to be in my top 3 greatest lifetime fantasies.)

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Wednesday, 13 April 2022

This pile of rubble is actually an ancient fort. Historians have discovered 450 of them around Norway

A wall built around the Andorsrud fort in Øvre Eiker in Buskerud 
(Photo: Kristine Friis Jørgensen)

In times of shifting power relations during pre-viking times, many may have needed a stone structure for protection. But were they also used for other means?

Archaeologists and local historians have long discussed why people took on the difficult job of setting up stone and earth forts in many parts of the country.

About 450 so called hill forts have been recorded in Norway to date.

When archaeology as a discipline in Norway first began in earnest in the 19th century, hill forts were one of the first things researchers started studying. These structures, typically stones set in strategic locations, were called hill forts because it was thought that they must be a kind of defensive structure where villagers could seek refuge if their village was attacked.

This theory is still believed to be correct.

But perhaps these forts were used for something more.

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The Viking Sieges of Paris


By Danielle Turner

Ninth-century France proved very lucrative for the Vikings. It was a land marred by civil war and bad harvests, and the Norsemen took advantage of this through raiding and mercenary acts. France’s riverine system and innovations in the Viking longship allowed the Danes to penetrate deep into the continent and make a fortune in plunder from monasteries. Paris would be the ultimate target, and the Vikings besieged the city twice and received tribute payment in both cases. Why were the Vikings able to continuously successfully pillage France? Were the Frankish rulers inept, cowardly, or just practical in their handling of Norse incursions?

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Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Scandinavia before the Vikings

The scenic beauty of Scandinavia existed long before the Vikings made it their home

In this article, we shed-light on Pre-Viking Scandinavia, a topic which is often ignored but is equally fascinating.

Let’s begin!

The Ice Age: Landscape and the Fjords

The scenic beauty of Scandinavia existed long before the Vikings made it their home. The Norwegian Fjords, formed during the Ice age, are a world-famous tourist destination. UNESCO has declared some of them as world heritage sites, including Geirangerfjord, a 9.3-mile fjord with many waterfalls and dramatic mountain scenery.

About 2.4 million years ago, the ice started to cover mountains, and the pressure caused mountain pieces to break away, letting seawater rush into the opening. When the ice age ended, and the snow melted away, the mountain pieces that broke away formed a U-shaped wall filled with seawater. These narrow pathways of water surrounded by beautiful sceneries are truly nature’s masterpiece.

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Friday, 1 April 2022

These Scots Still Fish Like the Vikings

Legend has it that the beam is as long as a Viking's oar.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY JOHN WARWICK

WHEN ON DRY LAND, EXPERT fisherman John Warwick goes by his legal name. But when he’s standing chest-deep in the Solway Firth, negotiating the capricious tide, he’s known as Young Slogger. His father, Slogger, fished the firth before him, and the nickname identifies Warwick as part of a line of succession—not just a fisherman, but a haaf net fisherman, and therefore a guardian of tradition.

The Vikings were the first haaf netters. Many centuries ago, when they arrived in this narrow passage of the Irish Sea, the Nordic mariners developed a new method of fishing better suited to the local tides. Rather than cast lines from the comfort of a boat or shore, they stood in the water with a 16-foot-long beam affixed to a net and bisected by a 6.5-foot-tall pole. By digging the pole into the sand and holding the beam above water, haafers created a soccer goal-like structure that could trap unsuspecting salmon or trout riding the tide. The residents of Annan, a town in southwestern Scotland that hugs the Solway Firth, have been haafing ever since, braving quicksand and currents for the occasional catch and, more consistently, the camaraderie.

“I was brought up in a fishing family,” says Warwick. “My father haaf netted, and his father before him.”

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Thursday, 31 March 2022

Digging Up the Rich Viking History of Britain

 A massive 1,100-year-old graveyard leads to a surprising new view of the Nordic legacy in Britain

St. Wystan’s church in Repton. In 873-874, a Viking army is believed to have entrenched in the garden. Right, Viking burial mounds in Heath Wood

Cat Jarman led me through a dense tangle of forest called Heath Wood. We were in Derbyshire, close to the very heart of England. There was no path, and the forest floor was overgrown with bracken and bush. It was easy to lose your footing and even easier to lose your way. Jarman, a fit, cheery woman in her late 30s, plunged jauntily on as I tried to keep up. “See all these lumps and bumps?” she asked as we broke into a small clearing. She pointed to an array of 59 small, rounded hillocks, many two or so feet high and four or five feet in diameter. Humans, not nature, had clearly put these things here, and they gave off a spooky, supernatural energy.

“We are literally walking across a Viking cemetery—the only known Scandinavian cremation cemetery in the whole country,” says Jarman, an archaeologist, whose new book, River Kings, takes a fresh look at who the Vikings really were and what exactly they were up to here. She flashes me a broad smile. “It’s very good, isn’t it?”

Yes, it is good—simple, powerful and mysterious. For a ceremonial burial place, the Vikings picked a surprisingly unceremonial spot. The overgrown forest shrouds these tombs in anonymity. There is no visible sign of a Viking settlement nearby, just an expanse of open fields and beyond that, a hamlet with a church, school and a few houses. The Vikings used rivers to get around, but it’s an awfully long hike from here to where the River Trent flows today. Which raises a big question, says Jarman. “Why have you got these Scandinavian cremation mounds here in the middle of nowhere?”

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Drought helped push the Vikings out of Greenland, new study finds

Newly analyzed lake sediments provided more information about the climate in the East Settlement where Vikings lived in Greenland. (Image credit: Tobias Schneider)

Scientists may have found an important factor behind why the Norse mysteriously abandoned their largest settlement on Greenland. And it wasn't cold weather, as some had long thought. 

Rather, drought might have played a major role in the abandonment of the Eastern Settlement of Vikings around 1450, new research suggests.

"We conclude that increasingly dry conditions played a more important role in undermining the viability of the Eastern Settlement than minor temperature changes," a team of scientists – many of whom are based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst – wrote in an article published online March 23 in the journal Science Advances. 

"Drier climate would have notably reduced grass production, which was essential for livestock overwintering, and this drying trend is concurrent with a Norse diet shift" toward seafood, the team wrote. 

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Thursday, 24 March 2022

A Viking Settlement Mysteriously Vanished. Now, We Have an Answer


About 1,000 years ago, Vikings settled on the southern tip of Greenland, where they thrived for centuries despite sunless winters and punishing conditions. But these Norse peoples of Greenland eventually vanished in the 15th century, leaving behind bones, ruins, and a tantalizing unsolved mystery about the events that led up to the collapse of their remote society.  

Scientists have often pointed to the Little Ice Age, a period of cooling that coincides with the disappearance of the far-flung Greenlandic Norse, as a likely explanation for the abandonment of the so-called Eastern Settlement that supported some 2,000 Vikings at its peak. 

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Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Ancient remains from reindeer hunting and a forgotten trail in the Norwegian mountains found by glacial archaeologists


If you want to kill a reindeer with a bow and arrow you have to get as close to the animal as you possibly can. You probably can’t be further away than 10-20 metres. Which is difficult, with an animal that will flee at the smallest sound or movement.

The mountains and ice patches in Sandgrovskaret didn’t provide hiding places for the hunters, so they had to construct some.

40 such so-called hunting blinds – a rock wall shaped as a half circle that hunters would hide behind – were found when glacial archaeologists visited the site four years ago.

“This was a big hunting location”, archaeologist Espen Finstad says to sciencenorway.no.

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Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Ground-breaking DNA study finds Vikings weren’t all Scandinavian

Researchers have shown that not all Vikings were from Scandinavia. 
(CREDIT: Lorado/Getty via VCG)

Invaders, pirates, warriors – the history books taught us Vikings were brutal predators who travelled by sea from Scandinavia to pillage and raid their way across Europe and beyond.

Now cutting-edge DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland will rewrite the history books as it has shown:

Skeletons from famous Viking burial sites in Scotland were actually local people who could have taken on Viking identities and were buried as Vikings.

Many Vikings actually had brown hair not blonde hair.

Viking identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry. The study shows the genetic history of Scandinavia was influenced by foreign genes from Asia and Southern Europe before the Viking Age.

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Sunday, 6 February 2022

Viking Age boat burials: a history of research

Oseberg Viking ship

Viking Age boat burials: a history of research

Paper by Luna Polinelli

Given online by the Iceland Society of Archaeologists on February 3, 2022

Abstract: Boats form a subset of grave goods increasingly found in Viking Age burials, which have been the subject of much scholarly debate, especially from the 19th century onwards. Since the Middle Ages, it was generally known that Scandinavian people used to be buried in boats before the Christianisation, since mentions of this custom are found in the Icelandic sagas and in ibn Fadlan’s account.

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Wednesday, 12 January 2022

When the Vikings Crossed the Atlantic

Remains of Viking settlement (Wolfgang Kaehler/Alamy Stock Photo)

When a settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, at the northern tip of Newfoundland, was first excavated in the 1960s, the style of its buildings made clear they were constructed by Vikings who had arrived from Greenland in the tenth or eleventh century. But exactly when they made their voyage, becoming the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic Ocean, was a matter of debate. Now, a team of researchers led by Margot Kuitems of the University of Groningen has used a new method of dating wood associated with the settlement to determine precisely when the Vikings were there. The researchers took advantage of a rare solar storm that occurred in A.D. 992, significantly increasing the amount of radioactive carbon-14 absorbed by trees the next year. By identifying the tree ring containing elevated levels of radiocarbon in each of three wood samples and then counting the number of rings to the bark edge of the wood, they found that the wood all came from trees that had been felled in A.D. 1021.

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Monday, 10 January 2022

Viking sites in Scotland: These are 13 areas with Nordic history you should visit in Scotland


1. Shetland

It's hard to imagine Viking plunderers rampaging up that serene beach. But The Shetland Isles were the first part of Scotland to be discovered by the Norsemen, being as close to there as it is to Aberdeen. Vikings arrived in the early 8th century, searching for land. They ruled over the islands for the next 600 years, many settling down to become farmers. The Norse spirit has been kept alive in Shetland to the present day.

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Archeologists long believed that ancient graves were robbed all over Europe, but here’s why they’re wrong

Grave from France where the individual was moved around before he fully decomposed. Éveha-Études et valorisations archéologiques/G Grange, Author provided

From the collapse of Roman power to the spread of Christianity, most of what we know about the lives of people across Europe comes from traces of their deaths. This is because written sources are limited, and in many areas archaeologists have only found a few farmsteads and villages. But thousands of grave fields have been excavated, adding up to tens of thousands of burials.

Buried along with the human remains, archaeologists find traces of costumes and often possessions, including knives, swords, shields, spears and ornate brooches of bronze and silver. There are glass beads strung as necklaces, as well as glass and ceramic vessels. From time to time they even find wooden boxes, buckets, chairs and beds.

Yet since the investigations of these cemeteries began in the 19th century, archaeologists have recognised that they have not always been the first to re-enter the tombs. At least a few graves in most cemeteries are found in a disturbed state, their contents jumbled and valuables missing. Sometimes this happened before the buried bodies were fully decomposed. In some areas, whole cemeteries are found in this state.

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North European Funeral and Burial Rites in the Early Middle Ages

 Anglo-Saxons were often buried with everything they would need after death. In this case the dead woman’s family thought she would need her cow in the afterlife.


The customs and rituals for the people of Britain in the early Middle Ages were a mixture of the practices of a number of cultures.

Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons shared similar ritual beliefs as is reflected in their burial grounds, which archaeologists are still discovering today. Many of the traditions have their origins in the similar religion of the northern European tribes, Germanic or Scandinavian.

Anglo-Saxon burials and barrows

The dead of Anglo-Saxon tribes were either cremated or buried. A great deal of the evidence available for the Anglo-Saxons’ way of life comes from their burial sites. Particularly amongst the wealthy, these burial sites are often filled with artefacts which have been vital to understanding the people and the times in which they lived.

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The Sun & the Moon in Norse Myth


In Norse mythology, the Sun and the Moon appear as personified siblings pulling the heavenly bodies and chased by wolves, or as plain objects. Written sources, such as the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, have surprisingly little to say about them, but clues from before the Viking Age put together with the written works speak of their greater role in ancient Scandinavia.

The Sun & Moon in Norse Writings

Unlike in the Roman tradition and much like in modern German, the sun (sól in Old Norse) is a feminine noun, and the moon (máni) is masculine. In the Völuspá, a poem where a prophetess reveals information about the beginning and end of the world, we can read about their kinship:

    The sun, sister of the moon,
    Shone from the south,
    With her hand
    Over the rim of heaven;
    The sun did not know yet
    Where her home should be,
    The moon did not know yet
    What power he had

    (stanza 5)

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Monday, 20 December 2021

Vikings may have fled Greenland to escape rising seas

An account of a wedding that took place at this former church in 1408 is the last written record from the Norse occupation of Greenland.

In 1721, a Norwegian missionary set sail for Greenland in the hopes of converting the Viking descendants living there to Protestantism. When he arrived, the only traces he found of the Nordic society were ruins of settlements that had been abandoned 300 years earlier.

There is no written record to explain why the Vikings left or died out. But a new simulation of Greenland’s coastline reveals that as the ice sheet covering most of the island started to expand around that time, sea levels rose drastically, researchers report December 15 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in New Orleans.

These shifting coastlines would have inundated grazing areas and farmland, and could have helped bring about the end of the Nordic way of life in Greenland, says Marisa Borreggine, a geophysicist at Harvard University.

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