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. 

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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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Brutal Viking Ritual Called 'Blood Eagle' Was Anatomically Possible, Study Shows

Man lying on his belly with another man using a weapon on his back. (Stora Hammar Stone)

Famed for their swift longboats and bloody incursions, Vikings have long been associated with brutal, over-the-top violence. Between the eighth and 11th centuries, these groups left their Nordic homelands to make their fortunes by trading and raiding across Europe.

Particularly infamous is the so-called "blood eagle", a gory ritual these warriors are said to have performed on their most hated enemies. The ritual allegedly involved carving the victim's back open and cutting their ribs away from their spine, before the lungs were pulled out through the resulting wounds.

The final fluttering of the lungs splayed out on the outspread ribs would supposedly resemble the movement of a bird's wings – hence the eagle in the name.

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Galloway Hoard yields another exciting discovery


A rare rock crystal jar found wrapped in textiles as part of the Galloway Hoard, which dates back to around the year 900, has been conserved, revealing a Latin inscription written in gold. The inscription says the jar was made for a bishop named Hyguald.

The Galloway Hoard is the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in the British Isles. It was discovered in 2014 and acquired by National Museums Scotland in 2017. The hoard includes over a hundred objects, such as brooches, ingots, glass beads, a Christian cross, and a silver vessel. Even some textiles that originally wrapped the materials have survived.

The crystal jar, which is around 5cm high and resembles an ornate perfume bottle, is thought to have had an ecclesiastical function. It has now been carefully separated from its wrapping. The Latin inscription on the base, spelled out in gold letters, translates as ‘Bishop Hyguald had me made.’ It is the clearest evidence that some of the material in the hoard may have come from a church in the Kingdom of Northumbria, which stretched as far north as Edinburgh and as far south as Sheffield.

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Sunday, 19 December 2021

Ancient sheep poop reveals an unknown population on Faroe Islands before Vikings

The bed of this lake on the Faroese island of Eysturoy contains sediment from 500 AD that documents the first arrival of sheep and humans.

The isolated Faroe Islands were once home to an unknown population in 500 AD, about 350 years before Vikings ever arrived, according to new research. And the evidence comes from an unusual source: ancient sheep poop.

The striking Faroes are a small archipelago located in the North Atlantic halfway between Norway and Iceland. Vikings reached the islands once they developed ships for long-distance sailing, about 850 AD, before they moved on to Iceland in 874. For a long time, researchers believed they were the first human inhabitants of the rugged Faroes.

Until this century, the only evidence for the first people to set foot on the Faroes ahead of the Vikings came from mentions in medieval texts. There is no current evidence to suggest that Indigenous people ever lived there.

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Friday, 17 December 2021

‘Extraordinary’ restoration of Roman rock crystal jar from Galloway hoard

The rock crystal jar was part of the Galloway hoard, unearthed in Kirkcudbrightshire in 2014. Photograph: Neil Hanna

Exclusive: Vessel may have held a perfume or other potion used to anoint kings or in religious ceremonies

When the Galloway hoard was unearthed from a ploughed field in western Scotland in 2014, it offered the richest collection of Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. But one of the artefacts paled in comparison with treasures such as a gold bird-shaped pin and a silver-gilt vessel because it was within a pouch that was mangled and misshapen after almost 1,000 years in the ground.

Now that pouch has been removed and its contents restored, revealing an extraordinary Roman rock crystal jar wrapped in exquisite layers of gold thread by the finest medieval craftsman in the late eighth or early ninth century.

About 5cm high, it may once have held a perfume or other prized potion used to anoint kings, or in religious ceremonies. It had been carefully wrapped in a silk-lined leather pouch, reflecting its significance.

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Thursday, 16 December 2021

Wealth & Power in Medieval Iceland


Early medieval Iceland, the Viking colony, was a democratic and egalitarian society, but the scarcity of resources and the rough environment created competition, where local chieftains resorted to different tactics to acquire wealth and money, from using their advantage as men of the law and representatives of the people to the often complex social relationships they had with their followers.

Economic Challenges

To understand the economic challenges, we need to keep in mind that the short growing season in the north especially, was variable and mostly meant moss and lichens. Birch, Iceland's only tree, suffered from the changing temperatures and then the settlers' woodcutting. The settlers were probably pleased initially since the land was easy to clear for farming, but very soon the island started showing its boundaries. Overgrazing caused erosion, the cooling of the climate affected productivity, no new farming technologies were developed. In the south, it was possible to grow small crops of cereals, but the farmer (bændr) usually turned to sheep and cattle. Hay was vital, thus fertile meadows as well, turning land into the most desired commodity and the source of many disputes in the sagas.

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Monday, 13 December 2021

Viking sword discovered on Papa Westray, Orkney has 'many stories to tell'

The sword was found at a Viking burial site on Papa Westray, Orkney

 ARCHEOLOGISTS say a rare Viking sword discovered in Orkney has “many stories to tell”.

The sword found at a burial site on Papa Westray in 2015 is being carefully examined – and the researchers say it has been identified as one associated with the ninth century.

While the weapon is very corroded due to its age, the archaeologists say it was highly decorated, with contrasting metals used to create a honeycomb-style design. 

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11th c. earring is first of its kind found in Scandinavia


A piece of gold art jewelry found by a metal detectorist in a field near Bøvling, West Jutland, is an extremely rare 11th century cloisonné enamel earring. Only 10 or 12 examples of them are known worldwide, and this is the first one ever discovered in Scandinavia.

The crescent-shaped earring is backed with a crescent-shaped gold plate framed with a gold beaded edge decorated with gold loops. The piece is made of cloisonné enamel in shades of purple, green and blue is divided by gold threads to form a stylized design of two birds on either side of a tree. This symbolizes the tree of life motif. This type of earring design has been found in Egypt, Syria, Byzantium and Russia. This example is likely of Egyptian origin.

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Viking Sword from Scotland X-Rayed

AOC Archaeology/Historic Environment Scotland)

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that an X-ray of a heavily corroded Viking sword discovered in a grave on the Orkney Island of Papa Westray in 2015 has revealed its highly decorated upper and lower handle guards made of contrasting metals. The excavation team, which included Andrew Morrison, Caroline Paterson, and Stephen Harrison of AOC Archaeology, lifted the weapon from the site in a block of soil in order to preserve as much evidence as possible.

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Friday, 10 December 2021

Intricate sword, buckle and arrows in Viking burial

The sword was found in 2015 during excavations of a cemetery at Mayback, Papa Westray, but has only now been identified as one of the heaviest designs of the Viking era

An intricate sword, buckle and arrows are among a treasure trove of goods discovered in a Viking burial in Orkney, dating back around 1,200 years.

The Mayback Viking burial in Papa Westray was first discovered back in 2015, but analysis of the precious items is now well underway.

One of the most exciting items is a sword, which is believed to be a Pederson Type D sword – one of the heaviest Viking weapons.

Andrew Morrison, from AOC Archaeology, said: 'Given very few Viking Age scabbards have survived, the Mayback example is a very important addition.


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Wednesday, 8 December 2021

“World-class find”: A rare Egyptian earring found in the middle of a field in Denmark


A “unique” earring more than 1,000 years old was recently found in a field in Bovling, in the west of the Jutland peninsula (Denmark). According to experts, this gem probably had its origin in Egypt.

The earring was found by a person using a metal detector and consists of a golden crescent-shaped plate with enamel decoration showing two birds around a tree. According to one of the researchers’ theories, this represents the tree of life of both Islamic and Christian cultures.

“There is only between 10 and 12 pieces of this type all over the world, all in old museum collections in the US, UK or Arab countries, “archaeologist and National Museum inspector Peter Pentz told Danish Radio, adding that” such a piece is unique“and it is” interesting “how it ended up in Jutland.

Pentz and his colleagues theorize that one of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire gifted the pendant to a Danish Viking who was part of his Scandinavian war service, known as the Varangian Guard. 

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Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Norwegian Archaeologists Discover One of the Largest Viking Longhouses in Scandinavia

 The ship burial forms part of a larger mound cemetery and settlement site from the Iron Age next to the monumental Jell Mound.
Lars Gustavsen, NIKU

Archaeologists discovered several Iron Age Viking longhouses, according to a statement by the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research. The discovery was made by a team working on a project intended to map the presence of Vikings in Gjellestad, a village thought to be a place of great importance during the Iron Age, which lasted roughly from 1200 B.C.E. to 600 B.C.E.

“Finding these longhouses confirms that Gjellestad was a central place in the late Iron Age,” said Lars Gustavsen, a Ph.D. candidate who is helping lead this project.

Out of the five identified using ground-penetrating radar, the largest measured 196 feet in length, making it one of the largest known longhouses in Scandinavia. A typical longhouse from the Iron Age is believed to have measured 65–98 feet in length. The size of a longhouse corresponds with the wealth and influence of its owner, only further proving that this site was one of great importance. Exactly who occupied that hall, however, is yet to be confirmed.

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Norwegian archaeologists find late Iron Age longhouses

Longhouses found near Gjellestad Ship

Norwegian archaeologists said Monday they have found a cluster of longhouses, including one of the largest in Scandinavia, using ground-penetrating radar in the southeastern part of the country—in an area that researchers believe was a central place in the late Nordic Iron Age. 

The longhouses—long and narrow, single-room buildings—were found in Gjellestad, 86 kilometers (53 miles) southeast of Oslo near where a Viking-era ship was found in 2018 close to the Swedish border.

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Sunday, 5 December 2021

Viking Roles

(© P. Deckers, S. Croix, and S. M. Sindbæk)
Reproduced mold impressions of riderless stallion, armed woman, and man pulling hair

Small bronze figurines of women clad in armor and bearing weapons that date to the Viking Age have traditionally been seen as representations of Valkyries, the female warriors of Norse mythology who determined whether human combatants lived or died. Analysis of some of the 7,000 fragments of ceramic molds discovered at the site of Ribe in southwestern Denmark that were used to make these figurines, however, suggests that they actually depict human participants in ritual ceremonies. Using high-resolution laser scans of the ceramic fragments, researchers led by Pieterjan Deckers, an archaeologist now at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, fashioned 3-D models of the complete molds that were used to create the figurines in the first few decades of the ninth century A.D. In addition to the armed women, these include a man pulling his hair, a saddled stallion without a rider, and miniature wheels, swords, and shields.

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Monday, 15 November 2021

Harald Hardrada: why there’s more to the last great Viking than his death in 1066


King Harald Sigurdsson of Norway – remembered by the name Hardrada, meaning ‘hard ruler’ – was a complex, fierce and ultimately doomed antihero. If the myriad ancient sagas and tales of him bear any truth, he was one of the great Vikings worthy of epic television series such as Game of Thrones or Vikings. An outcast son of a petty king, he rose to win a fortune, romance an empress, marry a princess, and carve himself a kingdom by the strength of his sword arm.

Harald made his first mark in history as a 15-year-old warrior, when he fought alongside his elder half-brother King Olaf II (later Saint Olaf) against Danes loyal to Cnut the Great in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. The day ended with defeat, and for Olaf, death.

According to the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, the fighting took place in part under a total eclipse of the Sun; a night fight in the middle of the day. Pagans may have believed the hole in the sky was the one-eyed god Odin watching over the battle and choosing the slain for Valhalla, while Christians may have recalled the midday darkness at the Crucifixion, a thousand years past. Eclipses have customarily been regarded as a bad omen throughout history, and here it would have been no different. Not only was Olaf slain, but Harald barely got away from the battle with his life.

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Friday, 12 November 2021

The St Brice’s Day Massacre: what really happened?


The 11th century in English history features its fair share of bloodshed in battles, but right at the start of the new millennium, there is one event that has always seemed to stand out for its violence: the St Brice’s Day Massacre of 13 November 1002.

“It continues to exercise a curious allure over successive generations of undergraduate essay-writers and their lecturers, whose own occasionally lurid interest follows a historiographical tradition going back almost a millennium, beginning with the Norman observers who sought to depict the event as one of the great, gory English national sins justifying the conquest of 1066.”

That’s a quote from Dr Benjamin Savill, of Trinity College, Dublin, in his article Remembering St Brictius: Conspiracy, Violence and Liturgical Time in the Danish Massacre of 1002, published in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History.

The massacre is a striking incident, but one for which we have only limited evidence (in common with most of the events of the period). There is a reference to it in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which notes that “in this year the king ordered to be slain all the Danish men who were in England”, and a further more detailed comment in a diploma of King Æthelred (the reigning monarch at the time) for the monastery of St Frideswide, Oxford, of 1004. That diploma describes how the Danes in that city sought sanctuary in a church, which was set upon and burnt down by “all the people in pursuit”.

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Tuesday, 9 November 2021

A Viking axe struck a Newfoundland tree in the year 1021. Here’s how scientists proved it

 



Hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus, the Norse became the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic and settle in North America. This long-posited theory was finally proven in the 1960s, following an archeological expedition to the site of L’Anse aux Meadows on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland. Until recently, the exact timing of the Viking settlement was only speculation, based on architectural remains, a few surviving artefacts and interpretations of Icelandic sagas written in the 1200s. But, as this video from Nature explains, using new carbon dating techniques, scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have found the exact year that a tree was felled by a Viking axe – 1021 CE. Further, this research also marks the earliest known point in history by which human migration had encircled the globe.

Watch the video...

Did Vikings and their stowaway mice beat Portugal to the Azores?

Vikings, as imagined by NC Wyeth, and their stowaway mice are now thought to be the earliest settlers on the Azores. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

They came from the land of the ice and snow and the midnight sun – but still ended up in some balmy destinations. This is the conclusion of researchers who have discovered evidence to support the idea that the Vikings settled on the clement shores of the Azores several hundred years before the Portuguese arrived in 1427.

Given that the Vikings are usually associated with the frozen north, the claim is startling. Nevertheless, it is based on solid science, says a group of international researchers who recently analysed lakebed sediments in the Azores, an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic.

These were found to be rich in organic compounds that are found in cow and sheep faeces. At the same time, these samples were also found to contain high levels of charcoal but were low in pollen from native trees.

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Thursday, 21 October 2021

Breakthrough Discovery Shows Vikings Were Active in North America 1,000 Years Ago

Reconstruction of a Viking building near L’Anse aux Meadows. (Glenn Nagel Photography)

New archaeological evidence has allowed scientists to refine the timeline for the Viking presence in North America.

Pieces of wood scarred with cut marks have been precisely dated to the year 1021 CE – exactly 1,000 years ago – and the metal tools that made those marks were not produced by the indigenous population, according to a team of archaeologists led by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

Vikings, however, did make and use metal tools, and were known to have settled at the archaeological site of L'Anse aux Meadows, where the wood was found.

This is the earliest and most accurate date yet not just for the European settlement of the Americas, but for circumnavigation of the globe, the researchers said, giving us a definitive reference point for understanding the global transference of knowledge, goods, and genetic information.

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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

When the Vikings reached the Americas

Reconstructed Viking-Age building adjacent to the site of L’Anse aux Meadows. 
Credit: Glenn Nagel Photography

New research from the Netherlands has more accurately dated a Viking settlement in Newfoundland, Canada, revealing that the seafaring people were active in North America by at least AD 1021.

Vikings are known to have sailing vast distances in their iconic longships, and forays into a mysterious foreign land out to the west were described in ancient sagas, but these stories were thought to be fantasy until the 1960s discovery of Norse buildings at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.

A new study from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, published today in the journal Nature, has revealed the most accurate dating yet of the L’Anse aux Meadows site.

In order to accurately place L’Anse aux Meadows in history, the researchers studied three pieces of wood from archaeological contexts containing Viking materials. Each piece showed clear evidence of being cut with metal, a material First Nations Americans weren’t using at that time.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Word Of Viking Settlements In North America Reached Italy 150 Years Before Columbus

 


Word of the Viking exploration of North America appears to have reached Genoa, Christopher Columbus's hometown in Italy, centuries before Columbus sailed. This conclusion, based on a translation of a 14th-century history raises the possibility the Viking settlements in Vinland had previously unrecognized influence on subsequent events.

Around 1345, Galvaneus Flamma, a Milanese Dominican friar, wrote a document called Cronica universalis. The original was lost, but a copy made 50 years later was rediscovered in 2013. Professor Paolo Chiesa, an expert in Medieval Latin at the University of Milan, has made a translation. In the journal Terrae Incognitae, Chiesa reports that a portion of the text refers to Markalada, west of Greenland.

Four Icelandic sagas include accounts of Markland, thought to be modern Newfoundland or Labrador.

Flamma attributes this information to Genoese sailors, and Chiesa sees this as evidence that knowledge of the Viking voyages had reached Italy 150 years before Columbus arrived in the Americas.

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Wednesday, 6 October 2021

The Best-Preserved Pair of Skis from Prehistory

 

The second Digervarden ski, completely free of ice. 
Photo: Espen Finstad, secretsoftheice.com.

We have found the best-preserved pair of skis from prehistory! Back in 2014, the Secrets of the Ice program found an exceptional pre-Viking ski, 1300 years old, at the Digervarden Ice patch in Norway. The ski was complete, including the binding – one of only two skis from prehistory in this condition. Ever since, we have monitored the ice patch, hoping and praying for the second ski of the pair to melt out. Now it has happened! The new ski is even better preserved than the first one! It is an unbelievable find.
The new discovery

It has been seven years since the discovery of the first ski at the Digervarden ice patch. We have patiently monitored the melt of the ice patch, in case the second ski of the pair should melt out. We were back in 2016 for a general survey of the ice patch, but the ice had not retreated much then. This year, we could see on satellite imagery that the ice patch had retreated compared to 2014. We decided to send out an archaeologist to check it.

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Two men to face trial over £1m Viking hoard of coins and silver

 


Officers from Durham Police seized a large number of coins and a silver ingot in two raids in 2018 and 2019. The hoard contained coins of Alfred the Great of Wessex and his less well-known contemporary Ceolwulf II of Mercia.

Two men have denied charges relating to a Viking hoard of historically important coins and silver worth almost £1m.

Roger Pilling, 73, and Craig Best, 44, appeared before Durham Crown Court to plead not guilty to all charges.

They denied a charge of conspiracy to convert criminal property - Anglo-Saxon coins - between September 2018 and May 2019.

Pilling, of Loveclough, Lancashire, also denied two charges of possessing criminal property - Anglo-Saxon coins and a silver ingot.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2021

A Danish man found buried treasure from the Iron Age using a metal detector, just hours after turning it on for the first time

 

Gold medallions, coins, and jewelry comprise an Iron Age hoard that a rookie metal detectorist recently discovered in Denmark. Conservation Center Vejle

Ole Ginnerup Schytz had never used a metal detector before. He first gave it a shot on a former classmate's land in Vindelev, Denmark, in December.

Within hours of turning his detector on, Schytz stumbled across one of the largest treasure hoards ever found in the country.

"Well, that's the epitome of improbable luck," the rookie detectorist said in an interview with Danish outlet TV Syd earlier this month. "Denmark is 43,000 square kilometers, and then I happen to choose to put the detector exactly where this find was."

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Viking Hygiene, Clothing, & Jewelry

 


Viking clothing was made of wool, linen, and animal hides, and for the wealthy, silk. Combs – which it seemed almost every Viking carried – were carved from antler, bone, ivory, and wood and often kept in their own cases. Jewelry of the upper class was fashioned from silver, gold, gemstones, and polished glass, but the lower class adorned themselves within their limits as well, using tin, lead, iron, and possibly copper. Shoes and boots were made of animal hide and without heels. Except for slaves, generally speaking, Scandinavians were well-dressed and took great pride in their personal appearance. They began each morning with a personal hygiene regimen, and Saturday was set aside for bathing and washing clothes; a practice the Anglo-Saxon chroniclers found both strange and objectionable.

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Monday, 27 September 2021

Viking Map of North America Identified as 20th-Century Forgery

 

 It seemed too good to be true. Acquired by Yale University and publicized to great fanfare in 1965, the Vinland Map—supposedly dated to mid-15th century Europe—showed part of the coast of North America, seemingly presenting medieval Scandinavians, not Christopher Columbus, as the true “discoverers” of the New World.

The idea wasn’t exactly new. Two short Icelandic sagas relate the story of Viking expeditions to North America, including the construction of short-lived settlements, attempts at trade and ill-fated battles with Indigenous peoples on the continent’s northeastern coast. Archaeological finds made on Newfoundland in the 1960s support these accounts. But this map suggested something more: namely, that knowledge of Western lands was reasonably common in Scandinavia and central Europe, with Vikings, rather than Columbus and his Iberian backers, acting as the harbingers of the colonial age.

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Temple at Uppsala

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Temple at Uppsala History Channel

The Temple at Uppsala was a religious center dedicated to the Norse gods Thor, Odin, and Freyr located in what is now Gamla Uppsala in Sweden. It is described by the 11th-century historian Adam of Bremen as the most significant pagan site in the region and was destroyed by the Christian King Inge the Elder c. 1080.

The site is also referenced in the Ynglinga Saga of the Heimskringla written by the Icelandic mythographer Snorri Sturluson (l. 1179-1241) and the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus (l. c. 1160 - c. 1220). In every case, it is associated with the gods of the Norse religion and in Adam and Saxo with human sacrifice. At the time Adam was writing (c. 1070), Christianity was still contending with the old Norse beliefs for supremacy in the region, while in Saxo’s time, it was more established. Both wrote from a Christian point of view and so cast the temple and its rites in a negative light. Sturluson was recounting ancient myths for his age and so humanized the gods, making deities like Odin into great kings of the past rather than gods and so avoided having to demonize the site for a Christian audience.

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Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Melting ice and a high altitude dig reveal Viking secrets in Norway

A proposed digital reconstruction of one of the ancient Viking homes,
featuring Secrets of the Ice team member Elling Utvik Wammer.
Credit: Secrets of the Ice. Illustration: Espen Finstad/Hege Vatnaland

The summer of 2011 was unusually hot for southern Norway. Where high mountain passes had been choked with snow and ice in previous years, surveyors and team members of the acclaimed Secrets of the Ice project found only jumbled talus and meltwater. Picking their way through the boulders that covered the ice-free Lendbreen pass, the crew soon realized they had walked into a vast archaeological treasure, one that had stayed frozen for a thousand years. They began to collect countless tools, artifacts and weapons—items that had once been in the possession of Vikings.

After receiving international attention for their discovery, the crew decided to return to Lendbreen this summer in search of deeper answers. Questions remained, such as what purposes had occupied these alpine travelers and where they had been traveling. In search of understanding, team members ventured across and beyond the Lendbreen pass, which over the years has revealed clothing, household items, sleds and animal remains, among other artifacts.