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.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

DNA Testing Just Revealed That This 1,000 Year Old Finnish Viking Was Likely A Well-Respected Intersex Warrior

A depiction of the Viking warrior as they would have been laid in the grave.

The Viking remains, which date to between 1050 and 1300, were buried with both male and female objects, suggesting a highly-regarded member of society with a non-binary gender identity.

In 1968, ditch-diggers in Suontaka, Finland, came across a puzzling mystery. They found a 1,000-year-old skeleton buried in women’s clothing — next to two swords. Archeologists speculated that they’d found a double burial, or perhaps evidence of a woman warrior.

In fact, DNA testing has shown that the skeleton was likely intersex, according to a study recently published in the European Journal of Archeology.

“According to current data, it is likely that the individual found in Suontaka had the chromosomes XXY, although the DNA results are based on a very small set of data,” explained Elina Salmela, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Helsinki.

For decades, the grave has confounded archeologists. The warrior, who likely died around 1050 to 1300, wore women’s clothing and had been buried with furs and jewelry. But its grave also contained two swords, including one laid at the skeleton’s hip, usually associated with male Viking burials.

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Viking ‘amulet factory’ discovery forces rethink of enigmatic artifacts

Figurine motifs from Ribe, Denmark reveal a variety of designs were manufactured at the site.
MUSEUM OF SOUTHWEST JUTLAND, CC-BY-SA

Archaeologists long assumed Valkyrie figurines represented Norse mythical beings. A new study of how and where they were made challenges that.

Mysterious, ancient female figurines have been found by the dozens all over Denmark, and as far afield as England and Russia: inch-long bronze depictions of long-haired women, often wearing crested helmets and long dresses, and armed with shields and swords. The small amulets date back more than a thousand years, to the height of the Viking Age.

But because Viking women weren’t typically buried with weapons—unlike their male counterparts—researchers reached into sagas and mythology to explain the armed female figurines and concluded that they represented Valkyries, the  mythical warrior women ancient Scandinavians thought were responsible for transporting slain warriors to the afterlife.

“The images had always been understood in terms of what we know of Norse mythology,” says Pieterjan Deckers, an archaeologist at the Free University of Brussels.

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Archaeologists baffled as Viking discovery in UK 'predates' Scandinavian artefacts

Professor Judith Jesch, from the University of Nottingham (Image: BBC)

Judith Jesch, Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham, detailed how experts were stunned after uncovering a series of these artefacts known as the runestones.

She told the History Hit podcast: "The most amazing body of Scandinavian runic inscriptions in Britain is actually the runestones of the Isle of Man which are from the core Viking Age – the 10th, possibly early 11th century.

"There are around 30 of them commemorating the dead and they are early hybrid monuments that have runic text with Scandinavian language.

"They are clearly a local product, they are made with local stone, the dating is a bit difficult, but they seem to be earlier than similar monuments in Norway.

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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

‘Hugely significant’ discoveries made on final day of excavation to find Shetland’s ancient Viking capital

 


Archaeological discoveries are getting closer to revealing the ancient Viking capital of Shetland.

The Skailway project, which has been underway since May when more than £20,000 was raised to fund an excavation, has reported findings of “huge significance”.

Kristian Leith has been hunting for the ancient capital ever since he found five round house structures and 26 human remains while digging foundations for a garden shed  last year.

After his successful crowdfunding appeal, Mr Leith brought in Orkney archaeological  experts, ORCA,  to carry out geophysical surveys in the land between the Mill Brae road and his home in Upper Scalloway.

The first nine trenches came up with nothing – but the last day of the investigation uncovered a structure, which is thought to be part of the ancient settlement.

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Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Skeletons of twin infant Vikings discovered in Sweden

This close-up shot shows one of the burials found in the tombs in Sweden. They are believed to be Christianized Vikings who lived about 1,000 years ago.
(Image credit: Photo courtesy Uppdrag arkeologi) 

Seven Viking tombs holding well-preserved skeletons, including possible twin infants, have been discovered in the Swedish town of Sigtuna. 

The archaeologists discovered the 1,000-year-old remains of eight people — four adults and four children — inside the tombs; they were likely Vikings who had converted to Christianity. "The Christian character of the now-excavated graves is obvious because of how the tombs were laid out," said Johan Runer, a project manager with Uppdrag arkeologi, a cultural resource management company, which led excavations of the site. 

Most of the people had been buried flat on their back in an east-west position, whereas people who followed traditional Viking beliefs in this area of Sweden at this time tended to be cremated, Runer said. 

They also found deposits of charcoal and in some cases partially burnt caskets, suggesting fire rituals were involved in at least four burials. "Such phenomena are rather common in Christian Viking period graves, but previously rather rare in Sigtuna," Runer told Live Science in an email. 

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Twin Viking Babies Found in a Surprisingly Christian-Looking Burial in Sweden

Remains of a stone cairn were found over this tomb. (Uppdrag arkeologi)

Seven Viking tombs holding well-preserved skeletons, including possible twin infants, have been discovered in the Swedish town of Sigtuna. 

The archaeologists discovered the 1,000-year-old remains of eight people - four adults and four children - inside the tombs; they were likely Vikings who had converted to Christianity.

"The Christian character of the now-excavated graves is obvious because of how the tombs were laid out," said Johan Runer, a project manager with Uppdrag arkeologi, a cultural resource management company, which led excavations of the site. 

Most of the people had been buried flat on their back in an east-west position, whereas people who followed traditional Viking beliefs in this area of Sweden at this time tended to be cremated, Runer said. 

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Thursday, 3 June 2021

Looking for Viking ship burials with a 17th-century illustration


New detailed surveys of Viking age ship settings in Hjarnø, Denmark have been completed by archaeologists examining the origins and makeup of the Kalvestene grave field, a renowned site in Scandinavian folklore.

The archaeologists from Flinders University conducted detailed surveys to determine whether a 17th-century illustration of the site completed by the Danish antiquarian, Ole Worm, was accurate, as part of the first survey since the National Museum of Denmark discovered and restored 10 tombs on a small island off the eastern coast almost a century ago.

The burial site is made up of monuments which, according to legend, commemorate a king named Hiarni who was crowned after writing a beautiful poem on the death of the old king and who was defeated in battle on the island.

The research, published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, shows the design of the famous Kalvestene grave field is unusual when compared to other Danish sites of the same period which typically incorporate circle, oval or triangle stone settings in addition to the ship shaped settings. Instead, there are strong parallels with Southern Swedish sites, raising questions about links between the two regions.

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Monday, 31 May 2021

Secrets of Viking-age hoard revealed as it goes on public display

The Galloway Hoard / PA Wire

Experts have unlocked fascinating secrets of a Viking-age hoard discovered by a metal detectorist which is set to go on public display.

The 10th-century hoard of more than 100 objects, including gold, silver, jewellery, a rare Anglo-Saxon cross and textiles, was found in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by National Museums Scotland (NMS) in 2017.

Painstaking cleaning, conservation and cutting-edge research over the past few years has revealed the stories of some of the objects, including a unique lidded vessel which is wrapped in textiles and is too fragile to form part of the display, however a 3D reconstruction of it will be on show.

3D models, taken from X-ray imaging, have enabled researchers to see beneath the textiles which have hidden it for more than 1,000 years, giving them a glimpse of the decorated surface of the vessel, which features leopards, tigers and a Zoroastrian fire altar.

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Thursday, 20 May 2021

Great Army of Viking warriors used Northumbria camp to launch raids on Picts

The Great Army landed in Kent in 865 and overran much of England in the 860s and 870s

A massive camp of the Viking Great Army discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop is the first physical evidence for chroniclers’ accounts of raids by the commander Halfdan against the Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley was identified by archaeologists after metal detectorists reported numerous finds of gaming counters, coins and other artefacts typical of Viking encampments. According to excavators the discovery appears to confirm written accounts that say that, when the Great Army split into two forces after its conquest of Mercia, an army under Halfdan ravaged the territories of the Picts and the Britons of Strathclyde, in today’s Scotland and Cumbria, in 875AD.

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Viking Great Army launched devastating raids on Celtic Picts from massive hilltop camp in Northumbria, experts say

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years

A Viking Great Army camp discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop gives physical backing to early chroniclers' accounts of raids against the Celtic Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years.

They have found artifacts including gaming counters, coins and other items which indicate the presence of the Vikings.

Now, archaeologists currently working at the site say the finds confirm written accounts describing what happened after the Great Army split in two following its conquest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

Oxford University archaeologist Dr Jane Kershaw said it adds physical evidence to a sole written account describing how an army under the Viking commander Halfdan ravaged territories including those of the Picts in today's Northumberland

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Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Viking remains lost for more than a century rediscovered in a museum

Woven wrist cuffs found at a Viking burial site

Antiquity Publications Ltd/Rimstad et al/R. Fortuna, National Museum of Denmark

The remains of a Viking have been rediscovered after being missing for more than a century. They were safely stored in a museum the whole time, but had been mislabelled.

The individual had been buried with expensive grave goods, suggesting they were an elite person or even royalty. They also seem to have been wearing long trousers with elaborate decorations.

The story of the Viking’s remains begins in 1868, near the village of Mammen in Denmark. A landowner named Laust Pedersen Skomager enlisted local farmers to help him remove the topsoil from a mound on his estate.

They found it concealed a wooden Viking burial chamber, now called Bjerringhøj. The farmers dug up the contents and shared them out, so when academics arrived on the scene soon after, they had first to recover the remains from their new owners.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2276409-viking-remains-lost-for-more-than-a-century-rediscovered-in-a-museum/#ixzz6tuLEBnaw

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Thursday, 29 April 2021

The Cave Where Vikings Offered Sacrifices To Stop The Apocalypse


The Surtshellir Cave in Iceland was discovered to be a trove full of Middle Eastern artifacts, and the location was used by the Vikings as an offering pit for sacraments to stop the apocalypse. The most noticeable artifact in the cave was a stone, boat-shaped structure that served as the main offering pit, as All That’s Interesting details: 

    As deputy director and chief curator of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University, Kevin Smith was thrilled at the discovery. The Surtshellir Cave in question was formed by a volcano that erupted nearly 1,100 years ago — and gave Smith a window into what might have happened there.

    Smith and his team also found 63 beads made of a mineral common in the Middle East but rarely found in Scandinavia.

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Archeologists discover remains of Viking rituals in Iceland

Volcano has erupted in Iceland near Reykjavik
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A site dating back to the Viking age, approximately 300 meters beyond the Surtshellir cave, located in Iceland, was discovered by archeologists, according to a report by Ancient Origins. 

The report stated that the site in question was used for ancient rituals performed by Vikings. 

Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the archeologists, some based in Iceland with others hailing from the US and Norway, recorded many of their findings on the Surtshellir cave - the most notable discovery being a "boat-shaped structure made of rocks."

The Surtshellir cave is the longest lava cave in Iceland, stretching about 1.6 kilometers. It is named after the Viking fire giant Surtur, an integral figure in Norse mythology.  

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Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Vikings created a massive boat in this volcanic cave to ward off the apocalypse

Archaeologists found that the Vikings constructed this boat-shaped structure out of rocks. Inside the structure the Vikings burned animal bones at a high temperature. (Image credit: Kevin Smith)

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of rare artifacts from the Middle East in an Icelandic cave that the Vikings associated with Ragnarök, an end-times event in which the gods would be killed and the world engulfed in flames. 

The cave is located by a volcano that erupted almost 1,100 years ago. At the time of that eruption, the Vikings had recently colonized Iceland. "The impacts of this eruption must have been unsettling, posing existential challenges for Iceland's newly arrived settlers," a team of researchers wrote in a paper published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science. 

Archaeological work shows that after the lava cooled, the Vikings entered the cave and constructed a boat-shaped structure made out of rocks. Within this structure, the Vikings would have burned animal bones, including those of sheep, goat, cattle, horses and pigs, at high temperatures as a sacrifice. This may have been done in an effort to avert Ragnarok. 

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Boat-Shaped Viking Structure Found in Icelandic Cave

© Kevin P. Smith

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND—Live Science reports that a team of researchers led by Kevin Smith of Brown University has investigated a stone structure in Surtshellir Cave, which is located near a volcano in Iceland. The volcano is known to have erupted about 1,100 years ago, shortly after the island was colonized by Vikings. Smith said that after the lava from the eruption cooled, the Vikings built the boat-shaped structure with rocks. Within the boat’s outline, the researchers unearthed the bones of sheep, goat, cattle, horses, and pigs that had been burned at high temperatures. They also found orpiment, a mineral from eastern Turkey, and 63 beads, three of which came from Iraq.


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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Viking metalwork craft and expertise evolved from 8th to 9th century

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The evolution of metalwork expertise and craftsmanship developed by Viking craftspeople in Denmark in the 8th and 9th centuries has been detailed in a study published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 

A team of researchers at Aarhus University, Denmark, analyzed tool fragments, raw materials such as metal bars, and complete objects such as keys and brooches, excavated from two sites in the town of Ribe, Denmark, a trading port established by Vikings in the eighth century.

The authors examined 1,126 samples of metalworking tools (crucibles and molds), 24 keys and brooches, and 24 metal bar ingots and fragments of spare metal. By analyzing samples from the surface of tools and identifying metallic traces contained in them, as well as examining the metallic composition of finished objects, the researchers were able to infer which metals were used to make these objects.

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Lidl store builds glass floor to showcase 11th century Viking ruins

The store opened in 2020
(RTE news/YouTube)

A Lidl supermarket in Dublin has put on a show for amazed shoppers, installing glass panels in between the isles that reveal a medieval snapshot of the city,

The store on Aungier Street in the city centre, opened in 2020 and uses glass panelling to showcase 11th and 18th century archeological remains that lie beneath the shop.

When the site was uncovered, Lidl managers invested heavily into preserving the historic structures, reported dublin-news.

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Saturday, 17 April 2021

Viking DNA and the dangers of genetic ancestry tests

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 6 April 2021

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 12 March 2021

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


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

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

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Thursday, 11 March 2021

When unfolded, these ancient gold foil figures reveal embracing couples

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 21 February 2021

Romanian Authorities Recover ‘Unique’ Stolen Viking Helmet


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

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

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

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

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Viking Warriors in Poland: Overcoming Identity Crisis


Viking Warriors in Poland: Overcoming Identity Crisis

Paper by Leszek Gardeła

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

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

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Thursday, 18 February 2021

Viking age artefacts discovered on Isle of Man declared treasure

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

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

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

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

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

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Isle of Man Viking jewellery found by metal detectorist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 7 February 2021

Jorvik plans largest online Viking Festival


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

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

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

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

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Monday, 1 February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 22 January 2021

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

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



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

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

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

One of the region's largest burial mounds

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

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

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Monday, 18 January 2021

Birka: The Mysterious Demise of a Majestic Viking Trading Center

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

(Arild Vågen/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

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

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Monday, 21 December 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Norway excavates a Viking longship fit for a king


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

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

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

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

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

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Largest Viking DNA Study

(Dorset County Council/Oxford Archaeology)

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

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

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Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Special Viking grave with beads and brooches found in Central Norway


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Melting ice patch in Norway reveals large collection of ancient arrows


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

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

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

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Thursday, 26 November 2020

Swedish runestones open gateway to ancient Viking civilization

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


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

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

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

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

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