Wednesday 29 October 2008

The Vikings' burning question: some decent graveside theatre

The average Viking lived a life in which spirituality and thoughts of immortality played a far more important part than the rape and pillage more usually associated with his violent race, according to new research. A study of thousands of excavated Viking graves suggests that rituals were performed at the graveside in which stories about life and death were presented as theatre, with live performances designed to help the passage of the deceased from this world into the next.

Neil Price, Chair of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, who will be presenting his findings at a lecture at the university tonight, believes that these rituals may have been the early beginnings of the Norse sagas, which told stories about men and gods in the pagan world. He said that close study of the graves and the artefacts they contained, as well as contemporary accounts of Viking funerals, presented a far more complex picture of their lives than the simple myth of the Viking raider.

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Monday 27 October 2008

Excavated burials reveal the Viking world-view

Research into pagan Viking burials has provided an Aberdeen academic with new revelations into the way the early Norse led their lives and their attitude towards mortality.Studies led by Professor Neil Price, Chair of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, exploring thousands of excavated graves known from the Viking world, revealed that no two of these burial monuments were the same.

Research into pagan Viking burials has provided an Aberdeen academic with new revelations into the way the early Norse led their lives and their attitude towards mortality.

Studies led by Professor Neil Price, Chair of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, exploring thousands of excavated graves known from the Viking world, revealed that no two of these burial monuments were the same.

The research also showed that Viking funerals involved complex elements of mortuary theatre – ritual plays which were literally performed at the graveside.

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Vikings preferred male grooming to pillaging

The Vikings are traditionally known for leaving destruction in their wake as they travelled around Europe raping, pillaging and plundering.

But Cambridge University has launched a campaign to recast them as "new men" with an interest in grooming, fashion and poetry.

Academics claim that the old stereotype is damaging, and want teenagers to be more appreciative of the Vikings' social and cultural impact on Britain.

They say that the Norse explorers, far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, were a largely-peaceful race who were even criticised for being too hygienic.

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Friday 24 October 2008

Ancient treasures go on display at town museum

A SILVER Viking neck ring and a hoard of medieval pennies are among the archaeological and metal-detecting finds that have gone on display at an East Riding museum.

The treasures and artefacts have been unearthed across the region and are now available for closer inspection at the Treasure House in Beverley.

The Viking neck ring was found at Stamford Bridge, while the pennies were discovered fused together by fire at a site in the village of Huggate.

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Swedish archaeologists find Iron Age wooden artifacts

A team of archaeologists digging near the planned expansion of a roadway have uncovered 1,700 year old artifacts made of wood, making them some of the oldest man-made wooden objects over discovered in Sweden.

The find was made near Älvängen in western Sweden and provides additional clues about how farmers in the region lived during the Iron Age.

“We’ve found hundreds of wooden objects, including a wooden wheel. We’re coming much closer to the people of the Iron Age [with this find]; we’re really getting up close and personal,” said Bengt Nordqvist, an archaeologist from the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) to the TT news agency.

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Thursday 23 October 2008

Novgorod Archeologists Find 12th Century Hoard

In the course of excavations in the historical centre of Veliki Novgorod, near the Monastery of the Dime archeologists have found hidden treasure of 22 European silver coins called denarii.

The thin, scale-like dinarii about one centimeter in diameter had been hidden under the base of a wooden utility structure, which experts have dated back to the early 12th century.

The hoard itself has also been tentatively dated to the same period.

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New dig to 'discover' St Edmund

LITTLE is known about the ancient shrine to Suffolk's martyred saint.

But archaeologists hope a new high-tech survey currently underway in the heart of the abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds will shed more light on the hidden history of St Edmund.

The Abbey Gardens is renowned for its beautiful flower beds but experts believe the historical secrets buried beneath the borders and manicured lawns could be equally astounding - particularly if they reveal more about England's former patron saint.

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Tuesday 21 October 2008

Ancient Spindle with Runes Discovered in Reykjavík

A fracture of a spindle with a runic inscription was discovered in an archeological excavation near the Althingi parliament building in Reykjavík last week. It is believed to date back to the 11th century and may be the oldest runic inscription in Iceland.

Archeologist Vala Gardarsdóttir, who is in control of the excavation, told Fréttabladid that the discovery is of great significance. “What makes it so special is that it is the only runic inscription from that time that has been found in Iceland.”

“This find could tell us a lot about the development of runes in Iceland because it can prove to be an important piece of the puzzle. One could even say that we’ve discovered the missing link,” Gardarsdóttir said.

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Thursday 16 October 2008

Timbers from a Viking home found in Hungate dig

THE remains of a Viking home have been discovered in York by archaeologists.

York Archaeological Trust archaeologists have exposed what they believe to be a timber-lined cellar of a two-storey house, during excavations at the site of the new Hungate development, which is being built near Stonebow.

The archaeologists say the home, which was uncovered about three metres below street level, would have been built in the mid to late tenth century. It appears that ships’ timbers used in the building’s construction – the first discovery of its kind in York.

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Tuesday 14 October 2008

Uncovering north's Christian past

A group of archaeologists are trying to establish if Norsemen brought Christianity to Caithness before St Columba arrived on Iona.

The question has arisen after a dig at an ancient church site at the coastal village of Dunbeath.

Pottery dating back to the 6th Century has recently been found in the area.

A University of Nottingham team is to carry out further exploration which they hope could show evidence of an even earlier Christian church.

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Thursday 9 October 2008

Archaeologists dig deep to shed new light on city's Viking heritage

IT has long been acknowledged that York is an archaeological gold mine, but the true scale of the city's long history still remains buried underfoot.

However, one of the most significant discoveries in a generation has thrown up new evidence to provide a clearer picture of how far the city sprawled during the Viking era.

A thousand years ago York ranked among the 10 biggest settlements in Western Europe, but archaeologists have now found the remains of a Viking settlement at the Hungate dig close to banks of the River Foss.

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Monday 6 October 2008

Swedish archaeologists uncover Viking-era church

The remains of a Viking-era stave church, including the skeletal remains of a woman, have been uncovered near the cemetery of the Lännäs church in Odensbacken outside Örebro in central Sweden.

“It’ a unique find,” said Bo Annuswer of the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) to the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper.

“The churches that have found earlier have been really damaged. Now archaeologists uncovered for posts which mark the church, and the burial site. Such an undisturbed site is unique.”

Stave churches, common in medieval northern Europe, are constructed with timber framing and walls filled with vertical planks.

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Hollywood Blockbuster on Vikings Shot in Iceland

Agreements have been reached with producers that a huge Hollywood movie on Vikings directed by Iceland’s leading director Baltasar Kormákur and written by Icelandic screenwriter Ólafur Egilsson will be shot in Iceland.

“It is by far the largest project that I have ever participated in. We are talking about an USD 40 to 60 million [EUR 23 to 44 million] movie. Huge deal,” Kormákur told Fréttabladid.

The movie is based on scenes from the Icelandic Sagas and has been introduced as a “spaghetti-western-Viking-movie.” Shooting is scheduled to take six months and the story takes place in winter, spring and summer. The film’s working title is Saga.

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The Fourth Viking Congress

I just wanted to give everyone a preview of the new website, which we are working on. The site is using a Wordpress content management system, so there are some changes still to be made and things like fontsize still need to be finalized. But we will be having a lot of content on it, including articles, interviews, videos and books. For now, here are a few links to articles from The Fourth Viking Congress, edited by Alan Small and published by Aberdeen University in 1961.

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Wednesday 1 October 2008

Of mice and (Viking?) men: phylogeography of British and Irish house mice

The west European subspecies of house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) has gained much of its current widespread distribution through commensalism with humans. This means that the phylogeography of M. m. domesticus should reflect patterns of human movements. We studied restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and DNA sequence variations in mouse mitochondrial (mt) DNA throughout the British Isles (328 mice from 105 localities, including previously published data). There is a major mtDNA lineage revealed by both RFLP and sequence analyses, which is restricted to the northern and western peripheries of the British Isles, and also occurs in Norway. This distribution of the ‘Orkney’ lineage fits well with the sphere of influence of the Norwegian Vikings and was probably generated through inadvertent transport by them. To form viable populations, house mice would have required large human settlements such as the Norwegian Vikings founded. The other parts of the British Isles (essentially most of mainland Britain) are characterized by house mice with different mtDNA sequences, some of which are also found in Germany, and which probably reflect both Iron Age movements of people and mice and earlier development of large human settlements. MtDNA studies on house mice have the potential to reveal novel aspects of human history.

The article is available here as a PDF file.

'Viking mouse' invasion tracked

Scientists say that studying the genes of mice will reveal new information about patterns of human migration.

They say the rodents have often been fellow travellers when populations set off in search of new places to live - and the details can be recovered.

A paper published in a Royal Society journal analyses the genetic make-up of house mice from more than 100 locations across the UK.

It shows that one distinct strain most probably arrived with the Vikings.

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Movement of house mice could be used to trace colonisation

The popular image of Vikings raping and pillaging their way around Europe and then returning with their booty to Scandinavia has been struck another blow, by a study into mice.

According to research by the University of York, they have found Norwegian house mice all over the British Isles and parts of Europe showing that the mighty warriors were in fact quite domesticated.

The house mice, who would have come over in the ships of the Norsemen, could have only settled in major, well established communities, as they would find it difficult to survive in open country.

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