Wednesday 28 January 2009

Thousands celebrate Up Helly Aa

Europe's biggest annual fire festival has been staged in Shetland.

Known as Up Helly Aa, it celebrates the islands' Viking heritage with a torch-lit procession and the spectacular burning of a replica galley.

This year it was led by a 60-strong band of latter-day Viking warriors known as the Jarl Squad led by the Viking chief or Guizer Jarl.

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Tuesday 27 January 2009

Vikings ready for fire festival

The usually dark winter skies above Shetland are to be lit up with colour for the Up-Helly-Aa fire festival.

Bearded Vikings wielding swords will be taking to the streets of Lerwick on Tuesday evening before burning their replica galley.

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1,000 Vikings to set night ablaze

Almost 1,000 "Vikings" will take to the streets of Shetland on Tuesday night in a torchlight procession to celebrate the islands' Norse heritage.

The guizers, dressed as Vikings, will march through Lerwick for the Up Helly Aa festival which will culminate in a Viking longboat being set alight.

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Thursday 8 January 2009

1,000 years on, perils of fake Viking swords are revealed

It must have been an appalling moment when a Viking realised he had paid two cows for a fake designer sword; a clash of blade on blade in battle would have led to his sword, still sharp enough to slice through bone, shattering like glass.

"You really didn't want to have that happen," said Dr Alan Williams, an archaeometallurgist and consultant to the Wallace Collection, the London museum which has one of the best assemblies of ancient weapons in the world. He and Tony Fry, a senior researcher at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, south-west London, have solved a riddle that the Viking swordsmiths may have sensed but didn't quite understand.

Some Viking swords were among the best ever made, still fearsome weapons after a millennium. The legendary swords found at Viking sites across northern Europe bear the maker's name, Ulfberht, in raised letters at the hilt end. Puzzlingly, so do the worst ones, found in fragments on battle sites or in graves.

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