Monday 26 March 2012

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers - Online Course

University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education
Mon 14 May to Fri 27 Jul 2012

Ravagers, despoilers, pagans, heathens - the Vikings are usually regarded as bloodthirsty seafaring pirates, whose impact on Europe was one of fear and terror. As they plundered the British Isles and the north Atlantic, these pagan invaders were seen by their Christian victims as a visitation from God.

Yet the Vikings were also traders, settlers and farmers with a highly developed artistic culture and legal system. Their network of trade routes stretching from Greenland to Byzantium and their settlements, resulted in the creation of the Duchy of Normandy in France, the foundation of the Kingdom of Russia in Kiev and Novgorod as well as the development of Irish towns including Cork, Dublin and Limerick.

This course will use recent findings from archaeology together with documentary records, to examine these varied aspects of the Viking world and to give a detailed and balanced view of this fascinating period.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Viking Invaders Brought Armies of Mice

Vikings who conquered new lands unwittingly brought with them another sort of invader, a new DNA study says—mice.

Scientists studying the evolution of house mice already knew about a DNA pattern found only in mice in what's now Norway, a Viking homeland, and northern Britain, which Vikings colonized, said study leader Eleanor Jones, a population biologist at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The finding suggested to Jones and her team that the two populations, despite being separated by the sea, were related and that Vikings had possibly brought the mice to northern Britain.

The new study tested modern and ancient mouse remains from the sites of known Viking colonies and found the same telltale pattern, adding weight to the idea that the mice were brought by Viking colonizers.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Norway's pilgrim trail

Reaching into its medieval past, Norway has revived an old pilgrim path as a challenging long-distance walking trail with possible spiritual vibes.

Called St. Olav’s Way after the country’s patron saint, it follows the footsteps of pilgrims to Trondheim, called Nidaros in the Middle Ages, and the earthly remains of St. Olav buried under its great cathedral.

In life, the saint was King Olav Haraldsson, credited with sealing Norway’s conversion to Christianity with a martyr’s death in battle in 1030. He was rushed into sainthood a year later. His spreading fame made Nidaros a major destination for European pilgrams, along with Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Pilgrims trod St. Olav’s Way until Lutheranism reached Norway in 1537, shutting down saint worship.

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Vikings 'carried mice to colonies'‎

Mice hitched a ride with Vikings to mount their own invasions in the 10th century, research has shown.

A genetic study shows that Viking longboats carried the weeny Norse warriors to colonies in Iceland and Greenland.

Scientists compared modern mouse DNA with ancient samples from mouse bones found at archaeological sites.

The analysis showed that the house mouse, Mus musculus domesticus, hitched lifts with Vikings in the early 10th century from either Norway or the northern British Isles.

Descendants of these stowaways can still be found in Iceland where DNA samples were collected from nine sites.

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Tuesday 20 March 2012

Unique pagan temple unearthed in Norway

A fascinating discovery is shedding light upon pre-Christian Scandinavian religion and early Christian inroads into Norway. In the Norwegian press, this highly important find is being called "unparalleled," "first of its kind" and "unique," said to have been "deliberately and carefully hidden" - from invading and destructive Christians. 
The excavated temple [Credit: Preben Rønne, Science Museum/NTNU]
Located at the site of Ranheim, about 10 kilometers north of the Norwegian city of Trondheim, the astonishing discovery was unearthed while excavating foundations for new houses and includes a "gudehovet" or "god temple." Occupied from the 6th or 5th century BCE until the 10th century AD/CE, the site shows signs of usage for animal sacrifice, a common practice among different peoples in antiquity. Over 1,000 years ago, the site was dismantled and covered by a thick layer of peat, evidently to protect it from marauding Christian invaders. These native Norse religionists apparently then fled to other places, such as Iceland, where they could re-erect their altars and re-establish the old religion. 

Pre-Christian Temple Discovered in Norway

Excavations for house foundations at Ranheim, Norway, have uncovered a small "gudehovet" or "god temple," a structure used by pre-Christian Pagan peoples. Used from around the eighth or ninth centuries BCE until the 10th century AD/CE, the site is well preserved because it was covered over by its worshippers with a thick layer of peat, apparently in order to protect it from marauding Christians. It is surmised that the site's inhabitants fled Christian invaders, who were known to slaughter the natives and destroy their sacred sites. The covering over of the site coincides with an exodus recorded in ancient Norse sources, around the time of the first Norwegian king, Harald Fairhair (872-930). These Norse writings were later composed in Iceland, relating that some 40 people had come there from the area of Trøndelag, Norway.

Regarding this discovery at Ranheim, head archaeologist Preben Rønne of the Science Museum/University of Trondheim remarked, "Indications are that the people who deliberately covered up the god temple at Ranheim took the posts from the stave house/pole building, in addition to the soil from the altar, to the place where they settled down and raised a new god temple. Because our findings and the Norse sources work well together, the sources may be more reliable than many scientists believed."

The Viking Journey of mice and men

New research carried out at the University of York and published in BMC Evolutionary Biology has used evolutionary techniques on modern day and ancestral mouse mitochondrial DNA to show that the timeline of mouse colonisation matches that of Viking invasion.

House mice (Mus musculus) happily live wherever there are humans. When populations of humans migrate the mice often travel with them.Human settlement history over the last 1000 years is reflected in the genetic sequence of mouse mitochondrial DNA

During the Viking age (late 8th to mid 10th century) Vikings from Norway established colonies across Scotland, the Scottish islands, Ireland, and Isle of Man. They also explored the north Atlantic, settling in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Newfoundland and Greenland. While they intentionally took with them domestic animals such as horses, sheep, goats and chickens they also inadvertently carried pest species, including mice.
A multinational team of researchers from the UK, USA, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden used techniques designed to characterize genetic similarity, and hence the relatedness of one population, or one individual, with another, to determine a mouse colonisation timeline.

Friday 16 March 2012

New TV drama – “Vikings” – to be filmed in Ireland and Northern Europe

The History Channel in the US and History Television in Canada have announced they will be airing a scripted drama series, Vikings. The series will chronicle the extraordinary and ferocious world of the mighty Norsemen who raided, traded and explored during medieval times. Set to premiere in 2013, the series will be filmed in Ireland and throughout picturesque locations in Northern Europe. Shaw Media will be the broadcast partner in Canada, airing the show on HISTORY Television in Canada. The announcement was made by Nancy Dubuc,

“This is an amazing crossroads for HISTORY embarking on our first scripted series,” said Nancy Dubuc, President and General Manager of History. “People think they know about the Vikings – we see references to them all the time in our popular culture from TV commercials to football teams – but the reality is so much more fascinating and complex, more vivid, visceral and powerful than popular legend. We will explore the mysteries of the Vikings – the adventures they took and the people who led them. And we will start to understand a past that is very much part of our collective DNA today.”

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Thursday 15 March 2012

Professor Ray Page (1924 - 2012)

The Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic is sad to announce the death on 10 March 2012 of Professor Raymond Page, Emeritus Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the University of Cambridge, and Fellow and former Librarian of Corpus Christi College.

Born in 1924, Professor Page was an undergraduate at the University of Nottingham, and came to Cambridge in the 1960s. He became Fellow and Librarian of Corpus Christi College, and was for many years Lecturer and then Reader in Old Norse language and literature in the Department of ASNC.

From 1984 until his retirement in 1991 he was Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon. He will be fondly remembered by many for his teaching of Old Norse and of Scandinavian history in the Viking Age, and as the ‘silver-haired librarian’ of Corpus. His funeral will take place in the chapel of Corpus Christi College on Thursday 22 March at 2 p.m.

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New viking village discovered

Norwegian archeologists have discovered the foundations of at least 15 buildings, an 80-meter long street and a harbour near Gokstadhaugen burial mound in Sandefjord.

So far, the ground hasn’t even been broken into. The remains that could potentially be part of an entire village have been located by using ground penetrating radar and magnetometer.

Archeologists from the Cultural and Historic museum in Oslo, the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) and Vestfold County made the discovery at Gokstadhaugen, where the famous Gokstad viking ship and burial ground were also discovered in 1880.

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Wednesday 14 March 2012

New Norway Viking settlement discovered

Experts have found a hitherto unknown Viking area with the aid of modern science and no shovels, reports say.
Scientists using a magnetometer in Gokstad
Gokstad's grave mound can be seen in the backgroundScientists using a magnetometer in Gokstad
Photo: Norwegian Institute for Cultural heritage

Using a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and magnetometer, surveys have revealed the settlement in Sandefjord in Gokstadhaugen, eastern Norway, has 15 buildings, an 80-metre long street and a port.

Archaeologists from Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History and the Norwegian Institute for Cultural heritage Research (NIKU) were among those that made the discovery, in cooperation with Vestfold County.

Work in Gokstadhaugen began in 2011 with drilling there, as well as experts making geophysical surveys from the sea a northwards in what is called Gokstad Valley (Gokstaddalen).

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Thursday 8 March 2012

Scots and English universities to share Viking knowledge

Scottish and English universities are to work together in an effort to expand knowledge of Viking culture.

The University of the Highlands and Islands' Centre for Nordic Studies will work with staff and students from Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham.

The project will include seven-day field trips for students to Viking sites on Orkney.

It will conclude with public exhibitions showcasing information gathered by the students.

Dr Heather O'Donoghue, reader in Old Norse at Oxford University and project leader, said the project would be an opportunity to share knowledge on the Vikings.

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