Friday 26 October 2012

Viking skeleton found in Wales

A skeleton of a Viking has been discovered by archaeologists at Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey. Scientists from Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, who made the discovery believe it will shed new light on the interaction between Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Viking-age worlds operating around the Irish Sea. 

The skeleton find is an unexpected addition to a group of five (two adolescents, two adult males and one woman) discovered in 1998-99.  Originally thought to be victims of Viking raiding, which began in the 850s, this interpretation is now being revised. Tests by Dr Katie Hemer of Sheffield University indicates that the males were not local to Anglesey, but may have spent their early years (at least up to the age of seven) in North West Scotland or Scandinavia. 

The Llanbedrgoch site was discovered in 1994 after a number of metal detector finds had been brought to the museum for identification. These included an Anglo-Saxon penny of Cynethryth (struck AD 787-792), a penny of Wulfred of Canterbury (struck about AD 810), and three lead weights of Viking type.

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Monday 22 October 2012

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada

Archaeologist Patricia Sutherland (orange jacket) excavates a potential Viking site on 
Baffin Island.

For the past 50 years—since the discovery of a thousand-year-old Viking way station in Newfoundland—archaeologists and amateur historians have combed North America's east coast searching for traces of Viking visitors.

It has been a long, fruitless quest, littered with bizarre claims and embarrassing failures. But at a conference in Canada earlier this month, archaeologist Patricia Sutherland announced new evidence that points strongly to the discovery of the second Viking outpost ever discovered in the Americas.

(Read the new National Geographic magazine feature "Vikings and Native Americans: Face-to-Face.")

While digging in the ruins of a centuries-old building on Baffin Island (map), far above the Arctic Circle, a team led by Sutherland, adjunct professor of archaeology at Memorial University in Newfoundland and a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, found some very intriguing whetstones. Wear grooves in the blade-sharpening tools bear traces of copper alloys such as bronze—materials known to have been made by Viking metalsmiths but unknown among the Arctic's native inhabitants.

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Monday 15 October 2012

Wanted! Limerick men with Viking blood for tests

Limerick: known to have been a vital Viking trading centre

IF you ever wondered whether you are you descended from the Vikings or the Normans, now is the time to find out.

A network of academics led by Dr Catherine Swift of Mary Immaculate College, and Dr Turi King of the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester are using scientific techniques and the traditional tools of the historian in an attempt to identify what percentage of the Irish population are descended from Vikings. 

Volunteers with certain surnames - including English, Stokes and Noonan, amongst many others - will be tested at Fennessey’s pub, New Street, Sunday, October 21, at 12 noon. 

“Limerick is a very interesting location for our project as it is known to be a vital Viking trading centre,” said Dr Swift.

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Letter from Iceland: Surviving the Little Ice Age

Excavations at the ancient farm of Hjalmarvik are providing detailed insights into the ways Icelanders adapted to changing climatic conditions. (Zach Zorich)

Stefán Ólafsson of the Icelandic Archaeological Institute and Céline Dupont Hébert of Laval University, Quebec City, are the crew chiefs of a team of archaeologists with the unglamorous job of excavating a garbage dump at Hjalmarvik, an ancient farm on the northeastern coast of Iceland. Their approximately 9-by-12-foot excavation trench sits just outside what was a sod-walled farmhouse that may date back to the years shortly after 871, when Iceland was first settled by groups of Vikings from Norway. Today, the remains of the house are no more than a flat spot on the ground overlooking a small bay a few hundred yards to the west. The excavation of the garbage dump, or midden, is revealing a detailed record of life at the farm and provides clues to how its residents handled the severe challenges the island faced during an extended period of climatic disruption. 

The walls of the trench are striped with orange peat ash, probably discarded when the hearth inside the house was cleaned. Although the crew has uncovered interesting whalebone carvings—some decorated with images and others that were used as gaming pieces—the most common items found in the trench are the discarded bones of the animals eaten by Hjalmarvik’s residents. Laboratory analysis of the bones has not yet begun, but at first glance it looks like most of the food they were eating came from the surrounding ocean.

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Thursday 11 October 2012

Archaeology Summer Courses in Oxford

The Oxford Experience, Christ Church, Oxford

The Oxford Experience summer school offers one-week introductory classes in the humanities and sciences, including a number of archaeology courses.

You can find details of the Oxford Experience summer school here...

You can find a list of the archaeology courses here...

You may be particularly interested in this course: The World of the Vikings

Thursday 4 October 2012

Vikings Project Curator

Job Description: The British Museum
Prehistory and Europe Department
Project Curator: Vikings
Fixed-term for 18 months
£22,907 per annum pro rata
Ref: 1283403

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Oxford Experience on Facebook

The Oxford Experience - an Oxford University summer school that offers many courses in archaeology and history - now has a Facebook site.

You can find the site at:

You can find out more about the Oxford Experience here...

Monday 1 October 2012

Stinging nettles reveal Bronze Age trade routes

A piece of nettle cloth retrieved from Denmark's richest known Bronze Age burial mound Lusehøj may actually derive from Austria, new findings suggest. The cloth thus tells a surprising story about long-distance Bronze Age trade connections around 800 BC.

2,800 years ago, one of Denmark's richest and most powerful men died. His body was burned. And the bereaved wrapped his bones in a cloth made from stinging nettle and put them in a stately bronze container, which also functioned as urn.

Now new findings suggest that the man's voyage to his final resting place may have been longer than such voyages usually were during the Bronze Age: the nettle cloth, which was wrapped around the deceased's bones, was not made in Denmark, and the evidence points to present-day Austria as the place of origin.

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