Tuesday 18 December 2012

Greenland’s Viking settlers gorged on seals

The findings challenge the prevailing view of the Norse as farmers that would have stubbornly stuck to agriculture until they lost the battle with Greenland’s environment. These new results shake-up the traditional view of the Norse as farmers and have given archaeologists reason to rethink those theories.

“The Norse thought of themselves as farmers that cultivated the land and kept animals. But the archaeological evidence shows that they kept fewer and fewer animals, such as goats and sheep. So the farming identity was actually more a mental self-image, held in place by an over-class that maintained power through agriculture and land ownership, than it was a reality for ordinary people that were hardly picky eaters,” Jette Arneborg, archaeologist and curator at the National Museum of Denmark, says.

The first Norse settlers brought agriculture and livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from Iceland. While they thought of themselves as farmers, they were not unfamiliar with hunting.

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Norwegian Vikings grew hemp

Remnants of the Iron Age Sosteli farm in Vest-Agder County, Norway's southernmost. Hemp was cultivated here even before the Viking Age. (Photo: Morten Teinum/Visit Sørlandet)

The Sosteli farmsted, in Norway's southermmost Vest-Agder County, offers strong evidence that Vikings farmers actively cultivated cannabis, a recent analysis shows. The cannabis remains from the farmsted date from 650 AD to 800 AD.

This is not the first sign of hemp cultivation in Norway this far back in time, but the find is much more extensive than previous discoveries.

“The other instances were just individual finds of pollen grains. Much more has been found here,” says Frans-Arne Stylegar, an archaeologist and the county's curator.
Rope and textiles
Sosteli is also further away from current-day settlements than other sites where cannabis finds have been made.

Hemp is the same plant as cannabis, or marijuana. But nothing indicates that the Vikings cultivated the plant to get people high.

Most likely it was grown for making textiles and rope.

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Sunday 16 December 2012

University of Oxford Online Courses in Archaeology

Now is the time to enrol for Hilary term online courses in Archaeology.

Each courses lasts for 10 weeks, with the expectation of c. 10 hours study a week.  Students submit two short assignments.   

Successful completion of the courses carries a credit of 10 CATS Points.

CATS Points from these courses can now be used as part of the requirement for the new Certificate in Higher Education offered by the University of Oxford.

The following courses are available: (click on the title for further information)

Greek Mythology                  Origins of Human Behaviour               Pompey and the cities                                                                                                         of the Roman World

Ritual and Religion in Prehistory                          Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers

You can find general information about University of Oxford courses here...

The last battle of the Vikings

The Battle of Largs was the last time a Norwegian military force attacked Scotland
It was the battle which led to the end of Viking influence over Scotland, when a terrifying armada from Norway bore down on the Ayrshire town of Largs 750 years ago.

At the beginning of the 13th century the Firth of Clyde was frontier territory.

The mainland was Scottish but the islands of Bute and Cumbrae just across from Largs were Norse.
In fact, the whole of the Hebrides - a region known as Innse Gall - gave its allegiance to the Vikings from western Norway.

"It was a war just waiting to happen," says underwater archaeologist Dr Jon Henderson.

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Monday 3 December 2012

Helmets, Viking gold and Royal boars: Portable Antiquities Scheme releases 2011 report

Nearly 100,000 archaeological discoveries – ranging from Roman helmets to Viking gold – were made during 2011, according to the annual report by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

In a typically eventful year of soil digging, including primetime exposure for the Scheme’s greatest breakthroughs on the ITV series Secret Treasures, the official figures show an eight percent rise in finds, with a total of 970 Treasure cases.

Huge online interest also saw the accompanying website, finds.org.uk, honoured as the best research and online collection at the Best of the Web awards, with more than 463,000 people looking at 820,000 finds on the database of discoveries.

“It is a scheme which is envied the world over,” said Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, praising the Department for Culture Media and Sport and Treasure Hunting magazine, the appropriately-named periodical which published the report.

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