Thursday 30 April 2020

The British Museum is displaying 4 million items from its collection online

Photograph: The Lewis Chessmen. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Got some browsing time on your hands? Load up the British Museum’s website. Yesterday the museum decided to do an earlier-than-planned unveil of its revamped online collection. It’s now the biggest database of any museum in the world, with more than 4 million objects to click through. 

The collection features the museum’s most famous artefacts, like the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures, along with every item the institution holds from Ancient Egypt. 

But there are some new additions too – including 280,000 new object photographs that are being published for the first time. Among them are images of 73 portraits by Damien Hirst and a watercolour by the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti that until recently had been thought lost. You can also look for works by Kara Walker, William Hogarth and Rembrandt in a digital archive of 75,000 art prints. If you’re more into coins, they have about 50,000 of those – medieval, Tudor, the works. Fill your boots. 

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White Hugh MacNéill and his wars with the Lough Foyle vikings

White Hugh MacNéill must have regarded the Viking gathering on his very doorstep with a mixture of anger and fear, writes Kevin Mullan.

It was 866 and the local chiefain had just completed an armed tour of the North coast destroying Viking forts and scattering their settlements but now looking east from his Grianán of Aileach the king could see they were back.

It was less than 100 years since the first Viking raids in Ireland had taken place but they had now established a substantial colony in the perfect harbour of Lough Foyle.

Of this the fearsome White Hugh - recently elevated from the Kingship of Aileach to that of Ireland - could not have hoped for a clearer view.

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Tuesday 28 April 2020

Long-forgotten Viking mountain pass found in Norway following glacier melt

General view over valley in mountains of south Norway from beside Lendbreen glacier is seen in this undated handout picture
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Due to global warming, high-elevation ice patches and glaciers have recently yielded a myriad of historical finds for archaeologists to discover.

Archaeologists have uncovered a heavily traversed glacial mountain pass in Lendbreen, Norway, utilized by travelers throughout the Viking Age, and littered with hundreds of artifacts presumed to have been used by the Vikings during that time period, according to a new study published by the Cambridge University Press on Wednesday.
Due to the warming global climate, high-elevation ice patches and glaciers have recently yielded a myriad of historical finds for archaeologists to happen upon as they finally gain access to these areas after the layers of ice once covering them have gradually melted away over time – and much faster recently.

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Melting glaciers reveal lost mountain pass and artifacts used by Vikings

The retreat of melting glaciers has revealed a lost mountain pass in Norway -- complete with hundreds of Viking artifacts strewn along it, according to a new study.

Researchers first discovered the pass in 2011 and have been examining it, and the artifacts that have been revealed as more ice melts, ever since. Dating the objects helped them reconstruct the timeline of when this pass was used and its purpose.
The new study published this week in the journal Antiquity.
In recent years, climate change has caused mountain glaciers to melt away, revealing well-preserved markers from different periods in history beneath. This is what happened in Lendbreen, Norway.

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Coring Arctic Lakes To Study Vikings

Vikings were here, but thousands of years earlier Stone Age people were, too. D’Andrea’s team hikes down to core  a small pond next to the remnants of these people’s sea-side dwellings 
[Credit: Columbia University]

Billy D'Andrea, a Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory paleoclimatologist and Center for Climate and Life Fellow is currently doing fieldwork in Norway's Lofoten Islands. He's interested in the natural factors that may have influenced the growth of northern agriculture and rise of violent Viking chieftains during the Iron Age, ca. 500 BC to 1100 AD.

The Lofoten Islands—located above the Arctic Circle—were marginal for farming, so inhabitants were probably susceptible to small temperature swings, as well as changes in sea level (two to three meters higher in the Iron Age than today).

In this area, powerful Viking rulers and their predecessors left behind hundreds of dwellings, boathouses, and other structures. D'Andrea and his colleague, Nicholas Balascio, want to understand how the Vikings influenced the land, and vice versa, as their culture took hold, and learn why Viking chiefdoms collapsed.

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Saturday 25 April 2020

Who was Edward the Elder? A brief guide to the Anglo-Saxon king

Who was Edward the Elder?

He was the son of King Alfred and Ealhswith of Mercia. A man of Wessex, he was probably born in the 870s and died in 924. After his father’s death in 899, and like Alfred, he was called king of the Anglo-Saxons, reflecting his overlordship of both Wessex and Mercia. He was married three times and had an estimated 14 children. His son, Aethelstan, succeeded him. He lived in a time when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had not yet coalesced into England, and when Vikings held sway in East Anglia and Northumbria.

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Monday 20 April 2020

Melting Ice Exposes Mountain Pass Used by Vikings, Including Ancient Dog and Leash

Glacial archaeologists performing fieldwork at Lendbreen, Norway.
Image: L. Pilø et al., 2020/Antiquity

Archaeologists in central Norway have uncovered evidence of a heavily traveled mountain passageway that was used during the Viking Age. Hundreds of beautifully preserved items were found atop a melting glacier, in a discovery that was, sadly, made possible by global warming.

New research published today in Antiquity describes a forgotten mountain pass at Lendbreen, Norway, that was in use from the Iron Age through to the European medieval period.

Located on Lomseggen Ridge, the passageway is absolutely littered with well-preserved artifacts, including mittens, shoes, horse snowshoes, bits of sleds, and even the remains of a dog still attached to its collar and leash. Radiocarbon dating of these artifacts is painting a picture of how and when this pivotal mountain pass was used, and its importance to both local and outside communities.

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Thursday 16 April 2020

Melting ice reveals lost viking artefacts on mountain pass

Image Credit : Antiquity Journal

Climate change is leading to the retreat of mountain glaciers.
In Norway, hundreds of rare archaeological finds have been revealed by melting ice in a lost mountain pass at Lendbreen in Innlandet County.

The finds tell a remarkable story of high-altitude travel in the Roman Iron Age and the Viking Age.

“A lost mountain pass melting out of the ice is a dream discovery for us glacial archaeologists,” says Lars Pilo, first author of the study and co-director for the Glacier Archaeology Program.

“In such passes, travellers lost many artefacts that became frozen in time by the ice. These incredibly well-preserved artefacts of organic materials have great historical value.”

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The Hunt for the Lost Mountain Pass

Viking Age spear, originally found in one piece in front of the Lendbreen ice patch. 
Photo: Vegard Vike, Museum of Cultural History.

Global warming is leading to the retreat of mountain glaciers. Surprisingly, this has created a boon for archaeology. Incredibly well preserved and rare artifacts have emerged from melting glaciers and ice patches in North America, the Alps and Scandinavia. A new archaeological field has opened up – glacial archaeology. The archaeological finds from the ice show that humans have utilized the high mountains more intensely than was previously known – for hunting, transhumance and traveling. New important discoveries are made each year, as the ice continues to melt back.

As glacial archaeologists, our dream discovery is a site where an ancient high mountain trail crossed non-moving ice. On such sites, past travelers left behind lots of artifacts, frozen in time by the ice. These artifacts can tell us when people travelled, when travel was at its most intense, why people travelled across the mountains and even who the travelers were. This information has great historical value.

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'Spectacular' artefacts found as Norway ice-patch melts

A horse snowshoe found during 2019 fieldwork at Lendbreen. 
Photograph: Espen Finstad/

Discoveries exposed by retreating ice include snowshoe for horses and bronze age ski

The retreat of a Norwegian mountain ice patch, which is melting because of climate change, has revealed a lost Viking-era mountain pass scattered with “spectacular” and perfectly preserved artefacts that had been dropped by the side of the road.

The pass, at Lendbreen in Norway’s mountainous central region, first came to the attention of local archaeologists in 2011, after a woollen tunic was discovered that was later dated to the third or fourth century AD. The ice has retreated significantly in the years since, exposing a wealth of artefacts including knitted mittens, leather shoes and arrows still with their feathers attached.

Though carbon dating of the finds reveals the pass was in use by farmers and travellers for a thousand years, from the Nordic iron age, around AD200-300, until it fell out of use after the Black Death in the 14th century, the bulk of the finds date from the period around AD1000, during the Viking era, when trade and mobility in the region were at their zenith.

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Friday 3 April 2020

The Fastest Viking Ship Ever Found

A digital reconstruction shows that the Tune Viking Ship must have been a fast sailing  vessel that could also be rowed. Illustration by 7reasons for NIKU

Even though it was discovered more than 150 years ago, modern digital archaeology techniques have revealed many of the mysteries surrounding the Tune Viking ship. It now seems likely the Tune ship could cross the North Sea powered by a sail large enough to make it the fastest Viking ship ever discovered.

Modern techniques help shine a light on historic finds

Recent developments in digital archaeology, notably the use of georadar as a non-intrusive method of mapping sites of interest, have revealed several exciting Viking ship burial sites in Norway. Yet some of the digital tools and techniques can also prove useful in expanding our knowledge and understanding of existing finds.

There are only three Viking ships from burial sites in Norway that are well-preserved. All three—Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune—are on display at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum. The Tune ship was discovered in 1867 on an island farm near Fredrikstad in south-east Norway. It has been the least understood of the three ships—until now.

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Æthelflæd: the Lady of the Mercians

She was a queen in all but name, but Aethelflaed, the daughter of Alfred the Great, is barely mentioned in contemporary chronicles of the Anglo-Saxon era. Writer Jonny Wilkes wonders whether England owes more to her than to her famous father

When Æthelflæd was a baby her father Alfred, destined for greatness, became King of Wessex. At around 16 years old, she was married to the Lord of the Mercians and so placed next to the seat of power of a neighbouring Anglo-Saxon kingdom. In her 20s, she helped to build a string of fortifications and patronise churches; in her 30s, she took up the mantle of ruling in place of her indisposed husband and defeated the Vikings in battle; and in her 40s, on her husband’s death, Æthelflæd was chosen to lead above all male contenders.

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