Saturday, 17 April 2021

Viking DNA and the dangers of genetic ancestry tests

Just to be clear, these aren’t real Vikings (TM Productions Limited)

Anna Källén, associate professor of archaeology and researcher in heritage studies, Stockholm University; and Daniel Strand, PhD in history of ideas at Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism, Uppsala University 

A Middle-Aged white man raises his sword to the skies and roars to the gods. The results of his genetic ancestry test have just arrived in his suburban mailbox. His eyes fill with tears as he learns that he is ‘0.012 per cent Viking’. These are the scenes from a video advertisement for the TV-series Vikings.

This man is certainly not the only one yearning for a genetic test to confirm his Viking ancestry. A plethora of companies around the world market DNA-tests that promise to provide scientific facts about your identity. These companies often claim to provide a complete view of your ancestry, even though they in reality only compare your DNA with other customers in their database. 

According to recent estimates, over 26 million people from across the world have purchased a genetic ancestry test. In the wake of this hype, researchers have begun to investigate how the tests affect our perceptions of ourselves. How do people make sense of a test result stating that they are, for instance, ’35 per cent Ashkenazi Jewish’, ’27 per cent British’ or ‘4 per cent western Asian’?

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

To Save Norway’s Stave Churches, Conservators Had to Relearn a Lost Art

For more than 800 years, the stave church of Borgund, Norway, has towered over the surrounding village. Conservators face a constant struggle to protect the historic wooden building from the elements. HÅKON LI

TO STEP INTO ONE OF Scandinavia’s surviving stave churches is to enter the past. Shadows shift and tell stories in the elaborate carvings of intertwined beasts that are hallmarks of the churches’ unique architecture. Sounds reverberate off the timber as if traveling across centuries. The air feels dense with the tang of hewn wood, peat smoke, and pine tar.

As early as the 11th century, builders began erecting these churches all over the region. Much of Europe was raising massive cathedrals of stone during this period, but the Scandinavians knew wood best. While each house of worship was unique, all of them had staves, or load-bearing corner posts joined to vertical wall planks with a tongue-and-groove method.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, 12 March 2021

Swedish Viking hoard: how the discovery of single Norman coin expands our knowledge of French history


In the autumn of 2020, I was contacted by the field archaeology unit of the Swedish National Historical Museums, who are also known as the Archaeologists. They were excavating at a Viking-age settlement at Viggbyholm just north of Stockholm. During routine metal detecting of the site, they had located a very exciting find: eight silver necklaces and other silver jewellery along with 12 coins, everything delicately wrapped up in a cloth and deposited in a pot. In other words, a genuine Viking silver hoard.

As a professor in numismatics, the study of currency, I have spent my life becoming an expert in coins, so was called to help them learn more about this exciting discovery. It turned out to be a very interesting find. Most of the coins were the types that we usually see in Sweden: English, Bavarian, Bohemian (Czech) and Islamic coins as well as imitations of Islamic coins. But one of the coins was unusual.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, 11 March 2021

When unfolded, these ancient gold foil figures reveal embracing couples

Here, the best preserved of the gold foil figures that were recently found at the site of Aska in Sweden. All the figures show couples embracing.
(Image credit: Björn Falkevik)

Archaeologists in Sweden have discovered nearly two dozen gold foil figures that have engravings of couples embracing each other. 

The figures, which date back about 1,300 years, were found in the remains of a great hall on a platform mound, a human-made structure, at the site of Aska in Sweden. The researchers are still trying to piece together the broken figures to uncover more about them.

"Our best estimate is that we have 22 foil figures. The exact number is not quite clear because most are fragmented, and there is some uncertainty as to which fragments go together," Martin Rundkvist, an archaeology professor at the University of Lodz in Poland, wrote in a report recently uploaded to academia.edu, a site where researchers can upload papers. The report has not been published in a peer reviewed journal. 

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Romanian Authorities Recover ‘Unique’ Stolen Viking Helmet


Romanian police specialising in heritage crimes on February 7 recovered a medieval helmet “of Viking origin” that disappeared a decade ago, and which they called “unique in Romania” and very rare in the rest of Europe in an announcement issued on Friday.

A Romanian expert in historical illustration, Radu Oltean, said the helmet dated from the 11th century. It was first discovered in 2010 during refurbishment work on the river Siret, in northeast Romania, but it was never handed over to the state preservation services and the authorities lost track of it.

The investigation that led to the recovery of the precious item started in December 2020, when police officers got information about its whereabouts.

The helmet “can be dated to between the 11th and the 13 centuries and represents a type of helmet most often found in the Baltics and Kiev Rus,” the police said, offering no additional information on how the helmet disappeared, or where it was kept.

Read the rest of this article...

Viking Warriors in Poland: Overcoming Identity Crisis


Viking Warriors in Poland: Overcoming Identity Crisis

Paper by Leszek Gardeła

Given at the 2019 European Association of Archeologists conference in Bern, in September 2019

Abstract: Since the discovery of a richly furnished Viking Age weapon grave in the cemetery at Ciepłe in Pomerania in the year 1900, there has been an uncritical tendency among many Polish archaeologists to consider male graves with opulent goods and military equipment as belonging to Scandinavian warriors. To this day, numerous scholars are convinced that the people buried with lavishly decorated spurs and horse tack in the cemetery at Lutomiersk in Central Poland also came from Northern Europe or at least that they had strong connections with Scandinavia or Rus. The same conviction pertains to rich weapon graves from places like Luboń and Łubowo in Greater Poland.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Viking age artefacts discovered on Isle of Man declared treasure

Kath Giles, left, who found the hoard, and Allison Fox, curator for archaeology at Manx National Heritage, with the Viking age items. Photograph: Manx National Heritage Museum

Hoard found by amateur detectorist dates to AD950 and includes gold arm ring and large silver brooch

A collection of Viking age artefacts has been discovered on the Isle of Man and been declared treasure by the island’s coroner of inquests.

The find, which is considered to be internationally significant and believed to be more than 1,000 years old, consists of a gold arm ring, a large silver brooch, at least one silver armband and other associated finds. They are believed to have been buried in about AD950, and were discovered late last year by an amateur metal detectorist on private land.

As the items have been legally declared as treasure, Manx National Heritage on behalf of the Isle of Man government will be custodians of the finds. The findings will eventually be part of the permanent collections on display at the Manx National Heritage Museum.

Read the rest of this article...

Isle of Man Viking jewellery found by metal detectorist

The items, dating back to 950 AD, include a rare gold arm ring MNH

A "stunning" collection of 1,000-year-old gold and silver Viking jewellery has been discovered on the Isle of Man by a metal detectorist.

Retired police officer Kath Giles made the find on farm land in the north of the island.

The horde includes a gold arm ring and a "massive" silver brooch dating back to 950 AD.

It was unearthed in December but has been revealed for the first time during a coroner's hearing.

Manx National Heritage's curator of archaeology Allison Fox said the arm ring in particular was a "rare find".

Ms Fox said she immediately knew she had found "something very special" and was "thrilled" at the discovery, which is likely to be worth several thousand pounds.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Jorvik plans largest online Viking Festival


York Archaeological Trust is planning to host the world’s largest online Viking Festival later this month.

Currently all of its attraction are closed and its annual Viking Festival has been cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

So, instead it is going to host a 6 day festival including chart-topping music, livestreamed events for all ages, virtual tours and the first ever 360 degree immersive video of JORVIK Viking Centre’s world-famous ride through Viking-age York.

“For many people, the February half term is synonymous with Vikings as we’ve been hosting a festival for over 35 years, whether that be families drawn by the thrilling combat displays and spectacle of hundreds of Vikings marching through the city, or academics here for our annual Symposium, where the latest research from all over the world is presented by leaders in the field of Viking studies,” said Gareth Henry, Events Manager for York Archaeological Trust.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 1 February 2021

A Viking Archaeologist Shares 6 of the Most Fascinating Finds From a Slew of Recent Discoveries Made in Melting Ice

Archaeologists working to discovered Viking artifacts uncovered by ice melt at the Lendbreen ice patch. Photo courtesy of Secrets of the Ice.

Global warming has unlocked hundreds of Viking artifacts from the ice of the Norwegian mountains in recent years.

In November, archaeologists from the Secret of the Ice project, part of Norway’s Glacier Archaeology Program, discovered 68 arrows spanning a period of 6,000 years—a record for any frozen archaeological site—on the Langfonne ice patch, an ancient Viking hunting ground.

A few months earlier, scientists announced discoveries that had been frozen in the rapidly melting Lendbreen ice patch, which was once part of a Viking trade route.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, 22 January 2021

Georadar Reveals 15 Burial Mounds And 32 Viking Age Mysteries In Northern Norway

The ground was frozen and the field was covered with a fine layer of snow – 
ideal conditions for this type of archaeological research
[Credit: Arne Anderson Stamnes, NTNU University Museum]



GPR sends electromagnetic signals down into the subsurface, and some of these signals are reflected back when they encounter structures deeper down in the ground. This is how archaeologists obtain a kind of X-ray of objects two to three meters below the surface.

Stamnes quickly finds that the ground here is content rich, to put it mildly.

"The results are astonishingly good and they whet your appetite for more, says Nordland county archaeologist Martinus A. Hauglid.

One of the region's largest burial mounds

"Our findings included traces of 15 burial mounds, and one of them appears to contain a boat grave. Both the size and design of the burial mounds are typical of the period 650 to 950 CE—that is, what we call the Merovingian Period and Viking Age," says Stamnes.

"A lot of the mounds are big. The largest burial mound has an inner dimension of 32 meters and must have been a towering presence in the landscape," he says.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 18 January 2021

Birka: The Mysterious Demise of a Majestic Viking Trading Center

 Hill fort in Birka. Part of Birka and Hovgården world heritage site. 

(Arild Vågen/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The Viking Age in Europe brought a lot of key events and innovations, and greatly shaped the future of things that were to come. But there is a popular misconception that the Vikings were all about raiding and pillaging as they sailed to the West and the East. While they did sail all over and raided, traded, and brought kingdoms to their knees, the Vikings were also proficient in many other regards. Their major ports and settlements around Scandinavia were in many ways the hubs of trade and wealth - and Birka was one of the major settlements. An influential trading emporium, Birka was the place where all the goods from Eastern Europe and the Orient were handled, as well as goods from Scandinavia and Finland. Today, its remains lie just 30 kilometers outside of the Swedish capital of Stockholm. What is the story and the fate of this rich Viking city? 

Read the rest of this article...