Wednesday, 20 September 2023



Excavations have found five tiny pieces of rectangular sheet gold decorated with motifs and stamped imagery depicting a man and a woman. The objects were discovered in the remains of a pagan temple, where previous excavations have uncovered thirty similar stamped gold objects in the vicinity over the past three decades.

The building measures around fifteen metres in length and was likely used for ritual drinking, however, it is unlikely that any feasting took place due to the lack of domestic archaeological evidence.

The latest objects were found beneath the structure in the wall runs and in adjacent postholes, suggesting that they were ritually placed as votive offerings in the form of a sacrifice or a religious act to protect the building before it was constructed.

Read the rest of this article...

1400-year-old gold foil figures found in pagan temple

Archaeologists have discovered a votive gold hoard during road development works in Vingrom, south of Lillehammer on the shores of Lake Mjøsa Norway.

The 5 gold pieces are tiny, about the size of a fingernail. They are flat and thin as paper, often square, and stamped with a motif. Usually, they depict a man and a woman in various types of clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles.

The objects were discovered in the remains of a pagan temple, where previous excavations have uncovered thirty similar stamped gold objects in the vicinity over the past three decades.

Archaeologist Kathrine Stene was the project leader for the excavation, which has been ongoing along the road here all summer and into autumn, due to the upgrade of the E6 highway between Mjøsa Bridge and Lillehammer.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, 1 September 2023

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers

The 2013 Michaelmas Term of the University of Oxford online course “Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers” will begin on Wednesday, 27 September.

You can find further details of this course here…

What Viking Funerary Flatbread Teaches Archeologists About Ancient Baking

When most people think of the Vikings, they probably envision what the Vikings did way before picturing what they ate. But if food is fuel, then it's safe to say that the nomadic and infamously chaotic lifestyle of the Vikings needed lots of it. Most of what culinary archaeologists know about the Viking diet has been compiled from a combination of dig sites, the foods eaten by heroes in Norse sagas, and even a limited selection of ancient cookbooks. The Vikings as a people left behind precious few records and accounts. But one momentous archeological dig site uncovered a historical gem: Viking Funerary flatbread.

The loaves were uncovered in graves at Birka — a large, formerly hopping Viking trading post near Stockholm — earning this flatbread the name "Birka bread". Miraculously, the loaves were charred and therefore remained preserved through time. Whether the loaves were intentionally charred as a culinary choice or if they were burned in funeral pyres remains unclear.

The flatbread loaves found at Birka were made from a simple combination of salt, eggs, and flour, specifically barley and wheat. Other types of Viking bread used oats or spelt flour. For closest replication, curious home cooks should make their Birka bread over a campfire. But today's foodies don't value the loaves just for their recipe; the bread tells a much larger story than the sum of its parts.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 28 August 2023

The Norse and the Sea: the Maritime Cultural Landscape of Scandinavian Scotland

The Norse and the Sea: the Maritime Cultural Landscape of Scandinavian Scotland
Paper by Alex Sanmark and Shane McLeod

Given at the Archaeological Research in Progress Conference 2023 of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland on May 27, 2023

Abstract: This paper presents early results of the ongoing research project The Norse and the Sea with particular emphasis on the fieldwork carried out on the Isle of Eigg in September 2022. The project investigates the maritime cultural landscape in Scandinavian Scotland (c. AD 790-1350), through an interdisciplinary approach using archaeological, written and toponymic evidence and address the overarching questions of connectivity and communication in Norse Scotland.

Read the rest of this article...

Vikings Were in America Before Columbus, Study Claims

Vikings from Greenland were living in North America before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, according to a recent study.. Credit: Helgi Halldórsson, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wikipedia

Vikings from Greenland were living in North America’s Newfoundland 1,000 years ago according to evidence from a recent study.

Newfoundland is located in Maritime Canada. Scientists have suspected for years that Vikings had settled in the area, but had not been able to assign a precise date to this encampment until now.

The authors of the research were able to trace the Vikings to trees they had cut down in order to build their shelter in Newfoundland. The trees indicate that the settlers were in the area as early as 1021 — 470 years before Christopher Columbus had arrived on the continent, and exactly one millennium ago.

“This is the first time the date has been scientifically established,” said archaeologist Margot Kuitems, a researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands who also led the study.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, 18 August 2023

International Medieval Congress 2024

The Viking Society is proposing to organise sessions at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds in 2024. The dates of the Conference are 1-4 July. N.B. Participation is not limited to Viking Society members.

You can find further details here...

Friday, 21 July 2023

Viking House The Size Of Two Tennis Courts Discovered In Norway


It was in this rural field it once all went down, from the Bronze Age to around the 18th century. Thanks to discoveries made by metal detectorists, even more traces of the historical power centre at Sem in Norway have now been uncovered.
(Photo: Fylkeskommune / Frank Rødberg)

Archaeologists in Norway report they have discovered what seems to be a massive Viking house that has the length of almost two tennis courts.

The discovery was made when scientists excavated at an ancient royal estate site where they also unearthed an exquisite sword and many remnants of lavish parties.

“A finely ornamented handle for a knife or fork was found here during a metal search a few years ago,” says Christian Løchsen Rødsrud, the leader of the nearly three-month-long excavation at Sem in Eiker this summer.

The knife or fork is associated with King Christian IV, who was the king of Denmark and Norway from 1588 to 1648. He stayed at the royal estate at Sem several times.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, 16 July 2023

Unique Female Viking Grave In Swedish Mountains Reveals Its Secrets


Archaeologists have found a rare female Viking grave in the Swedish mountains.
Credit: Adobe Stock - Fotokvadrat

"My first thought was that I had found a mine, but then when I had dug around, I understood that it can't be, Nyström told TT.

Nyström took the brooch home and asked around, but no one knew what it was or where it came from. One year later, he came in contact with the museum Jamtli in the city of  Östersund and understood the archaeological and historical value of the brooch he had found.

At the site in Jämtland, Anders Hansson, chief archaeologist at Jamtli, also found another oval brooch which is not much of a surprise because such pins are usually unearthed in pairs.

"What has been established is that it is a cremation grave from the Viking Age and "most likely" a woman's grave, Hansson says. Previously, only five other Viking graves have been found in the mountains, and all have belonged to men.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

Norwegian couple found a Viking Age Grave And Sword in their garden

While trying to expand their home, a Norwegian couple found a Viking Age grave and sword in their garden.

It’s not always necessary to travel far to make a remarkable archeological find, but few of us anticipate discovering something of historical significance in our homes. However, this rather strange scenario does occur on occasion. A Norwegian couple was expanding their home when they noticed something strange sticking up from the ground. Sword-like in appearance, and it was exactly that.

Oddbjørn Holum Heiland and his wife Anne were digging behind the Setesdalshouse from 1740, which they wish to extend on June 30.

“I wasn’t going to dig a lot, just a little bit in the slope behind the house, to get some more space between the house and the land,” Heiland told to Science in Norway from Setesdal in Southern Norway.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, 6 July 2023

Ancient Scandinavians wrote encrypted messages in runes 1500 years ago

The Ellestad stone, inscribed between AD 500 and 700, appears to include encrypted runes
Unknown/Creative Commons

People living in Scandinavia may have written encrypted messages in runes – the alphabet later used by the Vikings – several centuries earlier than previously thought.

In runic writing systems, each rune can represent both a sound and a word. For example, in an early runic system called the Elder Futhark, the rune that corresponds to the letter S also means “sun”.

It is generally possible to translate runes into modern languages. But we have long known that in the Viking period, starting in roughly AD 800, runes were sometimes encrypted, so the text isn’t decipherable. One of the most famous examples is the Rök runestone in Sweden, which was erected in the late 800s and contains a lengthy, encrypted runic text. No one has been able to convincingly decipher it.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, 27 June 2023

The Norn Language: Scotland’s mysterious Viking tongue that can be found in modern Scots


Dubbed the “sixth Scandinavian language” Norn was spoken by Scots for centuries prior to its extinction, but echoes of this past can still be heard as remnants of the Viking tongue exist in modern Scottish words.

Broadly speaking, Etymologists divide Scandinavian languages into two historical branches; Western and Eastern. Danish and Swedish account for the Eastern examples while the Western includes Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese.

Just as Iceland and the Faroe Islands were largely settled by Norwegian Vikings, regions of Scotland like the Shetland Islands also underwent this Norse invasion which led to the birth of another Western Scandinavian language; Norn.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 26 June 2023

How to Make a Viking Warrior?

"Making a Warrior: the Social Implications of Viking Age Martial Ideologies” is the title of a new research project, which was recently granted substantial funding from Nordforsk. Partners are the Universities in Oslo, Copenhagen, Uppsala, and Reykjavik.

Archaeologist Marianne Moen, who has also recently taken over the position as Head of Department of Archaeology at the Museum of Cultural History, will be the project manager for the upcoming research project “Making a Warrior: the Social Implications of Viking Age Martial Ideologies” that is starting up in the fall of 2023.

– The Viking Age often evokes associations with violence and war, with images of tough men enacting scenarios of violence and war. At the same time, we know that the truth was much more complex. This project is based on the premise that Viking warriors were not a uniform group of people, and that warrior ideals moreover had socio-political and ritual aspects that were as important as the actual war and violence in itself, she tells us.

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, 24 June 2023

Wild Cattle in Britain – Descendants of Viking Cattle?

Also known as the Chillingham Cattle, Britain is home to four flocks of White Cattle living in the wild since the 12th century.

The fierce and shy wild cattle living in the park at Chillingham is but one flock of four roaming at Woburn, Dynevor, and Cadzow. Earlier on, such herds were a common feature in the British landscape, probably kept for their ornamental and symbolic value. Known in the 12th century as Tauri Sylvestres, they have apparently always been considered a wild sub-species. The herd at Chillingham, though, was first mentioned in 1645. Today, about 130 animals live in the 150-ha large park in Northumberland. The herd is protected from being earmarked, a true sign of their “wild” status.

These flocks of wild cattle were treated as a kind of super-deer eaten on festive occasions, such as at the Archbishop of York installation feast in 1466. At the celebrations, six wild bulls were roasted and served. It appears the white cattle survived as potent medieval status symbols alongside other wild species. Evidence from Auckland Castle indicates a herd of White Cattle was kept in the 15th-century deer park for ornamental reasons together with wild horses.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, 22 June 2023

Viking artefact unearthed by metal detectorist to be sold at auction

The bronze artefact, called a die, would have been used to create decorative motifs to be applied to a military helmet (Jason Jones/PA)

A metal detectorist has unearthed a Viking artefact that was used to craft decorative motifs for military helmets.

Jason Jones, 44, of Norwich, made the find while searching a field near Watton in Norfolk in January this year, having previously found two medieval silver coins there.

The construction industry worker, who was with his wife Lisa, said he had forgotten to charge his main detector and was using his backup machine.

“I returned to the area where the coins were found and got a loud signal, and at a depth of just two inches found an unusual bronze object,” he said.

“Lisa came over and was speechless when she saw it.

Read the rest of this article...

Viking artefact unearthed by metal detectorist in Norfolk field could fetch £24,000 at auction

Jason Jones, 44, with his wife and daughter, found a Viking artefact in a field in Norfolk.
Credit: Jason Jones / PA / Noonans auctioneers

A Viking artefact unearthed by a metal detectorist in Norfolk could fetch up £24,000 at auction.

Jason Jones, 44, of Norwich, made the find while searching a field near Watton in Norfolk in January this year, having previously found two medieval silver coins there.

The construction industry worker, who was with his wife Lisa, said he had forgotten to charge his main detector and was using his backup machine.

“I returned to the area where the coins were found and got a loud signal, and at a depth of just two inches found an unusual bronze object,” he said.

Read the rest of this article...

A Couple Renovating Their Kitchen in Denmark Found an Ancient Stone Carved With Viking Runes

An ancient stone was discovered under the kitchen floor in a home in Denmark.
Photo Lene Brandt, courtesy National Museum of Denmark.

When Lene Brandt and her husband, Anders Nielsen, were preparing to tear up the linoleum floors in the kitchen in their home in the village of Mosekær, in Denmark, they probably expected the normal things that occur in the course of such a project: cost overruns, delays, and problems with contractors.

Instead, what they found was an ancient artifact. The couple stumbled across a nearly 2,000-pound stone, measuring more than six feet long, carved with ancient runes. The couple contacted local experts at the Museum Østjylland. Staff archaeologist Benita Clemmensen is quoted by the cultural news site Skjalden saying that these stones are the sole written records of the Viking Age. 

Five runes can be found carved into the stone’s surface, reading “aft Bi,” which can be translated as “after B.” 

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Game piece with runic inscription found in Trondheim

A round soapstone game piece discovered in an archaeological survey in advance of sewer pipe repair in Trondheim, Norway, is inscribed with runes. This is only the second known game piece with a runic inscription ever discovered in Norway.

The excavation uncovered a sunken pit with archaeological layers dating to the Middle Ages. The deepest part of the pit, more than 12 feet below today’s street surface, has been dated to between 1000 and 1150 A.D. A coal layer above it was only slightly more recent, dating to 1030-1180 A.D. The soapstone game piece was found between the two layers.

Archaeologists first thought the lines incised on the round piece’s surface could be stylized floral motifs, but the geometry was also reminiscent of runic inscriptions albeit laid out in artistic fashion.

The team sent high-resolution images of the piece to runologist Karen Langsholt Holmqvist. She was so intrigued she was compelled to view the object in person. That’s when she conclusively identified the decoration as runic writing.

Read the rest of this article...

What did the Vikings eat?

Serra is a culinary archaeologist recreating long-lost Viking recipes (Credit: Maddy Savage)

While the word "Viking" is often used to describe anyone who lived during the Viking era, Serra explained that it should technically only refer to the pirates and pillagers who travelled across northern Europe between the 8th and 11th Centuries. He said that most people during this period weren't bloodthirsty invaders, but worked as farmers, fishermen, crafters or traders, and he's made it his life's mission to research and recreate the kind of dishes that dominated their everyday diets. 

"I like to eat, and I like to eat good food, so I was curious: what did [the Vikings] eat?" said Serra, who initially studied the food of ancient Rome as an archaeology student by recreating dishes from the 1st- to 5th-Century cookbook De Re Coquinaria. He then reconstructed, cooked and tasted his way from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages before focusing on the Viking era during his graduate studies. Today, having established that Vikings were much more farm-to-table locavores than meat-loving hunter gatherers, Serra is now considered one of Scandinavia's leading authorities on the culinary practices of the Vikings. 

Read the rest of this article...

Stone Carved With Viking Ship May Be Oldest Picture Ever Found in Iceland

Photo: Landnámsskáli í Stöð / Facebook

Archaeologists in Iceland have found a sandstone carved with a Viking ship that may be the oldest picture ever found in the country. The stone was found at the archaeological site Stöð in East Iceland in a longhouse that is believed to predate the permanent settlement of the island. RÚV reported first.

Richest longhouse ever excavated in Iceland
The first exploratory digs at Stöð were made in 2015 and archaeologists have returned every summer since to continue excavating the site, where they first focused their efforts on a settlement-era longhouse.  “The longhouse is among the largest found in Iceland, 31.4m [103ft] long. In Scandinavia, only chieftains’ farms had longhouses larger than 28m [92ft]. It is also the richest longhouse ever excavated in Iceland. We have found 92 beads and 29 silver objects, including Roman and Middle Eastern coins,” Bjarni F. Einarsson told Iceland Review for a 2020 article on the archeological site.

Oldest building predates settlement
What makes the site still more significant is that archaeologists discovered an even older longhouse underneath the settlement-era longhouse, estimated to date back to around 800 AD, some 75 years before the permanent settlement of Iceland. The most striking feature of the older structure is the conspicuous absence of the bones of domesticated animals. “My theory is that the older longhouse was a seasonal hunting camp, operated by a Norwegian chief who outfitted voyages to Iceland to gather valuables and bring them back across the sea to Norway,” Bjarni told Iceland Review. One of these valuables may have been walrus ivory: in 2019, DNA analyses and radiocarbon dating confirmed that Iceland was previously inhabited by a North Atlantic subspecies of walrus, now extinct.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 12 June 2023

Viking Support Animals

(The Picture Art Collection/Alamy Stock Photo) Stela depicting Odin’s horse Sleipnir

The warriors of the Viking Great Army who campaigned in Britain from A.D. 865 to 878 worshipped gods often associated with animal companions, such as Odin and his eight-legged horse Sleipnir. It seems that some of the army’s leaders may have made the voyage across the North Sea from Scandinavia with their own cherished animals as comrades. A team led by University of Durham archaeologist Tessi Loeffelmann discovered evidence of these travel arrangements while analyzing isotopes of the element strontium in cremated animal bones recovered from Norse burial mounds near the site of the army’s A.D. 873–874 winter camp in Repton.

Read the rest of this article...

The cruelty of the Vikings was legendary. However, the reality was different

[Photo by DAMIANUM CASTRUM from Pexels]

They were famous for their violent nature, sudden attacks and barbarism. But to what extent is the cruelty of the Vikings a fact confirmed by historians?

In June 793, Vikings invaded a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England. The center, which had existed for 150 years, was the spiritual and intellectual center of the region. However, to the pagan aggressors it was nothing more than an undefended object full of riches. Thus began in the history of Europe an era of Vikings that lasted more than 250 years, until the decisive battle of Hastings fought in 1066.

“Never before had there been such a terror in Britain as that which has now arisen through the heathen race. These barbarians poured the blood of the saints around the altar [in St. Cuthbert’s Church] and trampled on the bodies of the saints in the temple of God like dung in the streets.”

These words, still breathing terror today, were written by Alcuin of York in a letter to King Ethelred of Northumbria. This was the name of the land on the coast of which the profaned and devastated monastery and church were located.

Read the rest of this article...

Unusual Discovery Of A Viking Age Phallic Stone In Tystaberga, Sweden


Ellen Lloyd - - As an archaeologist, you can expect to find some surprises everywhere. That's what happened during recent excavations on a hill in Tystberga outside the city of Norrköping, Sweden, where scientists unearthed something eye-catching.

A new railroad will be constructed, so scientists excavated the site from May to June this year. It's an archaeological site where researchers have previously unearthed more than 60 Viking Age graves and a settlement from the Bronze Age.

In a recent study, scientists found a grave containing two curious stones. An examination of the stones showed one was a grave ord. These stones were common in Scandinavia from the Pre-Roman Iron Age until the Vendel era. Engraved with ornaments, grave orbs were placed on an individual's tomb.  The other stone unearthed in Tystberga was shaped like a penis.

The phallus was a powerful and important symbol throughout the ancient world, but unearthing a Viking Age Phallic stone in Sweden does not happen often.

Read the rest of this article...

Scramasax with preserved wood handle found in Sweden

An archaeological excavation in Skälby on the outskirts of Västerås, southeastern Sweden, has uncovered a scramasax (short sword) with its decorated wooden handle so well-preserved it looks like new even though it’s more than 1100 years old.

About 16 inches long with its unusually decorative grip intact, the scramasax was discovered in 2021 at the bottom of a well, embedded deep in the mud and the waterlogged clay. The anaerobic environment preserved the wooden handle in pristine condition. It is turned to fit the hand and carved with a central enlaced design. Its style dates it to the Vendel Period between the 7th and 9th centuries A.D.

The Skälby site was home to several scattered farming settlements in the Iron Age. Its wells were used for different purposes in different phases, alternating between water sources, garbage pits and places for ritual deposits. Archaeologists believe the short sword was sacrificed, thrown into the well as an offering, as swords like this were extremely valuable objects and not likely to be lost by accident. In fact, they are most frequently found as grave goods, interred with the warrior who wielded it as one of his most prized possessions.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, 19 May 2023

A Centuries-Old Mystery: Did This Elusive Viking City Exist?

A recreated “Slavs and Viking” settlement, with medieval craft demonstrations, re-enactments and guided tours in Wolin, Poland.Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Was a “medieval New York” called Jomsborg a literary fantasy or a historical reality? New archaeological discoveries may provide a clue.

After the local government decided to build an observation tower atop a sandy hill on Wolin, an island in the Baltic Sea, a Polish archaeologist was called in to check the site before construction and look for buried artifacts from the spot’s macabre past.

Hangmen’s Hill, a public park, had in earlier times been an execution ground, a cemetery and, some believe, a place for human sacrifices — so who knew what grisly discoveries were in store?

But what the archaeologist, Wojciech Filipowiak, found when he started digging caused more excitement than distaste: charcoaled wood indicating the remains of a 10th-century stronghold that could help solve one of the great riddles of the Viking Age.

Was a fearsome fortress mentioned in ancient texts a literary fantasy or a historical reality?

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 8 May 2023

Viking Burial Goods: 10 Exotic Items the Vikings Took to Valhalla

According to The Saga of the Ynglings, Odin ordered mortal Vikings to bury the dead accordingly: “He decreed that the dead were all to be cremated along with their possessions and said that everyone should arrive in Valhalla with the riches from his funeral pyre, and with the treasures he had hidden in the earth.”

Harnessing sails and ships, medieval Scandinavians explored the world, amassing treasures from faraway places. These exotic Viking burial goods preserve tales of exploration and adventure.

1. Glass Vessels in Viking Burials

On the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren, the Vikings built a trading and manufacturing settlement called Birka. Thousands of people were buried at Birka from the late ninth to the tenth centuries. The graves contained an assortment of grave goods.

Archaeologists found glass vessels from the Rhineland, France, and the British Isles inside the Birka graves. Making glass vessels was an expensive and time-consuming process. Vikings did not make their own glass drinking vessels and had to import glass cups from other places in Europe and the Near East. These items were so important to the Vikings that they took glass goblets to the grave just like other treasures of more obvious importance.

Read the rest of this article...

Is There Something Fishy About Radiocarbon Dating?

A map of the route taken by the Viking Great Heathen Army.
Hel-hama, own work, via Wikipedia

The Vikings started out as raiders, but then, in the way of these things, ended up as rulers, and their influence stretched from Greenland to what is now Russia. They first enter English history in 793, with the sacking of the Monastery of Lindisfarne. By the late 9th century, they were colonising Iceland, and serving as mercenaries to the Emperor of Byzantium. In 862, Vikings under Rurik established themselves in Novgorod, forming the nucleus of what would become Kyivan Rus. In 885, Vikings besieged Paris, and although they were beaten back settled in what is now Normandy (Norman, Northmen). In 865, the Viking Great Heathen Army arrived in England, and a year later, under Ivar the Boneless, captured York, which would remain their capital in England until the defeat of Eric Bloodaxe in at 954.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, 4 May 2023

Seemingly 'empty' burial mound is hiding a 1,200-year-old Viking ship

The ship-shaped signals from ground-penetrating radar were detected in 2022 during excavations of burial mounds on the island of Karmøy, in southwest Norway.
(Image credit: Theo B. Gill – The Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger)

Ground-penetrating radar has revealed the outline of a Viking ship in a mound in southwest Norway that was once thought to be empty.

A Viking Age burial mound in Norway long thought to be empty actually holds an incredible artifact: the remains of a ship burial, according to a ground-penetrating radar analysis.

The remains, which are still underground, indicate that a ship burial took place during the late eighth century A.D., the very start of the Viking Age (A.D. 793 to 1066). If confirmed, it would be the third early Viking ship burial found in the area, on the coast of the island of Karmøy in southwestern Norway, a region that may be the origin of Viking culture.

"This is a very strategic point, where maritime traffic along the Norwegian coast was controlled," Håkon Reiersen(opens in new tab), an archaeologist at the University of Stavanger in Norway, told Live Science. Reiersen works for the university's Museum of Archaeology and led the team that made the discovery last year, near the village of Avaldsnes.

Read the rest of this article...


Image Credit : Eva Gjerde - Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger


The mound was first investigated over a century ago by the archaeologist, Haakon Shetelig, however, excavations at the time showed no evidence to indicate that a ship was buried in situ.

“He was incredibly disappointed, and nothing more was done with this mound,” says Håkon Reiersen, an archaeologist at the Museum of Archaeology at the University of Stavanger.

Archaeologists returned to the mound in June 2022 to conduct a ground-penetrating radar survey (GPR), a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface and detect archaeological features.

Read the rest of this article...

Rare, 1,000-year-old Viking Age iron hoard found in basement in Norway

The Viking hoard consists of 32 iron ingots, which are all pierced with a hole on one end and may have been grouped together in a bundle. (Image credit: Mildri Een Eide)

Forty years after her father stored them away, a woman discovered 32 identical iron ingots that Vikings may have used as a form of currency

A rare stash of 1,000-year-old ironwork, which sat for 40 years in a family's basement in Norway, is now seeing the light of day after a woman discovered the hoard during some spring cleaning. 

The hoard consists of 32 iron ingots that look like small spatulas and date back to the Viking Age (A.D. 793 to 1066) or high Middle Ages (1066 to 1350). The rods are identical and weigh about 1.8 ounces (50 grams) each, prompting archeologists to think they may have been used as a form of currency and that someone probably buried them with the intention of coming back for the treasure later.

Read the rest of this article...

How Accurate Are the Viking Sagas?

The Viking sagas are deeply compelling mythologies, but epics like the Volsunga saga also preserve some elements of historical fact.

Almost a thousand years after stories of the Germanic Burgundians were first told, an unknown Icelandic scribe wrote down an accurate description of the events and personages of the 5th century CE, based only on the legends of his people. This incredible feat of oral history was powerful — and to understand its implications, we have to get inside the heads of the Christian Icelanders who looked to their pagan past for a proud literary tradition. Here, we shall attempt to do just that, examining just how accurate the Viking sagas really are.

What Are the Viking Sagas?

At their simplest, the Viking sagas are a body of literature that was mostly written by Icelanders in the 13th century CE. Saga is an Old Norse word meaning “a thing that is said” — it’s roughly analogous to the ancient Greek muthon (“things that are said”, from where we get our word myth), as opposed to ergon (“things that are done”). Thus, we can broadly conceive of the sagas as oral tales about a central figure or figures that recount the deeds of characters from Viking mythology and history. As we shall see, debate still rages as to whether the Norse themselves made a meaningful distinction between these two modern categories — myth and history.

Read the rest of this article...

How Were Viking Ships Built and Buried?

In 793, the monks of Lindisfarne watched in horror as men invaded their holy place. They were under attack. There had been rumors of pirates in nearby Kent, but this was the first time the monks at Lindisfarne had come face-to-face with the raiders. The strangers plundered the monastery of everything valuable and left the edifice covered in the blood of the priests. Then the invaders returned to their ships and sailed away.

Their fine vessels would take the Vikings through Europe, the Baltic, and the Near East, allowing the Norse to establish trading ports and conquer foreign kingdoms. The ships would also allow the Vikings to colonize Greenland and Iceland. Always the ship carried the Vikings onward. Viking ships represented technical innovation and became monuments to honored leaders, ensuring the iconic legacy of the Vikings.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Video – Viking Age fortresses on the North Frisian islands

The Borgsumburg on the North Frisian island Föhr.

The recording of April’s research seminar, featuring Dr Martin Segschneider on the Viking Age fortifications in Germany’s North Frisian Islands.

The two well-preserved, circular ramparts Borgsumburg and Tinnumburg were something of an enigma for decades as little was known about their structure, role and archaeological context.

But recent rescue excavations, aerial photography and geophysical survey have remedied the situation dramatically, leading to a research project focusing on Viking Age merchant sites in the vicinity of the fortifications and a second focusing on the ramparts themselves.

Read the rest of this article...

Beowulf was connected to King Cnut, study finds

When King Cnut sailed to Denmark in 1019, did he bring a copy of Beowulf with him? That is the theory put forward in a new article on why the famous Old English poem was written in the early years of the 11th century.

Beowulf is only found in one copy: the Nowell Codex, which is now kept at the British Library. In his article, “Behold the Front Page: Cnut and the Scyldings in Beowulf,” the historian Richard North argues that this manuscript was at least partially written after Cnut became King of England in 1016. Moreover, the Norse leader and his entourage took a keen interest in the story, using it to develop a claim to the throne of Denmark.

Set hundreds of years in the past, Beowulf tells the story of a hero arriving to help Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, defeat the monster Grendel. Beowulf slays Grendel, then Grendel’s mother, before returning home to Geatland and becoming King of the Geats. Many years later, Beowulf also defeats a dragon, but at the cost of his own life.

Read the rest of this article...

Stolen coins reveals King Alfred had help from ally to stop Vikings ruling England

Alfred was the king of Wessex and then later king of the Anglo-Saxons, and his grandson Æthelstan was the first 'King of the English' (Image: HampshireLive - Grahame Larter)

Alfred, who is widely regarded as the first person to be king of the English, may have been assisted by fellow leader Ceolwulf in his struggle against Viking marauders

Alfred the Great was helped on his way to legendary status by a fellow leader he refused to give credit to and allowed to be written out of history, experts now believe.

Images on medieval coins found in a stolen haul suggest King of Wessex Alfred, who stopped the Vikings in their tracks and paved the way for the formation of England, was in a years-long alliance with Ceolwulff II, King of Mercia.

A silver ‘Two Emperor’ penny from 870 AD shows the pair together, suggesting they were strong allies.

But Ceolwulf was later mocked by scribes loyal to Alfred as being a puppet of the Vikings.

Read the rest of this article...

Double hoard of Viking treasure discovered near Harald Bluetooth's fort in Denmark

 Archaeologists say Harald Bluetooth paid his men and the Danish aristocracy with "cross coins" and thereby spread knowledge of the new Christian religion throughout the region. On this side of the silver coin there are several runes. (Image credit: Nordjyske Museer, Denmark)

Silver coins and jewelry unearthed from a field on the Jutland peninsula in Denmark are revealing new insight into the reign and religious ambitions of the powerful Viking king Harald Bluetooth, according to archaeologists.

The objects — around 300 pieces of silver, including about 50 coins and cut-up jewelry — were discovered late last year by a local archaeology group surveying a farm northeast of the town of Hobro and near Fyrkat, a ring fort built by Harald Bluetooth in about A.D. 980. 

Excavations show that the valuables were originally buried in two hoards about 100 feet (30 meters) apart, probably beneath two now long-gone buildings. Since then, these hoards have been spread around by farm machinery.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, 28 April 2023

Collectors guilty of illegal plot to sell historic Anglo-Saxon coins abroad

Two metal detectorists have been found guilty of hatching an illegal plot to sell Anglo-Saxon coins of “immense historical significance” abroad.

Craig Best, 46, and Roger Pilling, 75, were convicted of conspiring to sell criminal property worth £766,000, namely ninth century coins believed to have been buried by a Viking and which have never been declared as Treasure, and have not been handed to the Crown.

Following a trial at Durham Crown Court, the defendants were also convicted of separate charges of possessing the criminal property, which was thought to be part of a larger, undeclared find known as the Herefordshire Hoard.

Best, of South View, Bishop Auckland, was arrested with three coins at a Durham hotel in May 2019 in a police sting operation.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 24 April 2023

Vikings in Greenland Imported Wood From Europe – and Canada

Christian Krohg's painting of Viking explorer Leif Erikson discovering America.
Credit: National Gallery of Norway

The Vikings built homes and ships from wood, but Greenland has no forests to speak of. Now a new analysis sheds light on how they survived for centuries on the frigid island

Greenland is on many minds because its glaciers are melting faster than expected, and are ultimately expected to raise global sea level by over 7 meters (23 feet). But though warming, the Arctic tundra was and remains inhospitable. That explains why early migrants to the island died out, leaving no descendants. Over thousands of years, one culture succeeded another.

Among the cultures that came and ultimately died or beat a retreat were Vikings, though their communities did manage to persist for centuries. The question is exactly how they did so.

Read the rest of this article...

Luck of the Vikings: Their Arrival Reversed Ireland's Decline, Say Archaeologists

Study debunks notion that Ireland had been populous when the Nordic migrants arrived in the 10th century: The island had been in decline for 200 years by then

Medieval Ireland's population had been shrinking for 300 years by the time the Vikings arrived in the 10th century C.E., a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science contends. The conclusion contradicts the widespread assumption that the island had been in a state of growing expansion and progression ahead of the Vikings' arrival.

The research, led by Rowan McLaughlin at Queen’s University Belfast, began from census records, genetic analyses of the Irish and the historic record – including the Norse settlement of the island in the 9th and 10th centuries C.E. It sought archaeological data to back the findings. To this day, as previous studies have found, the Irish have a small component of Viking ancestry.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, 23 April 2023

Hoard of 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed in Denmark

The silver coins were found about 5 miles from the Fyrkat Viking ringfort, near the town of Hobro. Photograph: North Jutland Museum
Hoard of 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed in Denmark
Artefacts believed to date back to 980s found by girl metal-detecting in cornfield last autumn

Nearly 300 silver coins believed to be more than 1,000 years old have been discovered near a Viking fortress site in north-west Denmark, a museum has said.

The trove – lying in two spots not far apart – was unearthed by a girl who was metal-detecting in a cornfield last autumn.

“A hoard like this is very rare,” Lars Christian Norbach, the director of the North Jutland Museum, where the artefacts will go on display, told Agence France-Presse.

The silver coins were found about 5 miles (8km) from the Fyrkat Viking ringfort, near the town of Hobro. From their inscriptions, they are believed to date back to the 980s.

The trove includes Danish, Arab and Germanic coins as well as pieces of jewellery originating from Scotland or Ireland, according to archaeologists. Norbach said the finds were from the same period as the fort, built by King Harald Bluetooth, and would offer a greater insight into the history of the Vikings.

Read the rest of this article...

Huge Viking Treasure Hoard Found At Fyrkat Ring Castle By Metal Detectorists


Aerial view of the Fyrkat Viking ring castle ruins. Credit: Adobe Stock - Cavan

A group of metal detectorists examining a field near the Viking castle Fyrkat have discovered two remarkable treasures. The two Viking treasures were buried a few meters apart, and both contained many small silver coins and cut-up silver jewelry, which probably served as a means of payment by weight. Altogether, the two treasures include up to 300 pieces of silver, of which approximately 50 are whole coins.

Fyrkat is a former Viking ring castle in Denmark, dating from c. 980 AD.  About 1,000 years ago, legendary King Harald Bluetooth built several impressive Viking fortresses.

Finding Viking treasures in Denmark is not unusual, but finding two so close to Fyrkat is amazing. The metal detectors who are members of Nordjysk Detektorforening were lucky because due to modern ploughing, harrowing, and sowing, the hoards have been disturbed and spread over a larger area.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Evidence Norse Greenlanders Imported Timber From North America

he native trees of Greenland are unsuitable for larger construction projects or shipbuilding. Instead, the Norse colonists (AD 985–1450) relied on driftwood and imported timber. 

To study timber origins and distribution on Greenland, Lísabet Guðmundsdóttir from the University of Iceland examined the wood assemblages from five Norse sites in western Greenland, of which four were medium-sized farms and one a high-status episcopal manor.

All sites were occupied between AD 1000 and 1400 and dated by radiocarbon dating and associated artifact types.

A microscopic examination of the cellular structure of the wood previously found by archaeologists on these sites enabled the identification of tree genus or species.

The results show that just 0.27% of the wood examined were unambiguous imports, including oak, beech, hemlock, and Jack pine. Another 25% of the total wood studied could be either imported or driftwood, including larch, spruce, Scots pine and fir.

Because hemlock and Jack pine were not present in Northern Europe during the early second millennium AD, the pieces identified from the medieval contexts in Greenland must have come from North America.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Sea-level rise in Southwest Greenland as a contributor to Viking abandonment

Vikings occupied Greenland from 985 CE to the mid-15th century. Hypotheses regarding their disappearance include combinations of environmental change, social unrest, and economic disruption. Occupation coincided with a transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age and Southern Greenland Ice Sheet advance. We demonstrate using geophysical modeling that this advance would have (counterintuitively) driven local sea-level rise of ~3 m (when combined with a long-term regional trend) and inundation of 204 km2. This largely overlooked process led to the abandonment of some sites and pervasive flooding. Progressive sea-level rise impacted the entire settlement and may have acted in tandem with social and environmental factors to drive Viking abandonment of Greenland.

Read the rest of this article...

Rising Sea Level Caused Vikings To Abandon Greenland – New Study

Vikings occupied Greenland from roughly 985 to 1450, farming and building communities before abandoning their settlements and mysteriously vanishing. Why they disappeared has long been a puzzle, but a new paper from the Harvard University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) determines that one factor—rising sea level—likely played a major role.

"There are many theories as to what exactly happened," to drive the Vikings from their settlements in Greenland, said Marisa J. Borreggine, lead author of the "Sea-Level Rise in Southwest Greenland as a Contributor to Viking Abandonment," which published this week [April 17] in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"There's been a shift in the narrative away from the idea that the Vikings completely failed to adapt to the environment and toward arguments that they were faced with a myriad of challenges, ranging from social unrest, economic turmoil, political issues, and environmental change," said Borreggine, a doctoral candidate in the Harvard Griffin GSAS in EPS.

"The changing landscape would've proven to be yet another factor that challenged the Viking way of life. Alongside these other challenges," said Borreggine, who works in the Mitrovica Group led by Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science Jerry X. Mitrovica. This likely led "to a tipping point before they abandoned the settlement."

Read the rest of this article...

Vikings left Greenland after growing ice sheet caused sea level rise

The settlement of Qassiarsuk in Greenland was once probably the site of Brattahlid, the home of Viking Leif Erikson, whose statue watches over the area
Cindy Hopkins/Alamy

The sea level around Greenland rose more than 3.3 metres from AD 1000 to 1450, contributing to the woes of Viking settlers and to their eventual abandonment of the island, researchers have found.

In AD 985, Erik the Red established a colony in Greenland after being exiled from Iceland. At the time, the North Atlantic region was unusually warm – the so-called medieval warm period – but after a massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1257, conditions became much colder for several centuries, a period known as the little ice age.

That led to the expansion of the Greenland ice sheet, say Marisa Borreggine at Harvard University and their colleagues, causing the land adjacent to the ice sheet to subside because of the increased weight. The bigger ice sheet also had a greater mass and so exerted a stronger gravitational pull on the waters around Greenland. These two factors had roughly equal effects on sea level there.

Read the rest of this article...

Norse colonists imported timber from North America to Greenland

A microscopic analysis has revealed that Norse colonists imported timber from Northern Europe and North America to Greenland.

Greenland, or Grœnland in Old Norse, was settled by Norwegian and Icelandic explorers in AD 985 or 986. The settlers established two colonies on the southwest coast: The Eastern Settlement or Eystribyggð, in what is now Qaqortoq, and the Western Settlement or Vestribygð, close to present-day Nuuk.

In a study published in the journal Antiquity, archaeologists from the University of Iceland have conducted a wood taxa analysis on pieces of timber found in 11th to 14th century AD Norse farmsteads.
The purpose of the study is to differentiate between native wood, imported wood, and driftwood, revealing that 0.27% of the wood was unambiguous imports, including oak, beech, hemlock and Jack pine. Another 25% of the total wood was either imported or driftwood, including larch, spruce, Scots pine and fir

Read the rest of this article...

People were decapitated in Anglo-Saxon England crudely, study finds

If just being executed in Anglo-Saxon England was not bad enough, it seems that those unlucky victims of beheading would also have to deal with an executioner that was not very good at his job. These are some of the findings from a recent article that examined the archaeological evidence of executions in the early Middle Ages.

The study, led by Alyxandra Mattison with colleagues from the United Kingdom and South Africa, was published in Bioarchaeology of Injuries and Violence in Early Medieval Europe. It examines research on ten so-called ‘execution cemeteries’ from Anglo-Saxon England. By the seventh century there is evidence that special unconsecrated burial grounds are being used – these differ from traditional cemeteries in that the bodies are often buried in careless ways, with sometimes multiple people in a single grave or obvious signs of execution. Not all people buried there would have been executed, but these sites offer a chance to understand how executions were carried out.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, 17 April 2023

The Medieval Agricultural Revolution: New Evidence

The Medieval Agricultural Revolution: New Evidence

Lecture by Helena Hamerow

Given at Gresham College on March 23, 2023

Abstract: During the medieval ‘agricultural revolution’, new forms of cereal farming fuelled the exceptionally rapid growth of towns, markets and populations across much of Europe. The use of the mouldboard plough and systematic crop rotation were key developments and led to open-field farming, one of the transformative changes of the Middle Ages. Using new evidence from plant and animal remains from archaeological excavations in England, this lecture links these to wider developments in medieval society, notably growing social and wealth inequalities.

Helena Hamerow is Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford and an Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford.

Watch the video...

Viking Shieldmaidens & Berserkers: Fact vs. Fiction

Did Viking Shieldmaidens and Berserkers really exist? How accurately are they portrayed in popular media?

Viking berserkers and shieldmaidens are fascinating aspects of a conglomerated culture that gave way to myth and legend. Today, popular media have romanticized and dramatized these ancient warriors to suit the wants of modern audiences. While berserkers and shieldmaidens did assuredly exist in one form or another, it is hard to decipher the Viking sagas and poems and separate the facts from the fiction.

Berserkers: What Are the Facts?

The word ‘berserk’ is often associated with blind fury and rage. While the etymology of the anglicized term ‘berserk’ is often debated, most agree it was used to describe warriors that were more fearless and extreme than ‘regular’ Vikings. Adding confusion to the topic, the word ‘berserk’ may have variable representations. It may mean “bare-sark,” or “bare of shirt” referring to the habit of going unarmored or even unclothed into battle. The Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241) recounts of this tradition in his Ynglinga Saga: 

Read the rest of this article...

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers (Online)

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers (Online)

Wed 03 May 2023 - Fri 14 Jul 2023

Online course offered by The University of Oxford

Using a specially-designed virtual learning environment (VLE), this online course guides students through weekly pathways of directed readings and learning activities. Students interact with their tutor through tutor-guided, text-based forum discussions. There are no 'live-time' video meetings, meaning you can study flexibly whenever it suits you under the direct tuition of an expert.

Further information...