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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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: 

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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...

Thursday 13 April 2023

Viking King – How Was He Elected And What Was Expected From Him?


Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok in the TV series Vikings. Credit: History Channel 
Copyright, fair use.

Ragnar Lodbrok claimed to be a direct descendant of the god Odin, but most Viking leaders were "ordinary" people, and they were viewed as exceptionally commanding men.

A man must have certain qualities and attitudes to become a great Viking leader.

It brings us to questions such as – Who could become a Viking king? Who was considered a worthy leader in the Viking society?

Kings Appeared At The End Of The Viking Age

It's important to remember that there were no Viking kings during the early Viking Age. The Viking society was divided into three social classes -  the nobles or jarls, the middle class or karls, and the slaves or thralls.

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Wednesday 12 April 2023

Viking Age ceremonial burial shields found to be combat ready

Shield 'reconstruction' cobbled together in the late 19th–early 20th century. 

Rolf Fabricius Warming from the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University in Sweden and founding director of the Society for Combat Archaeology is challenging previous interpretations of ceremonial shields found in a Viking Age longship burial mound. His research is published in the journal Arms & Armour. 

About 1,100 years ago, at Gokstad in Vestfold, Norway, an important man was laid to rest in a 78-foot-long longship. The Gokstad ship was buried along with a few luxury possessions, including gold-embroidered tapestries, a sleigh, a saddle, 12 horses, eight dogs, two peacocks, six beds and 64 round shields as well as three smaller boats on the deck. The ship and the grave goods remained undisturbed under a mound of earth until it was discovered in 1880. Warming notes that while the longship and many artifacts now rest in a museum in Norway, some of the grave goods had not been subjected to any substantial examination since their initial discovery. 

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Monday 3 April 2023

Vikings may have made Morston fake gold Arabic dinar, says expert

A "spectacular" 9th Century fake Arabic dinar discovered by a metal detectorist could have been made by a Viking, a university professor said.

The gold coin was discovered near Morston, Norfolk, in April 2021 and has been declared treasure by a coroner.

Rory Naismith said "the Vikings had a lot of contact with the Muslim world" so it was "plausible" they could have struck imitation dinars.

"It's very unusual to find such a thing and it's completely unique," he added.

The imitation coin has a hole punched into it suggesting it was designed to be worn.

Prof Naismith, from Cambridge University, said some gold dinars from the Anglo-Saxon period have been found in England, probably arriving via Italy.

"While there are few other imitations that we know of, this one is a bit ropey," he said.

"It looks like it's made by someone who knows the generalities of what a dinar looks like, but is not handling them enough to get the Arabic right."

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