Tuesday 24 October 2023

How the Vindelev Hoard changed our understanding of the worship of Odin

The Vindelev Hoard, a treasure trove of golden artifacts dating back to centuries before the Viking Age, was accidentally discovered by an amateur metal detectorist in Denmark in 2020. Source: Vejlemuseerne / Vejle Konserveringscenter (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What secrets about the spiritual beliefs of Viking societies did an unsuspecting metal detectorist uncover among the gold he found beneath the Danish soil?

I recently listened to a BBC History Extra podcast discussing archaeology. Both the host and the guest, a Professor of Archaeology from University College London, expressed their chagrin about the influence on archaeology in recent decades.

Much of this influence has been attributed to "the man in the hat with the whip" - the fictional movie character and swashbuckling archaeologist Indiana Jones, portrayed by Harrison Ford.

Throughout the podcast, much was made of the unrealistic depictions of archaeology in the Indiana Jones movies. 

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Monday 23 October 2023

New Discovery Uncovers a Forgotten Viking Queen More Celebrated Than Kings

The runestone from Læborg is dedicated to Thyra as the dróttning, meaning “lady” or “queen.” NATIONAL MUSEUM OF DENMARK

WHEN YOU THINK OF VIKINGS, your mind may imagine the muscular Norse Gods: Thor, Odin, or Loki. Or perhaps you might picture fierce-looking bearded men aboard slender, symmetrical boats rowing oars in unison, commanded by feared war heroes like Ragnar Lothbrok.

Yet a recent investigation has found that, during the Viking Age, one of the most celebrated leaders was actually a woman. A recent study has found that Queen Thyra is honored on runestones far more than any male counterpart.

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Wednesday 18 October 2023

Medieval Cemetery Discovered in Finland

(Riikka Saarinen / Turku Museum Center)

SALO, FINLAND—YLE reports that construction work to install geothermal pipes in western Finland’s Salonjoki River Valley turned up an iron sword dated to between A.D. 1050 and 1150. The sword has a straight cross guard and a three-sided pommel. Juha Ruohonen of the University of Turku determined that the weapon belonged to a burial in what could be a cemetery containing 200 Christian burials situated near a church.

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Thor's hammer part of Viking finds returning to Thetford

The Thor's hammer pendant, which could have been worn by one of the invaders, was found just outside South Lopham, about 11 miles (17km) from Thetford

A Thor's hammer and a pottery lamp are among Viking Great Army finds returning to the town where they were discovered.

Thousands of Scandinavians formed an army in England to raid and conquer between AD865-878, and Thetford in Norfolk was one of their winter camps.

The story of how this led to the town becoming a major Viking settlement will be told at its Ancient House Museum.

Curator Oliver Bone said the exhibits "show how important this area was in the Viking story".

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Thor's hammer pendant unearthed in Norfolk declared treasure

A silver pendant bearing the hammer of the Norse god Thor unearthed in Norfolk may be linked to the first Viking invaders of Britain.

The artefact, estimated to have been made in either the 9th or 10th century, is made largely of silver and is in the shape of the hammer symbol associated with the deity. 

During a treasure inquest into the find, a report from Gareth Williams, a curator at the British Museum, said the discovery - at an undisclosed location in Norfolk  - may have been linked to the Viking Great Army which invaded Britain in the 9th century.

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Crusader Era Cemetery and Sword Discovered in Finland

Crusader era sword found in Salo, Finland.

Crusader era burials have been found in a cemetery by archaeologists in Salo, Finland, according to Heritage Daily.

While a pipe trench was being dug near a medieval stone church, a local landowner noticed an iron object in the dirt earlier this year in August. The object, which was identified as a sword, was reported to archaeologists at Turku University and the Turku Museum Centre.

The sword was found with a bent blade, a straight hilt, and a three-sided oval pommel. It dates between 1050–1150 CE or the Crusader era, during which time the Swedish brought Christianity to Finland.

The team also found part of the scabbard, additional pieces of blade, iron objects, and human remains in the same area.

A leather belt with 30 square rosette-patterned bronze ornaments is among the most notable finds, along with a buckle, several end and animal head buckles, strap dividers, and leather pieces.

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Sunday 15 October 2023

Norwegian Archaeologists Are Salvaging Priceless Artefacts From Melting Glaciers—Before It’s Too Late

The arrow found by Glacier Archaeology Program. Image: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice.com.

There is surely little upside to the environmental changes posed by global warming, but nevertheless, a group of Norwegian archaeologists is seizing the opportunities presented by the country’s rapidly melting glaciers.

That group is Glacier Archaeology Program—snappy internet alias: Secrets of the Ice—and since receiving permanent government funding in 2011 it has been responsible for 90 percent of Norway’s glacial finds.

Granted, the group’s success is partly tied to the topography of Innlandet. The county boasts many of Norway’s highest peaks, and the team has pursued salvaging artefacts from remote locations in a comprehensive and systematic manner. To date, it has made 4,000 finds across 66 sites

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Saturday 14 October 2023

Varangian Guard, the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire

Depiction of the Varangian Guard,the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire.
Image: Joannis Scylitza, 12th century. Credit: Public domain

The Vikings were seafaring from Scandinavia. They most famously raided in and around the British Isles and the western coasts of Europe. However, what many people do not know is that they were active much further east, too. They played a surprising yet significant role in the Byzantine Empire, where they formed the Varangian Guard. What do we know about the Varangian Guard, the Vikings of the Byzantine Empire?

The Origin of the Varangians

The Varangians were Vikings from Sweden. In the ninth century, a group of them settled in Northwest Russia, where the city of Novgorod is located today. A man named Rurik was the legendary leader of this group. He was referred to as the Rus’, and the settlement, established in the year 862 according to a twelfth century chronicle, was likewise referred to as such.

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1,000-Year-Old Viking Runes May Finally Solve Mystery of an Ancient Queen

Jelling 2 with runes chosen for analysis. (3D-scanning by Zebicon, drawing by Laila Kitzler Åhfeldt.)3D-scanning by Zebicon, drawing by Laila Kitzler Åhfeld

A team of archaeologists from the National Museum of Denmark has used 3D scanning technology to analyze runes carved in stone that date back to more than 1,000 years ago. Their study of the ancient texts, published in the peer-reviewed journal Antiquity, has revealed new details about a mysterious Danish queen, Thyra, which together suggest she played a significant role in the emergence of the Scandinavian nation as a political force.

The discovery was made by re-analyzing two sets of runestones which were carved by Vikings in Denmark in the 10th century C.E. The first set, the Jelling Stones, was linked to Harald Bluetooth, a 10th century Danish King who is widely-regarded as the creator of Denmark. Bluetooth was the son of King Gorm and Queen Thyra — but historians had scant information about the couple or their reign. 

But the second set of runestones, called the Ravnunge-Tue Stones after its rune-carver, sheds a little more light on royals, and some historical analyses had theorized that several stones were inscribed in honor of Thyra on Bluetooth’s orders.

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Wednesday 11 October 2023

Viking Queen Thyra’s Power And Position Revealed On Famous Jelling Runestones

New research not only reveals who carved the runes into the Jelling stones, but also hints at how important Queen Thyra was.
Image credit: auralaura/Shutterstock.com

Today we recognize that handwriting is unique to each person. From the way we form our letters to the amount of pressure we place on pen and paper, the details of our individual writing can be used to identify us. The same, it seems, is true for ancient runesmiths, which has allowed archaeologists to finally identify the person who carved the amazing Jelling stones in Denmark and reveal the power of a 10th-century Viking queen.

The Jelling stones are located in the town of Jelling, near the eastern coast of Denmark. They consist of two massive stone monuments that date back to the 10th century CE. The oldest was erected by King Gorm the Old to honor his wife Thyra, while the second stone was raised by his son, Harald Bluetooth (of hands-free fame) to commemorate his parent’s memory. This second stone also contains intricate carvings that describe Harald’s achievements. It celebrates his conquest of Denmark and Norway and how he converted the Danes to Christianity. 

The markings on these stones are beyond impressive. They contain both runic inscriptions as well as carved images – one side of the youngest stone displays the oldest known image of Christ in Scandinavia. 

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Mysterious Viking queen may have helped unify Denmark in the 900s

The Læborg runestone has an inscription that mentions Queen Thyra

Queen Thyra, the mother of King Harald Bluetooth, was commemorated on four runestones in different parts of Denmark – suggesting she was a powerful figure

A mysterious queen named Thyra who lived during the Viking era may have been one of the founders of what is now Denmark. Multiple commemorative “runestones” mention her by name, suggesting she was a central figure.

“Because of the many runestones erected in honour of Thyra, we can conclude that she must have been very powerful and that she came from a very powerful family,” says Lisbeth Imer at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

Denmark’s Viking Age lasted from around AD 800 to 1050. A key figure was Harald “Bluetooth”, who was king from about AD 958 until his death in 987. The Bluetooth wireless technology standard is named after him. Harald’s parents were King Gorm, who came to power in around 936, and Queen Thyra.

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'Denmark’s salvation'? Runestones hint at Viking queen's power

New research on 1,000-year-old inscriptions suggests that the wife and mother of two Viking rulers may have been much more powerful in her own right—perhaps even a leader of the early Danish realm.

In a study published today in Antiquity, scientists provide a new analysis of Denmark’s Jelling runestones—inscribed stone monuments carved more than a millennia ago to commemorate the Viking king Gorm the Old, his wife Thyra, and the actions of their son, king Harald Bluetooth.

The Jelling Stones, located in the eastern Jutland town of Jelling, contain the earliest mentions of Denmark as a political entity. The smaller and older runestone, with an inscription written in the runic alphabet, was erected by Gorm around A.D. 950; the inscription on the larger Jelling Stone, commissioned by son Harald Bluetooth, also records Denmark’s conversion from Norse paganism to Christianity in 965 and is considered by many to be Denmark's "birth certificate."  (Harald Bluetooth’s name is best known today as a networking standard for wireless communications.)

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Tuesday 10 October 2023

Glass windows could be found in Viking-Age Denmark and Sweden, study finds

New research has revealed that the Vikings had windows with glass panes as early as the 9th century. While glazed windows are associated with medieval churches and castles, we have plenty of examples from Viking-age Denmark and Sweden.

A research team led by a conservation expert from the National Museum of Denmark makes the claim in an article just published in the Danish Journal of Archaeology. They did so by re-examining over 61 glass fragments found from six Viking-age sites.

“Several fragments of glass windows found on important Viking Age sites in South Scandinavia, made us wonder if it was just a mere coincidence that they were there,” says Torben Sode, the study’s lead author who first noticed the special find material. “And it wasn’t, they can be dated to the Vikings Age and most likely must have been in use in that time-period as well.”

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Monday 9 October 2023

How the Great Heathen Army slaughtered all before them during the Dark Ages

The Great Heathen Army, a coalition of Norse warriors, stormed the shores of England in the late 9th century, forever altering the trajectory of the island nation's history.

Originating from the rugged landscapes of Scandinavia, these Viking invaders were driven by a combination of ambition, revenge, and the lure of England's riches.

Their arrival posed a formidable challenge to the fragmented Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, which were ill-prepared for the scale and ferocity of the Viking onslaught.

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Saturday 7 October 2023

Vikings had windows, another shift away from their image as barbaric Norsemen, Danish museum says

Mads Dengsø Jessen, a senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, holds a glass fragment from the Viking Age.
John Fhær Engedal Nissen / The National Museum of Denmark via AP

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Vikings had windows — usually only associated with medieval churches and castles — meaning Norsemen dignitaries sat in rooms lit up by apertures with glass, Danish researchers said Thursday. The glass panes can be dated from long before the churches and castles of the Middle Ages with which glazed windows are associated, they said.

“This is yet another shift away from the image of unsophisticated barbaric Vikings swinging their swords around,” said Mads Dengsø Jessen, a senior researcher with the National Museum in Copenhagen.

Over the past 25 years, archeologists have found glass fragments in six excavations in southern Sweden, Denmark and northern Germany.

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Thursday 5 October 2023

1,400-year-old gold figures depicting Norse gods unearthed at former pagan temple

Known as "gullglubber," the gold-foil figure depicts the god Frøy and the goddess Gerd.
(Image credit: The Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo)

Archaeologists in Norway unearthed dozens of tiny gold-foil figures at a former pagan temple.

Archaeologists have discovered 35 miniature gold-foil depictions of Norse gods tucked inside the remnants of a pagan temple in Norway.

The gold foils, which are flat and as thin as a piece of paper, contain etched motifs depicting the god Frøy and the goddess Gerd and date to the Merovingian period in Norway, which began in 550 and continued into the Viking Age, according to Science Norway. The foils may have been used as sacrificial offerings.

The gold pieces lack holes, so it's unlikely that they were worn as jewelry. The first gold foils were discovered in Scandinavia in 1725 and were eventually labeled as "gullglubber," which translates to "golden old men."

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Monday 2 October 2023

Archeological evidence shows the violence of Viking raids on the coasts of Scotland

Iona Abbey, situated on the remote Scottish island in the Inner Hebrides, was a central religious site that experienced multiple Viking raids. Source: Heartland Arts / Shutterstock

It is today fashionable among historians and commentators to recast the Vikings as a more peaceable group of settlers who came to places like the British Isles to trade valuable goods, swap farming tips, and exchange cultural niceties. 

There is some truth to this, of course – a considerable number of Norse people did indeed integrate and settle abroad without any undue trouble. 

At the same time, the Vikings (or, more specifically, the seafaring marauders who regularly ventured overseas) didn't establish a fearsome reputation as brutal raiders for nothing. 

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A Norwegian Man Stumbled Upon a Trove of Gold Dating to the Early Middle Ages, Including a Rare Pendant Depicting the Norse God Odin

Amateur archaeologist Erlend Bore posing with a gold treasure photographed shortly after he found them in the ground with a metal detector on the island of Rennesøy in Stavanger. Photo by ANNIKEN CELINE BERGER/NTB/Arkeologisk museum, UiS /AFP via Getty Images.

Archaeologists say the find is Norway's most significant discovery of gold treasures in over a century.

A Norwegian man who took up metal detecting as a hobby accidentally discovered a trove of gold treasure that date from around 500 C.E.

Erlend Bore, aged 51, from the city of Stravanger, was going for a walk on the island of Rennesøy when his metal detector began beeping. Although his first thought was that he’d chance upon foiled chocolate coins, Bore alerted archaeologists who managed to locate and unearth three gold rings as well as nine gold medallions and ten gold pearls that were originally strung together on a necklace.

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Norwegian family finds Viking-era relics while looking for earring

One expert concluded that the buckle dates from between 780 and 850

A family in Norway were searching for a lost gold earring in their garden when they decided to get their metal detector out.

They did not find the earring but did stumble upon something else: artefacts dating back more than 1,000 years.

The Aasvik family dug up a bowl-shaped buckle and another item that appear to be part of a Viking-era burial.

Experts believe the artefacts were used in the ninth-century burial of a woman on the small island of Jomfruland.

The discovery was made under a large tree in the centre of the family's garden on the island, off Norway's south coast.

"We congratulate the family who found the first safe Viking-time find at Jomfruland," the Cultural Heritage of Vestfold and Telemark County Council wrote in a Facebook post.

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