Thursday, July 04, 2024

Anglo-Saxons may have fought in northern Syrian wars, say experts

Exotic items found at sites such as Sutton Hoo may have been brought to England by returning warriors, rather than via trade. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Sixth-century Anglo-Saxon people may have travelled from Britain to the eastern Mediterranean and northern Syria to fight in wars, researchers have suggested, casting fresh light on their princely burials.

St John Simpson, a senior British Museum curator, and Helen Gittos, an Oxford scholar, have concluded that some of the exotic items excavated at Sutton Hoo, Taplow and Prittlewell, among other sites, originated in the eastern Mediterranean and north Syria and cannot have been conventional trade goods, as others have suggested.

Simpson said that “compelling evidence” suggests the individuals buried at those sites had been involved in Byzantine military campaigns in northern Mesopotamia during the late sixth century, fighting the Sasanians, an ancient Iranian dynasty.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A Massive Viking Ship That May Have Been Part Of A Royal Burial Has Been Discovered At Norway’s Jarlsberg Manor

The flat fields surrounding Jarlsberg Manor contain numerous boat burials
Museum of Cultural History / University of Oslo

In 2018, a metal detector survey started turning up rivets at Jarlsberg Manor, the historic seat of the Wedel-Jarlsberg family and the Count and Countess of Jarlsberg, who led the County of Jarlsberg. Archaeologists quickly realized that the metal detectors were finding hundreds — if not thousands — of rivets, suggesting that a Viking ship was buried there.

Ship burials are an important part of Viking funerary traditions, and archaeologists suspect that this site could contain the remains of a Viking king named Bjørn Farmann.

After the initial metal detector survey in 2018, archaeologists arrived to thoroughly investigate the site at Jarlsberg Manor. After two weeks of digging, they knew exactly what lay beneath the rolling green fields.

“We’ve found a place for a ship burial,” excavation leader Christian Løchsen Rødsrud told Science Norway. “We can now say for certain that yes, here lie the remains of a Viking ship. This discovery adds a new landmark to the map, once a significant site during the Viking Age.”

The archaeologists uncovered 70 rivets during their dig, but the metal detector pinged so often that they believe that the grounds contain hundreds, if not thousands, of rivets. These rivets would have been capable of holding together planks that were about an inch thick, which suggests that they were part of a large ship — a Viking ship.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Viking sword with 'very rare' inscription discovered on family farm in Norway

A farmer in Norway's southwestern Rogaland district found the clay-encrusted remains of the Viking Age sword in a field he was clearing. (Image credit: Rogaland County Council)

While clearing a field on his farm, a Norwegian man discovered a rare Viking Age sword that's thought to be 1,000 years old.

"We were about to start sowing grass on a field that has not been plowed for many years," Øyvind Tveitane Lovra, who found the weapon, said in a translated statement. 

When a piece of old iron turned up, he was about to throw it away. But a closer inspection revealed that it was most of a centuries-old sword, so he contacted archaeologists with the local government, as Norwegian law requires.

"I quickly realized that this was not an everyday find," said Lovra, who is a part-time farmer, ferry engineer and local politician in the Suldal municipality of Norway's southwest Rogaland county. "It's about our history, and it's nice to know what has been here before."

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Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Trove Of Coins Dating Back To The 1100s Found On Visingsö, Sweden

A large trove of coins dating back to the formation of Sweden in the 1100s has been discovered at Brahe Church on Visingsö, the island with rich history and many treasures related to Swedish history.

At that time, this island was a key battleground between the Houses of Sverker and Erik - the two strongest royal dynasties. Experts believe that the coins could potentially be among the oldest ever minted in Sweden.

A bracteate (from the Latin word 'bractea') means a thin metal piece, ands refers to a slim, one-sided gold medal. This piece of jewelry was primarily manufactured in Northern Europe during the Germanic Iron Age's Migration Period, including Sweden's Vendel era. It was typically worn as an adornment.

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Mystery Of The Haraldskærkvinnan (Haraldskærwoman) – Bog Body Of A Viking Queen?

Scientists have long tried to unravel the mystery of the bog body today known as Haraldskærkvinnan (Haraldskærwoman). With the help of historical records, archaeological investigations, and modern technology, it has been possible to shed a more comprehensive picture of events that took place more than 2,000 years ago.

The Discovery Of The Haraldskærkvinnan

Everything started on October 30, 1835, when two ditch diggers discovered a well-preserved preserved female body in muddy water in Haraldskær bog, just outside Vejle, Denmark. Tree hooks and branches held the naked, dead body under the water. A furrow around the neck may indicate that she was strangled before being placed in the bog.

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Vikings May Have Used Body Modification as a ‘Sign of Identification’

Examples of artificially altered bones belonging to island-dwelling Vikings may be examples of purposeful body modifications, according to a study published in the journal Current Swedish Archaeology. Researchers think they may have been part of social rituals of initiation.

For many years, historians had assumed that tattooing was the only form of body modification used by Scandinavians in the Viking Age. However, evidence of two other forms is beginning to change that narrative: filed teeth and elongated skulls.

Tooth modification from this period was first described around the 1990s, while skull modification is “a rather newly discovered phenomenon that requires intensive research,” write co-authors Matthias Toplak and Lukas Kerk, Germany-based archaeologists at the Viking Museum Haithabu and the University of Münster, respectively.

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Unravelling the mystery of England's Dark Age coins

According to archaeologists, England relied on silver imported from France to make its own coins around 1,300 years ago. Even older English coins used silver from the eastern Mediterranean, in the Byzantine Empir.

The study is the collaboration between researchers at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

Lead author Dr Jane Kershaw from the University of Oxford said England imported silver from France from AD 750 to 820 at a time when relations were 'up and down'. 

'Relations were sometimes sour, but they weren't at war,' she told MailOnline.

For the study, the archaeologists analysed the chemical makeup of 49 silver coins minted in AD 660-820 England, the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France, all now housed at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. 

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Sunday, April 07, 2024

Roman Villa Full Of Miniature Votive Axes, Curse Tablets And Strange Artifacts Discovered In Oxfordshire

A large Roman villa was uncovered in Oxfordshire. Credit: Red River Archaeology Group

The complex was adorned with intricate painted plaster and mosaics and housed a collection of small, tightly coiled lead scrolls. The Red River Archaeology Group (RRAG), the organization responsible for coordinating the excavation, announced in a press release that these elements suggest that the site may have been used for rituals or pilgrimages.

Francesca Giarelli, the Red River Archaeology Group project officer and the site director, told CNN that the villa likely had multiple levels. The Roman villa complex, spanning an impressive 1,000 square meters (or 10,800 square feet) on its ground floor alone, was likely a prominent landmark visible from miles away.

“The sheer size of the buildings that still survive and the richness of goods recovered suggest this was a dominant feature in the locality if not the wider landscape,” says Louis Stafford, a senior project manager at RRAG, in the statement.

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Smallhythe: Riverside Romans and a royal shipyard in Kent

Today, Smallhythe Place in Kent is best known as a bohemian rural retreat once owned by the Victorian actress Ellen Terry and her daughter Edy Craig. As this month’s cover feature reveals, however, the surrounding fields preserve evidence of much earlier activity, including a medieval royal shipyard and a previously unknown Roman settlement (below, first image).
Our next feature comes from the heavy clays of the Humber Estuary, where excavations sparked by the
construction of an offshore windfarm have opened a 40km transect through northern Lincolnshire, with illuminating results (below, second image).
We then take a tour of Iron Age, Roman, and medieval Winchester, tracing its evolution into a regional capital and later a royal power centre.

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How hard working 'Lady of the Little Orme' was years ahead of her time

This 5,500-year-old skeleton named Blodwen on display at Amgueddfa Llandudno Museum 
(Image: Amgueddfa Llandudno Museum)

The roles of men and women have become more equal in recent decades with women excelling in traditionally male-dominated industries such as science, technology, the military and football. Indeed the pensionable age in the UK for both is now the same at 66.

But researchers have found a Neolithic woman who more than pulled her weight with heavy lifting as long ago as 3,500BC. Her remains, which were discovered in a crevice on Llandudno's Little Orme in the 19th Century, shed light on women's emancipation as long ago as the Stone Age.

Scores of history buffs will be able to learn all about this Lady of the Little Orme at Llandudno Museum this year. Her remaining bones are among an astonishing 9,000 artefacts at the centre, although there isn't room for all of them to be on display.

Byzantium and the early Rus’, with Monica White

A conversation with Monica White about the earliest contacts between Constantinople and the first Rus’-Varangian raiders, traders, and mercenaries to cross the Black Sea. Who were these people, what did they want, and how did contact with East Roman culture change them?

Monica White is an Associate Professor in Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Nottingham.The conversation is based on a number of Monica’s recent publications, including ‘Early Rus: The Nexus of Empires‘; ‘The Byzantine “Charm Defensive” and the Rus”; and ‘Leo VI and the Transformation of Byzantine Strategic Thinking about the Rus”.

Byzantium & Friends is hosted by Anthony Kaldellis, a Professor at the University of Chicago. You can follow him on his personal website. You can listen to more episodes of Byzantium & Friends through Podbean, Spotify or Apple Podcasts

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Tuesday, April 02, 2024

'Extraordinary' Viking combs reveal Ipswich's medieval importance

Most of the combs were made from red deer antler, although some were made from bone

An unearthed collection of Viking combs is "extraordinary and unique in the UK", according to archaeologists.

The antler and bone finds were discovered in Ipswich, Suffolk, during 40 excavations over the course of 20 years.

Authors Ian Riddler and Nicola Trzaska-Nartowski said they included "an extraordinary sequence of Viking combs unmatched elsewhere in the country".

They indicate the presence of Vikings in Ipswich in the late 9th Century.

Riddler and Trzaska-Nartowski are among the authors of a recently published analysis of 1,341 finds and 2,400 fragments of waste unearthed during digs between 1974 and 1994.

"It was always our intention that the book had a European outlook and placed Ipswich in the centre of a developing early medieval world for one particular craft," they said in a statement about the analysis.

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Thursday, March 28, 2024

Why Berserkers Were Some Of History’s Most Feared Warriors

Viking berserkers existed as mercenaries for hundreds of years during the Scandinavian Middle Ages, traveling in bands to fight wherever they could get paid. But they also worshiped Odin and were associated with mythological shapeshifters.

And eventually, Norse berserkers became so fearsome that they were entirely outlawed by the 11th century.

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