Thursday, June 03, 2021

Looking for Viking ship burials with a 17th-century illustration


New detailed surveys of Viking age ship settings in Hjarnø, Denmark have been completed by archaeologists examining the origins and makeup of the Kalvestene grave field, a renowned site in Scandinavian folklore.

The archaeologists from Flinders University conducted detailed surveys to determine whether a 17th-century illustration of the site completed by the Danish antiquarian, Ole Worm, was accurate, as part of the first survey since the National Museum of Denmark discovered and restored 10 tombs on a small island off the eastern coast almost a century ago.

The burial site is made up of monuments which, according to legend, commemorate a king named Hiarni who was crowned after writing a beautiful poem on the death of the old king and who was defeated in battle on the island.

The research, published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, shows the design of the famous Kalvestene grave field is unusual when compared to other Danish sites of the same period which typically incorporate circle, oval or triangle stone settings in addition to the ship shaped settings. Instead, there are strong parallels with Southern Swedish sites, raising questions about links between the two regions.

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Monday, May 31, 2021

Help our profession or UK’s shared history will be lost, say archaeologists

An archaeologist excavates the Saxon ‘Prince of Prittlewell’ grave site before developers move in. Photograph: Mola

Brexit has led to a serious shortage of senior archaeologists, sparking fears that controls on developments could be lifted and undiscovered treasures and untold stories about our past will be lost for ever.

“There’s a hiring crisis in archaeology,” Lisa Westcott Wilkins of DigVentures, an archaeology social enterprise, told the Observer. “We’ve lost a tranche of skilled workers from Europe and [there’s been] the instability of the pandemic.”

“One of our real terrors is that the government is going to use the shortage of archaeologists as an excuse to reduce our role in the planning system, just as it’s being redesigned with a white paper, paving the way for development at the expense of our history. Imagine this country without finds, such as the Viking and Roman discoveries at a development at Hungate in York. That is terrifying to me.”

Under planning regulations, developers fund excavations ahead of construction work. It has led to discoveries as significant as the so-called “Prince of Prittlewell”, a royal Saxon grave in Essex, which might never have survived if it weren’t for archaeological work ahead of a road scheme.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

University of Sheffield archaeology department set to close after management takes decision to cut courses despite 34,000 people signing a petition to save it


A member of the University of Sheffield's archaeology department has confirmed that staff have been told the majority if its current functions will be cut.

Medieval archaeologist Dr Hugh Willmott said: "It is with great sadness and regret that I have to report the university's executive board had decided to press ahead with their plan to close the department and move only two small elements of our teaching into dispersed departments where they shall surely wither and quickly die."

The university management had been consultating on three separate outcomes for the department - complete closure of all programmes, allowing it to continue with fresh investment, or a third option of subsuming a small number of taught Masters courses into other departments. The latter was chosen by board members, who identifed these areas of research and teaching as key departmental strengths.

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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Great Army of Viking warriors used Northumbria camp to launch raids on Picts

The Great Army landed in Kent in 865 and overran much of England in the 860s and 870s

A massive camp of the Viking Great Army discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop is the first physical evidence for chroniclers’ accounts of raids by the commander Halfdan against the Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley was identified by archaeologists after metal detectorists reported numerous finds of gaming counters, coins and other artefacts typical of Viking encampments. According to excavators the discovery appears to confirm written accounts that say that, when the Great Army split into two forces after its conquest of Mercia, an army under Halfdan ravaged the territories of the Picts and the Britons of Strathclyde, in today’s Scotland and Cumbria, in 875AD.

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Viking Great Army launched devastating raids on Celtic Picts from massive hilltop camp in Northumbria, experts say

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years

A Viking Great Army camp discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop gives physical backing to early chroniclers' accounts of raids against the Celtic Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years.

They have found artifacts including gaming counters, coins and other items which indicate the presence of the Vikings.

Now, archaeologists currently working at the site say the finds confirm written accounts describing what happened after the Great Army split in two following its conquest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

Oxford University archaeologist Dr Jane Kershaw said it adds physical evidence to a sole written account describing how an army under the Viking commander Halfdan ravaged territories including those of the Picts in today's Northumberland

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cerne Abbas Giant may have been carved into hill over 1000 years ago

The Cerne Abbas Giant
National Trust Images/Mike Calnan/James Dobson

A mysterious chalk carving of a huge, naked man on an English hillside was made in the 10th century, according to the first attempt to archaeologically date the giant. The finding is unexpected because the earliest mentions of the Cerne Abbas Giant are from just over 300 years ago, suggesting it was forgotten for centuries.

Historians and archaeologists had many ideas about when the giant was constructed, says team member Mike Allen, an independent geoarchaeologist at Allen Environmental Archaeology in Codford, UK. “Everyone was wrong.”

The giant is carved into a hillside overlooking the village of Cerne Abbas in southern England. It is a figure of a man with a large, erect penis, holding a club. It was made by digging trenches into the hillside, then filling them with white chalk.

The earliest known reference to the giant is from 1694, from the records of the church in Cerne Abbas. The giant is absent from earlier records, notably a 1617 survey of the area by John Norden, who was famously thorough,

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Cerne Abbas Giant: Why the Anglo-Saxons created England’s most macho hillside chalk figure

The giant, carved in solid lines from the chalk bedrock, measures in at 55 metres high, and carries a huge knobbled club, which measures 37 metres in length
(Getty/iStock)

Scientists have begun to solve one of Britain’s greatest archaeological mysteries – the age of one of the UK’s largest and most enigmatic artworks.

Until now archaeologists and historians had thought that a 55-metre tall figure, cut into a hillside in Dorset, the so-called Cerne Abbas Giant, was prehistoric or Roman – or that, alternatively, it had been created in the 17th century,

But new dating tests, organised by the National Trust, suggest that the giant hails from none of those periods and was instead constructed by the Anglo-Saxons.

The tests indicate that the massive hill figure was either fully or substantially created at some stage between the mid-7th century and the 13th century. The new dating evidence has potential implications for understanding some of England’s other surviving and lost giant chalk figures.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Unique Bronze Age find just south of Alingsås

Credit: Mats Hellgren

A unique Bronze Age find was made on 8 April in a wooded area just to the south of the town of Alingsås. Following an archaeological examination by among others Johan Ling, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Gothenburg among others, it has emerged that this is one of the most spectacular finds ever made in Sweden. It comprises around 50 artifacts that are all largely intact. These exclusive objects would have belonged to one or more high-status women in the Bronze Age. 

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Viking remains lost for more than a century rediscovered in a museum

Woven wrist cuffs found at a Viking burial site

Antiquity Publications Ltd/Rimstad et al/R. Fortuna, National Museum of Denmark

The remains of a Viking have been rediscovered after being missing for more than a century. They were safely stored in a museum the whole time, but had been mislabelled.

The individual had been buried with expensive grave goods, suggesting they were an elite person or even royalty. They also seem to have been wearing long trousers with elaborate decorations.

The story of the Viking’s remains begins in 1868, near the village of Mammen in Denmark. A landowner named Laust Pedersen Skomager enlisted local farmers to help him remove the topsoil from a mound on his estate.

They found it concealed a wooden Viking burial chamber, now called Bjerringhøj. The farmers dug up the contents and shared them out, so when academics arrived on the scene soon after, they had first to recover the remains from their new owners.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2276409-viking-remains-lost-for-more-than-a-century-rediscovered-in-a-museum/#ixzz6tuLEBnaw

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Study: Cancer Rate in Medieval Britain Higher Than Expected

A cancer cell (white) being attacked by two cytotoxic T cells (red), part of a natural immune response triggered by immunotherapy. Photo: Reuters

Cancer isn't just a modern-day affliction. A new archaeological analysis suggests malignant growths in medieval Britain were not as rare as we once thought.

Even before widespread smoking, the Industrial Revolution, and the modern surge in life expectancy, it seems cancer was still a leading cause of disease.

Scanning and X-raying 143 medieval skeletons from six cemeteries in and around the city of Cambridge, archaeologists have predicted cancer cases between the 6th and the 16th century were roughly a quarter of what they are today. That's 10 times higher than previous estimates, which had put cancer rates at less than one percent.

"Until now it was thought that the most significant causes of ill health in medieval people were infectious diseases such as dysentery and bubonic plague, along with malnutrition and injuries due to accidents or warfare. We now have to add cancer as one of the major classes of disease that afflicted medieval people," archaeologist Jenna Dittmar from Cambridge University said in a report published by the Science Alert website.

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Archaeology and the climate crisis: how the past could save the future

"Archaeology bridges the gap, as it combines a scientific understanding with the cultural exploration of past human life."
Unsplash/Hulki Okan Tabak

Ask most people what archaeology is and you’ll get a mixture of responses involving fossils, funny hats, digging, and bones. It might surprise you to know that archaeology isn’t the tomb raiding that Indiana Jones made it out to be, and that there is much more to it than just finding old things. Even if you are in fact a keen amateur archaeologist, you may never have considered how studying the human past could help preserve its future.

Aside from accepting our fate or waiting for a technological breakthrough that radically alters the way we exist, we have two options in confronting the issue of climate change. The first is that we colonise a new planet. Without overlooking the imperialist undertones of this concept, some archaeologists have studied island colonisation in the past as a model for human exploration beyond our planet. Lessons from the past emphasise that this solution would still require us to adopt a much more sustainable way of life to avoid facing the same threats just a few centuries down the line.

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Citizen archaeologist discovers ancient ‘logboat’ in the Boyne Valley

Citizen archaeologist Anthony Murphy (pictured) appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley - a logboat that could date back to Neolithic times. Photo Ciara Wilkinson

A citizen archaeologist who discovered the world famous ‘Dronehenge’ near Newgrange, county Meath during the heatwave of 2018, appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley using a drone - a logboat that could date to Neolithic times.

Anthony Murphy said, “I went looking for a dolphin. I didn’t find him but I did find a logboat.”

Made by hollowing out a tree trunk, such logboats or dugout boats have, according to Dr Stephen Davis, UCD School of Archaeology, “an immensely long history of use in Ireland, with examples known from the Neolithic right the way up to Medieval times.” 

“Closer investigation will be able to show more - for example tool marks would be able to tell whether it was made with metal or stone tools, and radiocarbon dating give an approximate age,” he added.

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'Miracle' cave in South Africa may be the earliest known human dwelling EVER found, 1.8million-year-old stone tools suggest

The team explored layers deep within the ancient cave and were able to successfully establish the shift from Oldowan tools, sharp flakes and chopping tools, to early handaxes (pictured) over one million years ago 

Ancient tools found in a 'miracle' cave in South Africa suggest our earliest ancestors set up camp there more than 1.8 million years ago, according to palaeontologists. 

Experts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa's Kalahari Desert, delving down to ancient layers within the historic site.

Few places in the world preserve a continuous archaeological record spanning millions of years, but this is one such site. Its name means 'miracle' in Afrikaans.

The new study, including work by geologists and archaeologists, confirms the existence of human-made stone tools dating back 1.8 million years. 

This marks it as the earliest cave occupation in the world and the site of some of the earliest indications of fire use and tool making among prehistoric humans. 

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Is This 10,000-Year-Old Carving Europe’s Oldest Known Depiction of a Boat?

Arock carving discovered in Norway may be one of Europe’s earliest examples of art depicting a boat, reports Garry Shaw for the Art Newspaper.

The image, found in Valle, on the Efjorden fjord in Nordland County, appears to be a life-size representation of a boat made from sealskin, writes Jan Magne Gjerde, a scholar at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology.

Based on the height of the surrounding shoreline, which was higher in the Stone Age than it is today, Gjerde dates the art to between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago. That makes it one of the oldest images of a boat in the world. Previously, the oldest known depictions of boats in northern Europe dated to between 7,000 and 7,500 years ago.

The image—a white outline carved into a rock surface—was probably originally about 14 feet long. A portion of the drawing eroded away over time, and it is now only clearly visible under particular weather conditions. A second carving at the site also appears to show a boat, but just a small part of it remains.

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The Cave Where Vikings Offered Sacrifices To Stop The Apocalypse


The Surtshellir Cave in Iceland was discovered to be a trove full of Middle Eastern artifacts, and the location was used by the Vikings as an offering pit for sacraments to stop the apocalypse. The most noticeable artifact in the cave was a stone, boat-shaped structure that served as the main offering pit, as All That’s Interesting details: 

    As deputy director and chief curator of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University, Kevin Smith was thrilled at the discovery. The Surtshellir Cave in question was formed by a volcano that erupted nearly 1,100 years ago — and gave Smith a window into what might have happened there.

    Smith and his team also found 63 beads made of a mineral common in the Middle East but rarely found in Scandinavia.

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Archeologists discover remains of Viking rituals in Iceland

Volcano has erupted in Iceland near Reykjavik
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A site dating back to the Viking age, approximately 300 meters beyond the Surtshellir cave, located in Iceland, was discovered by archeologists, according to a report by Ancient Origins. 

The report stated that the site in question was used for ancient rituals performed by Vikings. 

Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the archeologists, some based in Iceland with others hailing from the US and Norway, recorded many of their findings on the Surtshellir cave - the most notable discovery being a "boat-shaped structure made of rocks."

The Surtshellir cave is the longest lava cave in Iceland, stretching about 1.6 kilometers. It is named after the Viking fire giant Surtur, an integral figure in Norse mythology.  

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