Wednesday, October 05, 2022

10 of the Best Viking Museums in Europe

Image Credit: Tim Graham / Alamy Stock Photo

Get in touch with your inner Norseman and discover the greatest Viking museums across Europe.

The Viking Age is undeniably a fascinating period in history, inspiring countless books, films, television shows and somewhat questionable Halloween costumes. Characters such as Ragnar Lothbrok and Leif Erikson have become household names, while Norse Gods are not only subjects of old legends but modern blockbusters. Viking Museums help shed some light on this period which is often misunderstood, debunking many famous myths while showing a multifaceted view of early medieval Scandinavian life.

Here are ten of the best Viking museums across Europe, ranging from open-air museums where history is re-enacted to Viking ships and buildings that survived the elements.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Rendlesham: 1,400-year-old royal hall unearthed

Volunteers working with Suffolk County Council fully excavated post holes on the east side of the hall

A royal hall of "international importance" that dates back 1,400 years has been unearthed on private land.

The Hall of the first Kings of East Anglia was discovered in Rendlesham, Suffolk, over the summer.

Prof Christopher Scull said it was the "most extensive and materially wealthy settlement of its date known in England".

It was discovered by a community dig as part of Suffolk County Council's Rendlesham Revealed project.

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Thursday, September 29, 2022

DNA From Skeletons Reveals Large Migration to Early Medieval England

Goods from a grave site at Issendorf cemetery in Lower-Saxony, Germany. 
Landesmuseum Hannover

A new study could close a long-standing debate about movement of people post-Roman rule

In the 19th century, archaeologists in England unearthed remains that dated to the era after Roman rule, which ended around 400 C.E. The items revealed a shift from Roman artifacts to those originating in present-day Germany and the Netherlands. In that era, Roman-style tools and pieces of pottery were replaced with northern European jewelry, swords and architecture.

“You can’t deny there was a big shift in material culture—Roman Britain looks very different from the Anglo-Saxon period 200 years later,” Catherine Hills, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in England, tells Science’s Andrew Curry.

But as for what led to this change, historians have long been divided. Many archaeologists have rejected the idea of a mass migration as the cause. After all, just a small number of migrants could have introduced their culture to the island, writes New Scientist’s Clare Wilson.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

How Vikings Influenced the Modern English Language


Knowledgable linguist Rob Watts of RobWords explained how the Old Norse language of the Vikings had a profound effect upon the modern English language with many very important words.

The Vikings raided, pillaged… and changed our language. Their Old Norse words invaded English and many remain to this day

This effect includes gender pronouns (she, he, them), key verbs (to be, to take, to crawl, to guess, to trust), words of violence (slaughter, ransack, club, knife, berserk), clothing words (skirt, shirt, shorts), words with “SK” origins (shabby, scabby, scatter, shatter, ship, skipper), doubled-up words (bathe, bask, ditch, dike, shriek, screech), English place names (Derby, Grimsby, Braithwaite, Langthwaite), Scottish place names (Jura, Lerwick), and surnames (Anderson, Carson, Harrison, MacAskill, MacArthur, MacIvor), and Norse gods (Thor, Tuesday, Wednesday).

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Archaeologists Discover 1,200-Year-Old Shipwreck That Reveals A Lost Age: Report


Archaeologists have recently discovered a shipwreck off the coast of Israel, which is believed to be 1,200 years old. It is believed to be a merchant ship, that suggests trading continued after the Islamic co quest of the Holy Land, according to a report in Express.co.uk.

The shipwreck is dated to the 7th or 8th century AD. The Islamic republic, which had extended its dominance to the eastern Mediterranean area during this period, was trying to overwhelm the Christian Byzantine Empire.

According to the archaeologists, despite the religious tensions in the area, the shipwreck demonstrates that commerce was still thriving since it carried products from all over the Mediterranean, including Cyprus, Egypt, Turkey, and the coast of North Africa.

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Genome Study Offers Clues to Anglo-Saxon Migration

(Landesmuseum Hannover)

According to a statement released by the University of Huddersfield, a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the University of Central Lancashire, and the University of Huddersfield analyzed the genomes of more than 400 people who lived in Britain, Ireland, German, Denmark, and the Netherlands, and determined that there was a wave of migration from the North Sea region into eastern England during the Anglo-Saxon period, beginning some 1,500 years ago. The study suggests that as much as three quarters of eastern England’s early medieval population had ties to continental European countries bordering the North Sea. And analysis of mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only through the maternal line, indicates that women, and likely whole families, had made the trip.

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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers (Online Course)



The University of Oxford online course will run from Wednesday, 28 Sep 2022 to Friday 09 Dec 2022 

You can find further details here...

Reykjavík 871±2


IN 2001, ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS ON Aðalstræti unearthed the remains of a tenth-century longhouse with a wall dating back to 871±2, the oldest evidence of human habitation in Reykjavík.

The year is based on the layer of tephra deposited from a volcanic eruption in the Torfajökull area, which has been found all over Iceland and placed around 871 by carbon dating, with a range of possible inaccuracy of two years either way. The eruption coincides with the early years of Iceland’s settlement age, when the Norsemen started to migrate across the sea, as told by later medieval texts dealing with Icelandic history.

Managed by the City Museum, the Settlement Exhibition of Reykjavík 871±2 gives visitors a rare glimpse into the Viking Age, with the entirety of the excavated ruins displayed in the basement alongside a various collection of artifacts, from pieces of relics to everyday tools. Utilizing interactive multimedia, the exhibit gives an immersive experience and takes visitors back to the days of yore.

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Viking Textiles Show Women Had Tremendous Power


Cloth from Viking and medieval archaeological sites shows that women literally made the money in the North Atlantic

Archaeology has a representation problem. For most of the time that scholars have been probing the human past, they have focused mainly on the activities of men to the exclusion of women. There are a couple reasons for this bias. One is that the kinds of artifacts that tend to preserve well are made of inorganic materials such as stone or metal, and many are associated with behaviors stereotypically linked to men, such as hunting. Another reason is that early archaeologists were mostly men and more interested in men's work than in women's. As a result, our understanding of past cultures is woefully incomplete.

In recent years archaeologists have sought to fill that gap in our knowledge, in part by taking a closer look at traditionally ignored remains such as textiles, which had long been dismissed as trivial. Cloth rarely survives the centuries because it decomposes easily except under ideal preservation conditions. But even in a fragmentary state, it contains a wealth of information about the people who made and used it.

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Early-medieval woman was buried with a rare item: a metal folding chair

The 1,400-year-old iron folding chair was a symbol of power and status in medieval times.
(Image credit: BLfD/Zenger)

Coins, weaponry, jewels and other valuables are often found in the ancient burials of prominent people, but archaeologists recently discovered a truly rare grave good: a metal folding chair.

Constructed of an iron frame, the medieval chair measures approximately 28 by 18 inches (70 by 45 centimeters) when folded and was found by a team of archaeologists from the Bavarian State Office for Monument Protection (BLfD) last month in Endsee, a village in southeastern Germany.

Hubert Fehr, an archaeologist with the BLfD, told Live Science that the chair dates to approximately A.D. 600 and that it was associated with the burial of a woman who died in her 40s or 50s.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Excavation in Seyðisfjörður Unearths Jewelry from Earliest Period of Settlement

Photo: Fjörður – Seyðisfjörður fornleifar – Facebook


Archaeologists in Seyðisfjörður have excavated jewelry that dates from 940 – 1100, just after the initial settlement of Iceland. Notably, one of the beads found in the excavation even bears the colours of the Icelandic national flag.

Remarkably well-preserved structures in Seyðisfjörður

Archaeological digs have been underway in Seyðisfjörður, a fishing village in the East Fjords of Iceland, since 2020. Due to the high slopes of the valley, Seyðisfjörður is subject to land slides, and local authorities plan to build defensive barriers to protect the village, which has suffered damage in recent years. However, these same land slides have also preserved archaeological sites in the region particularly well. Archaeologists have been called in to perform exploratory digs where the defensive barriers will be erected, and have found remarkably intact manmade structures and artifacts such as game pieces and pearls.

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Medieval Artifacts Uncovered in Iceland


SEYðISFJÖRðUR, ICELAND—Traces of a farmstead dated to the earliest settlement of Iceland have been uncovered in the East Fjords of the island by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Ragnheiður Traustadóttir, according to Iceland Review. The site is situated in a valley where landslides from the high slopes and tephra from volcanic eruptions have protected archaeological materials and provided a means of dating them. So far, researchers have found human remains; the bones of a horse; a spear; a boat; and jewelry, including a red, white, and blue bead dated to between A.D. 940 and 1100. To read about a Viking Age site in Iceland's lava fields, go to "The Blackener's Cave."

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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

How Literate Were the Ancient Celts?


The ancient Celts are commonly viewed as primitive barbarians, at least in comparison to the Greeks and the Romans. One of the reasons for this is that they are commonly thought to have been illiterate. However, this is not true. Numerous pieces of Celtic writing have been discovered across Europe. But what type of writing did they use, and where did it come from?

In the ninth century BCE, the alphabet used by the Phoenicians in the Levant was adopted by the Greeks. From the Greeks, it was adopted by the Etruscans and then the Romans in Italy in the seventh century BCE.

In about 600 BCE, the Greeks established a trading colony in the south of Gaul called Massalia, where the modern city of Marseille is now. This was Celtic territory. The Celts occupied almost the entirety of Gaul, as well as parts of Iberia to the west. Thus, with the founding of Massalia, the Greeks and other Mediterranean nations began to build a close trading relationship with the Celts. The Etruscans in particular exerted a strong cultural influence over the Celts by means of trade, especially from the fifth century BCE onwards. This influence was primarily seen in artwork, but it also became evident in writing.

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Vikings Actually Reached the Americas Long Before Columbus

Reconstructed Viking-Age building next to the site of L'Anse aux Meadows.
(Image: Glenn Nagel Photography)

Vikings were active at a Newfoundland settlement nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, research suggests.

On the northernmost tip of the northernmost peninsula of Newfoundland, Canada, is a prehistoric Viking settlement known as L’Anse aux Meadows. The site has been explored by archaeologists since the 1960s, but a firm date for the settlement has proven elusive.

Research published in Nature adds some much-needed clarity to the issue. A team led by archaeologist Michael Dee from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands provides new evidence showing that Vikings were active at L’Anse aux Meadows by 1021 CE — exactly 1,000 years ago. In an email to Gizmodo, Dee said his team’s findings represent the “first, and only, known date for Europeans in the Americas before Columbus,” who crossed the Atlantic in 1492 CE. 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

New Thoughts on Eastern Europe's Medieval Source of Ivory


TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—According to a statement released by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), researchers led by James Barrett of the NTNU University Museum analyzed nine walrus snout bone fragments unearthed in 2007 during a construction project in Kyiv, an important trading city in the medieval period. In 2019, Barrett and his colleagues determined that Western Europe obtained most of its walrus products from Norse settlers in Greenland, although it was still thought that the ivory used in Eastern Europe came from the Barents Sea, which is located off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia. The researchers determined that five of the nine bone fragments had a genetic signature indicating they came from a genetic group of walruses only found in Greenland, while the chemical analysis of isotopes from the bones suggests that seven of the nine animals could have come from the region of Greenland. 

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The Worst Year Ever to Be Alive in History

The worst year to be alive? Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano that threw transatlantic travel into a tailspin several years ago after it erupted, sending plumes of smoke over the North Atlantic, the UK and the continent. Another Icelandic volcano could have caused enormous disruption in the year 536 as well, according to new research.
Credit: Árni Friðriksson/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

The volcanic explosions of the year 536 caused modern-day researchers to state recently that that year was definitively “the worst year to be alive” in history.

A strange and unsettling fog, which even deprived the world of the sun’s warmth, plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness both day and night for a year and a half starting in 536, causing untold misery across the globe.

The Byzantine historian Procopius made a record of the time and wrote that: “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year.”

“One of the worst years to be alive”
Michael McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past, says that in Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods, if not the worst year to be alive.”

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

141 Anglo-Saxon graves discovered in England, alongside jewellery, weapons and earwax removers

Image shows a toiletry kit and a tubular rimmed glass bowl excavated from Wendover, Buckinghamshire   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Archaeologists working on a site in Buckinghamshire in England have unearthed the well-preserved graves of a clique of wealthy Anglo-Saxons.

The site, which was excavated as part of the ongoing construction of the UK’s high-speed rail service HS2, contains 138 graves and is one of the largest ever uncovered.

Among the items found were a number of grooming tools including earwax removers, toothpicks, tweezers, combs and even a tube that could have contained makeup such as eyeliner; shedding light on how our ancestors practised self-care.

One of the burials, thought to be a male aged between 17-34, was found with a sharp iron object in his spine. Researchers believe he was stabbed from the front before the object embeded in his spine.

The insights offered into Anglo-Saxon life are unprecedented. The site is known to have been used by Romans during the Bronze Age and even in the Neolithic period, but the 5th and 6th centuries from which the objects are dated represents a gap in the historical record.

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Severe droughts reveal sunken relics of the past

This old Spanish town re-emerged after a drought dried out the reservoir it was submerged in

As the climate crisis intensifies droughts from Iraq to Spain to the US, remnants of past towns and societies have reemerged from receding waters.

Droughts can be a normal part of the climate. But as temperatures rise in the wake of global heating, these dry spells are becoming more severe and longer in many regions. The trend can disrupt entire food systems, pushing millions into starvation and dehydration. 

In an unusual twist, our current high-emitting lifestyle has also helped reveal how we used to live before the climate crisis became quite so urgent. That’s because droughts have uncovered remnants of past communities, some of them thousands of years old.  

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Archaeologists Examining 'Extremely Rare' 1,300-Year-Old Ship They Need to Water Every 30 Minutes


Archeologists in France have uncovered an "extremely rare" yet fragile shipwreck in France believed to be 1,300 years old.

The French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) revealed the 12-meter (40-foot) boat to the public Wednesday in Villenave-d'Ornon on the banks of the Garonne in southwest France, according to NBC News. 

However, the wreck's beams of oak, chestnut and pine are delicate enough that air could destroy it, having not been in contact with oxygen or light since it sank, per the report.

Excavation leader Laurent Grimber told the outlet that workers "are watering" the partial remains of the wreck "every 30 minutes" as they aim to "limit the degradation of the wood."

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Saxon pendant with Roman jewel found in Kingsey field

The engraved semi-precious gem is known as an intaglio and shows a figure with a raised whip on small chariot with four horses

A Roman jewel engraved with a chariot and four running horses was found set in a silver Anglo-Saxon pendant by a metal detectorist.

The small piece of jewellery was found in a field near Kingsey, Buckinghamshire, in May 2019.

Historian Edwin Wood said its "high-status" Sutton Hoo-era owner was someone who would have wanted "a direct link with Rome's power and authority".

It was declared treasure by Buckinghamshire Coroner's Court.

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Archaeologists find Viking Age shipyard

Image Credit : Paul Parker – Stockholm University

Archaeologists excavating at Birka on the island of Björkö, Sweden, have discovered a Viking Age shipyard.

Birka, commonly referred to as Sweden’s first town, was established during the mid-8th century AD on the shores of Lake Mälaren. The town emerged as a major trading hub for merchants and tradesmen across Europe and beyond.

Excavations conducted by researchers from Stockholm University uncovered a stone-lined depression on the shore zone with a wooden boat slop at the bottom. The team also discovered large quantities of boat rivets, whetstones made from slate and woodworking tools, suggesting that the site was a Viking Age shipyard.

Sven Isaksson, Professor of Archaeological Science at Stockholm University said: “A site like this has never been found before, it is the first of its kind, but the finds convincingly show that it was a shipyard.

Through systematic survey, mapping and drone investigations, we can now show that Birka, in addition to the urban environment, also has a very rich maritime cultural landscape with remains of everything from jetties to boat launches and shipyards.”

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Ivory found in Kyiv in 12th century originated from Greenland - study


Fragments of walrus tusks unearthed in 2007 were traced back to Greenland, indicating that trading routes in the Middle Ages were more advanced than previously thought.

Nine fragments of walrus ivory from as early as the 12th century that were found in a 2007 archaeological dig in Kyiv were found to have originated in Greenland, indicating that pan-European trading routes in the middle ages were more developed than previously thought, a new study found.

The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences" on April 6, used a number of advanced scientific methods in order to verify that the ivory fragments were indeed from Greenland, which at the time was the main source of walrus ivory.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

Silver coin featuring famous Viking king unearthed in Hungary

The small silver coin was found near the Hungarian village of Várdomb. It dates to between 1046 and 1066 and is inscribed with the name of the Norwegian king.
(Image credit: Tamás Retkes)

A metal detectorist has discovered a small silver coin marked with the name of a famous Viking king.  However, it was unearthed not in Scandinavia, but in southern Hungary, where it was lost almost 1,000 years ago.

The find has baffled archaeologists, who have struggled to explain how the coin might have ended up there — it's even possible that it arrived with the traveling court of a medieval Hungarian king.

The early Norwegian coin, denominated as a "penning," was not especially valuable at the time, even though it's made from silver, and was worth the equivalent of around $20 in today's money.

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Sunday, June 05, 2022

Stakeholders! Archaeological volunteering at Sandwich Bay

A beautiful morning at Sandwich Bay, March 2022
© Alex Wilson

As an adventurous person I love finding new and exciting opportunities to get involved with voluntary work and exploring new things. So when Lara asked me to join her and the team of volunteers from CITiZAN and the Kent wildlife trust. I didn’t hesitate to say yes!  Because who doesn’t love a day at the beach. 

We arrived at Cliffsend at 7am. Which was followed by a safety briefing about mostly avoiding falling over objects or falling down holes. Which I found quite amusing to think of being thrown a rope in to save me from drowning in thick wet sinking sand*. We walked about 500m from the shore, I was given the precious job of holding the survey device to record points along, where remnants of the anti-landing poles  from the Second World War and fish traps possibly from the 18th to 20th century should have been** but they weren’t there – either covered with sand or maybe gone completely. I felt great responsibility and fear of damaging this expensive piece of equipment. Worth thousands of pounds! More money than I have to pay back! Luckily all was okay and nothing got damaged.

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Sunday, May 22, 2022

World’s largest ever DNA sequencing of Viking skeletons reveals they weren’t all Scandinavian

An artistic reconstruction of ‘Southern European’ Vikings emphasising the foreign gene flow into Viking Age Scandinavia.
image: Jim Lyngvild

Invaders, pirates, warriors – the history books taught us Vikings were brutal predators who travelled by sea from Scandinavia to pillage and raid their way across Europe and beyond.

Now cutting-edge DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland will rewrite the history books as it has shown:

Skeletons from famous Viking burial sites in Scotland were actually local people who could have taken on Viking identities and were buried as Vikings.

Many Vikings actually had brown hair not blonde hair.

Viking identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry. The study shows the genetic history of Scandinavia was influenced by foreign genes from Asia and Southern Europe before the Viking Age.

Early Viking Age raiding parties were an activity for locals and included close family members.

The genetic legacy in the UK has left the population with up to six per cent Viking DNA. 

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Surprising DNA study finds Vikings weren’t all Scandinavian

Researchers have shown that not all Vikings were from Scandinavia. 
(CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Invaders, pirates, warriors – the history books taught us Vikings were brutal predators who travelled by sea from Scandinavia to pillage and raid their way across Europe and beyond.

Now cutting-edge DNA sequencing of more than 400 Viking skeletons from archaeological sites scattered across Europe and Greenland will rewrite the history books as it has shown:

Skeletons from famous Viking burial sites in Scotland were actually local people who could have taken on Viking identities and were buried as Vikings.

Many Vikings actually had brown hair not blonde hair.

Viking identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry. The study shows the genetic history of Scandinavia was influenced by foreign genes from Asia and Southern Europe before the Viking Age.

Early Viking Age raiding parties were an activity for locals and included close family members.

The genetic legacy in the UK has left the population with up to six per cent Viking DNA. 

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

An intact Viking ship burial held riches—and a surprising mystery


Vikings are often depicted as warmongering seafarers from Scandinavia, men who set out on expeditions to plunder distant lands. The lives of women of the Viking age factor less into the fantasy; many imagine them at home, tending to their lands, children, and elderly while the powerful men in their family were away. But evidence shows Viking women also held positions of power. 

In fact, the grandest single Viking grave ever found belonged not to a man, but to two women—one about 75 years of age, the other around 50—who were buried in a funerary longship on the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg, Norway. Their burial was one of history's most exciting Viking-era discoveries.

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Uncovering the Secrets of a Forgotten Viking Town

Approximately 45,000 artifacts and some 50,000 skeletal remains and animal bones were uncovered in the massive, decades-long excavation at Borgund. Today, a bed of grass once again hides the medieval town.
JARLE SULEBUST/CC BY-SA 3.0

THREE HUNDRED MILES NORTHWEST OF Oslo, Norway, nestled between replicas of medieval turf homes and 19th-century farmhouses at the sleepy Sunnmøre Museum, is a meadow. With impressive mountains and a crystalline lake in the distance, many wouldn’t even notice the blanket of grasses. But this meadow has secrets to tell.

Beneath the undulating greenery and centuries of mud are the remains of the lost town of Borgund. Beginning in the late 10th century, this meadow would have been alive with activity. During the town’s heyday, boatbuilders would have been busy crafting majestic ships, while traders hawked their wares. Children playing along wooden sidewalks might have been overheard by weavers crafting massive sail cloths within their small wooden houses. For most of us, it’s hard to picture life in this town entombed in dirt—that’s where the Borgund Project comes in.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Experts uncover series of Stonehenge mystery monuments that could reveal secrets of the past

New light on Stonehenge: Archaeological investigations in the area surrounding the famous ancient temple have discovered that prehistoric people were creating other ritual monuments by cutting into the landscape’s bedrock
(Wiki Commons)

Archaeologists investigating Stonehenge’s ancient prehistoric landscape have discovered a series of previously unknown mystery monuments.

By using a special detection method to analyse the ground, they have, for the first time, revealed how prehistoric people were hacking vast circular holes in the Stonehenge landscape’s chalk bedrock.

Around 100 of these mysterious newly discovered rock-cut basins and pits were between 4m and 6m in diameter and in some cases, at least 2m deep.

Some of the holes would have required the systematic removal of at least 25 cubic metres (around 60 tonnes) of solid chalk – a time-consuming task for prehistoric people, equipped only with stone and wooden tools, deer antler pickaxes – and possibly fire (to help fracture the chalk).

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Ancient Romans' answer to Roadchef? Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old road


The Ancient Roman equivalent of a roadside service station has been unearthed in Hertfordshire, along with a hoard of artefacts showing it was once a thriving commercial centre.

The 'once in a lifetime discovery' was made on the site of a planned football pitch at Grange Paddocks leisure centre in Bishop's Stortford.

Like a modern motorway service station, the site comprised several units and would have had everything the weary ancient traveller needed.

This may have included an inn providing refreshments, a blacksmith, and a temple to cater for travellers' religious needs, according to archaeologists.

'It's quite like a services,' said project manager Andrew Greef, from Oxford Archaeology, which has been excavating the site.

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Secrets of the River Thames include Roman brothel tokens and monster-shark teeth


Inventores custodes (or ‘finders keepers’ if you were not the Roman who lost their brothel tokens a few centuries ago). Human bones, animal teeth, credit at ancient knocking shops... these are just some of the items that have been recovered from London’s 30-million-year-old river, 

If you are keen to discover more about what lurks beneath the surface of the Thames then the team at Barratt London have just released a study into what marine life resides in the river, which is England's longest, as well as the strangest items that have been recovered over the years, plus our littering habits and it makes for an eyebrow-raising read.

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WINCHESTER, ENGLAND—The Hampshire Chronicle reports that the remains of a twelfth-century wall and some floor surfaces have been unearthed at the site of Hyde Abbey in southeastern England by HYDE900, a community archaeology project. The remains of Alfred the Great (r. 871–899), who died in 899, were moved to the abbey church when it was completed. After the abbey was torn down in 1538 by King Henry VIII, the stone was reused in other buildings. The newly unearthed wall and floors, which are located in the yard of a private home, are thought to be the only traces of the 260-foot-long structure ever to be found.

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The Vinland Mystery


How a husband-and-wife team proved Leif Erikson beat Columbus to North America

‘In this great ocean, many have found still another island, which is called Vinland, since there grow wild grapes. But beyond, everything is filled with intolerable ice and terrible fog.’ – Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (c1070)

Up until the 1960s, the existence of a pre-Columbian Norse settlement on the North American continent had long been hypothesised but never proven. That finally changed when a Norwegian husband-and-wife team – the explorer Helge Ingstad and the archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad – pieced together historical hints that led them to pursue the fabled settlement on the island of Newfoundland in present-day Canada, far north of where other historians believed Norse ruins might be found. This 1984 National Film Board of Canada documentary tells the remarkable story of how the Ingstads were eventually able to confirm that mysterious mounds in this remote stretch of Newfoundland were indeed Norse in origin, forever reshaping modern perspectives on European and North American history.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Pulses race at new erotic Pompeii exhibition

The discoveries initially caused "dismay, embarrassment, and curiosity, and were seen by some as a great opportunity to think about the relationship with their bodies and nudity in a very different way" Andreas SOLARO AFP/File

Raunchy scenes may redden faces at a new exhibition in Pompeii on art and sexuality in the ancient Roman city, where sculptures and paintings of breasts and buttocks abound.

Archaeologists excavating the city, which was destroyed by the eruption of nearby Vesuvius in 79 AD, were initially startled to discover erotic images everywhere, from garden statues to ceiling frescos.

Since those first digs in the 18th-century site, racy images have been found in taverns, thermal baths and private homes, from huge erect penises to a statue with both male and female physical attributes.

It became clear that "this is a city where sensuality, eroticism, are ever-present," Pompeii's site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel told AFP as he stood in front of statues of bare-chested Centaurs.

The discoveries initially caused "dismay, embarrassment, and curiosity, and were seen by some as a great opportunity to think about the relationship with their bodies and nudity in a very different way".

The Neapolitan King Charles VII, who financed the excavations, shut some of the more bawdy finds away in a secret cabinet in Naples, only showing them to those of proven moral standing, Zuchtriegel said.

That secret cabinet still exists today in the archaeological museum in the southern Italian city.

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Second century funerary altar of teenage girl discovered in Rome

Excavations taking place on Via Luigi Tosti in Rome.
(photo credit: FABIO CARICCHIA/ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE)

A 2nd-century funerary altar marking the remains of a 13-year-old girl was discovered in Rome on Tuesday.

Rome is home to countless archeological sites, some of which are now tourist attractions such as the Colosseum or San Clemente. Others, like this columbarium, are still being excavated. 

Archeologists found the altar approximately two meters below the current street level on Via Luigi Tosti in south-central Rome. The discovery is part of a wider excavation of the necropolis of Via Latina, a nearby street. 

The white marble altar is very well-preserved, and its inscription is clearly legible. It reads: Valeria Laeta, daughter of P[ublio] lived 13 years and 7 months.  Some fragments of a white marble sarcophagus were also found with a bas-relief decoration depicting a lioness and a hunter on horseback. 

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For peat’s sake: peatlands, climate change, and the future of archaeology


There might not be an immediately obvious link between the archaeology of peatlands and strategies for tackling global climate change. But as a landscape archive for past climatic change and human activity, peatland archaeology has the potential to offer vivid insights into the impact of climate change on society – and both are very much interlinked as part of one of the greatest challenges of our times.

The science and data required to demonstrate the scale of threat that global climate change poses to the planet have become a regular discussion point in mainstream media. As a society, we are becoming more aware of the range of actions and changes in behaviour that are required to help support efforts to combat the impact of climate change. We are also aware of the commitment that needs to be made by government bodies and international corporations to take large-scale action to support communities with the infrastructure and financial support required to address climate change. Considerable measures will be needed to reduce global emissions, temperature increases, and the risks of flooding.

At the heart of this global crisis are key human activities that contribute directly to the emission of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) and the loss of biodiversity. These include the production of fuel and energy, intensive agricultural practices, and deforestation to clear land for industrial production. Beyond the ubiquity of pressing media coverage documenting rainforest destruction and melting polar ice-caps, we find a lesser-known environmental crisis that lies both on our doorstep here in the UK and across the globe: the destruction of peatlands.

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Author provided Ancient cave art: how new hi-tech archaeology is revealing the ghosts of human history

Human figure (1.81m tall).
(photograph by S. Alvarez; illustration by J. Simek/ Antiquity journal

In terms of dating the findings, ancient people rejuvenated a light in the cave (a flaming torch of American bamboo) by stubbing it against the cave’s wall. This left a residue that the researchers were able to date with radiocarbon to 133-433 AD. This was also in accord with the age of pottery fragments ancient artists left in the cave.

The problem is seeing the paintings. The cave ceiling is only 60cm high, which makes stepping back to view the large images impossible. They were revealed only through a technique called photogrammetry, in which thousands of overlapping photographs of an object or place are taken from different angles and digitally combined in 3D. Photogrammetry is a cheap technique increasingly used in archaeology to record artefacts, buildings, landscapes and caves. It allowed Professor Simek’s team to “lower” the cave floor up to 4 metres, enough for the complete motifs to come into view for the first time.

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Three metal detectorist friends who stumbled upon a hoard of more than 150 Roman coins dating back to 340 AD are set to make £40,000


A trio of metal detectorists who discovered more than 150 Roman coins after mistaking them for tent pegs could be set to make some £40,000 from the haul.

The band of friends were camping near the ancient village of Pewsey in Wiltshire when they dug up the buried treasure just 6ft from where they pitched their tent.  

Robert Abbot, 53, thought he had found a handful of old metal pegs which had activated his metal detector, but hidden just below was a valuable silver Roman Siliqua coin. 

His detector went into a frenzy and with the help of friends, Dave Allen, 59, a carpenter and Mick Rae, 63, a dairy herd manager, they frantically dug up dozens of the ancient Roman coins.

By the end of their weekend camping trip they had uncovered 161 silver coins, all around 1,600 years old, which they carried home in their washing up bowl.

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Ireland’s Earliest Inhabitants Were Black People With Blue Eyes

Source: JUSTIN TALLIS / Getty

Researchers are discovering new information about the earliest inhabitants of Ireland and some data suggests that the first settlers were Black people with blue eyes, according to the Irish Times.

In April 2021, Geneticist Dr. Lara Cassidy told the publication that forensic data revealed surprising information about Black prehistoric Irish people, who were known to be hunters and gathers. They lived on the island for nearly 4,000 years before settled farmers took over. The discovery was largely explored in a documentary called The Burren: Heart of Stone last year, where scientists developed a large genetic database of Irish genomes to help uncover more information about Ireland’s first natives.

“We know now from ancient genomes that farming was accompanied by a whole group of people moving into the continent from the region now known as modern Turkey, ” Cassidy explained.

The Black settlers were known to gather shellfish along the Burren, a karst landscape of bedrock incorporating a vast cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone located in the region of County Clare, which is southwest of Ireland. They eventually moved inland to hunt wild boars and gather hazelnuts. Scientists believe that farmers who migrated into the region during the neolithic period may have driven the original settlers out as they brought “cattle, sheep and goats, pottery” and new housing structures. Dr. Cassidy believes they may have had lighter skin than the hunter-gathers.

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Skeletal remains in Bronze Age Orkney cemetery suggest large influx of women from continental Europe

Credit: Antiquity (2022). DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2021.185

A team of researchers affiliated with the University of Huddersfield in England reports evidence suggesting that large numbers of women from the European continent migrated to the Orkney Islands during the Bronze Age. In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, the group describes their study of the remains of people buried in a Bronze Age cemetery on the island of Westray, one of the northernmost islands of Orkney.

Approximately 4,500 years ago, during the Bronze Age in Europe, people living on the Orkney Islands built a number of stone structures and burial chambers. Prior research has shown that the community of people that lived there made up a farming settlement. Such work has revealed multiple houses and other structures and also a cemetery. In this new effort, the researchers conducted DNA analysis of the bones in the cemetery to learn more about the people who lived there.

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Stonehenge exhibition explores parallels with Japanese stone circles

the Ōyu Stone Circles in northern Japan. Photograph: handout

They were separated by thousands of miles and the two sets of builders could not conceivably have met or swapped notes, but intriguing parallels between Stonehenge and Japanese stone circles are to be highlighted in an exhibition at the monument on Salisbury Plain.

The exhibition will show that ancient people in southern Britain and in Japan took great trouble to build stone circles, appear to have celebrated the passage of the sun and felt moved to come together for festivals or rituals.

Circles of Stone: Stonehenge and Prehistoric Japan will flag up similarities between the monuments and settlements of the middle and late Jōmon period in Japan and those built by the late neolithic people of southern Britain – and point out some of the differences.

The exhibition will feature 80 striking objects, some of which have never before been seen outside Japan. Key loans announced on Wednesday include a flame pot, a highly decorated type of Jōmon ceramics, its fantastical shape evoking blazing flames. Such pots were produced in Japan for a relative short period, perhaps only a few hundred years.

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The new cutting edge tour of Orkney that takes users headfirst into 5,000 years of history

The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae is a highlight of any trip to Orkney. PIC: HES.

Visitors to the Orkney Isles can now immerse themselves in more than 5,000 years of history on a digital tour that takes them deep into the story of the islands and the people and stories that shaped them.

The fascinating past of islands is being retold for the digital age with an app that combines drone footage and 3D scans with tales of the historic events that create the island’s mesmerising timeline.

Interviews with the archaeologists who have helped illuminate millennia of human activity in the far north are also included.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Viking hoard dodges auction bullet


Here’s an intriguing case of unintended consequences in cultural heritage law.  Meet the Everlöv Hoard:

The Everlöv Hoard is a large group of more than 950 silver objects –912 coins, 40 pieces of jewelry — from the Viking Age discovered in southern Sweden’s Skåne province in the 1980s. The oldest coin dates to the 9th century, the youngest to 1018, indicating the hoard was assembled in the late Viking era. The composition of the objects mark them as a single deposition, but the original find site is unknown.

Many of coins are from Bavaria, which is unusual in Swedish hoards. The hoard also contains an unusually high number of Anglo-Scandinavian coins, ie, coins struck by Scandinavian kings in imitation of the ones struck by the king of England. Among the objects are several extremely rare pieces: a buckle with intricately enlaced zoomorphic figures decorated with filigree and granulation, a Slavic lunula and an oversized jewelry bracteate minted by Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, aka Saint Henry the Exuberant.

The discovery was not made in the usual way; nobody found it by metal detecting or in a happy ploughing accident. It was not dug up at all, in fact. The current owner found it in a chiffonier that had been passed down through generations of the family. (Side note: finding a Viking silver hoard in an old piece furniture has to be in my top 3 greatest lifetime fantasies.)

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Priceless Ancient Greek Artifacts in Ukraine “Looted by Russia”

Scythian golden gorytos, 4th century BC.
Credit: VoidWanderer,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0/Wikipedia

Officials in Ukraine say that Russia has looted a number of museums and has removed valuable exhibits, including ancient Greek gold artifacts given by the Greeks to the Scythians.

The Scythians were a nomadic people that founded a rich, powerful empire centered in the Crimean Peninsula; the empire endured from around the eighth century B.C. to the second century A.D.

“Russia has taken hold of our Scythian gold,” declared Melitopol’s mayor, Ivan Fyodorov. “This is one of the largest and most expensive collections in Ukraine, and today we don’t know where they took it.”

The Melitopol Museum of Local History is home to 50,000 exhibits, but its prized collection was a set of rare gold ornaments from the Scythians.

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Rare medieval manuscripts digitised for first time

The collection includes the 15th Century Book of Hours from Italy
 which boasts lavish gold illumination

Rare manuscripts dating back as early as the 9th Century have been shared online for the first time.

More than 200 precious documents have been digitised by the National Library of Scotland.

The collection boasts a 15th Century medical almanac, printed illustrations and a 12th Century manuscript of the Rule of the Knights Templar order.

A donation from Alexander Graham, creator of the BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" made the work possible.

Due to the reformation in the 16th Century, it is extremely unusual to find documents from the period, particularly those used by the Roman Catholic Church.

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In a burial ground full of Stone Age men, one grave holds a 'warrior' woman

Of 14 people buried at the monumental cemetery at Fleury-sur-Orne during the early Neolithic period whose ancient DNA was tested, only one was a woman.
(Image credit: Pascal Radigue; CC BY 4.0)

The mysterious 6,500-year-old burial of a woman and several arrowheads in northern France may reveal details of how women were regarded in that society during the Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, a new study finds.

The researchers investigated giant graves known as "long barrows" — large earthen mounds, often hundreds of feet long and sometimes retained by wooden palisades that have since rotted away. Of the 19 human burials in the Neolithic cemetery at Fleury-sur-Orne in Normandy, the team analyzed the DNA of 14 individuals; but only one was female.

The woman was buried with "symbolically male" arrows in her grave, and the researchers argue that she may have had to be regarded as "symbolically male" to be buried there.

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A Massive Medieval Cargo Ship Was Just Found Underneath The Capital Of Estonia


When construction began at Tallinn’s Old Harbor in Estonia, archaeologist Mihkel Tammet was sent to observe the work. Under his supervision, construction workers unexpectedly discovered a 700-year-old cargo ship that may have belonged to a medieval trading network called the Hanseatic League.

“For Tallinn as an old merchant town, finding something like this is an archaeological jackpot,” Priit Lätti, a researcher at the Estonian Maritime Museum, told Live Science.

The ship was discovered about five feet underground and, according to archaeologists, is in fairly good condition.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

This pile of rubble is actually an ancient fort. Historians have discovered 450 of them around Norway

A wall built around the Andorsrud fort in Øvre Eiker in Buskerud 
(Photo: Kristine Friis Jørgensen)

In times of shifting power relations during pre-viking times, many may have needed a stone structure for protection. But were they also used for other means?

Archaeologists and local historians have long discussed why people took on the difficult job of setting up stone and earth forts in many parts of the country.

About 450 so called hill forts have been recorded in Norway to date.

When archaeology as a discipline in Norway first began in earnest in the 19th century, hill forts were one of the first things researchers started studying. These structures, typically stones set in strategic locations, were called hill forts because it was thought that they must be a kind of defensive structure where villagers could seek refuge if their village was attacked.

This theory is still believed to be correct.

But perhaps these forts were used for something more.

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