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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The Viking Sieges of Paris


By Danielle Turner

Ninth-century France proved very lucrative for the Vikings. It was a land marred by civil war and bad harvests, and the Norsemen took advantage of this through raiding and mercenary acts. France’s riverine system and innovations in the Viking longship allowed the Danes to penetrate deep into the continent and make a fortune in plunder from monasteries. Paris would be the ultimate target, and the Vikings besieged the city twice and received tribute payment in both cases. Why were the Vikings able to continuously successfully pillage France? Were the Frankish rulers inept, cowardly, or just practical in their handling of Norse incursions?

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Ancient Cities and Landscapes from Space


Ancient Cities and Landscapes from Space: How Remote Sensing is Transforming Archaeology

Presenter: Dr. Timothy Murtha, Professor, University of Florida

April 20, 2022 | 8 - 9pm

PRESENTED ONLINE AND AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

FREE, REGISTRATION REQUIRED

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Brittany in the 6th century – abandoned, wet, cold and covered in forests


New research reveals a marked shift in the landscape of Northwestern France in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages

During the period from ca. AD 300–600, early medieval Europe was on the cusp of a significant climatic shift. Marked by stormy weather and shifts in dynamic precipitation levels, the landscapes in Northwestern France changed. Likely caused by a mixture of cyclical variations in solar activities with shifts in the ocean and atmospheric activities, these changes were also reinforced by volcanic events in AD 536, 40, 74 and 626. Exactly which impact each of these explanatory factors contributed is still under debate. However, the deserted and reforested character of large stretches of Europe can no longer be questioned.

Recently, the same consequences were detected at the Bay of Brest in a study undertaken by a French group of scientists led by Claude Lambert, who has carried out a series of palynological studies at the Bay of Brest. The Bay is a shallow near-enclosed basin covering 180 km2 and surrounded by a 250 km long coastline. Two rivers – the Aulne and the Élorn – flow into the Bay.

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The Greek Origins of Marseille, France’s Oldest City

The Greek origins of Marseille. Credit: Christophe.Finot, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons

The huge port city of Marseille in southern France was founded by Greeks back in 600 BC when the first immigrants arrived in the area and established a trading colony.

The Greeks are well known for their ancient tales of glory and tragedy, as well as their civilization’s innumerable contributions to the very foundations of our modern world.

However, what is lesser-known is that throughout the centuries, they founded scores of cities across the Mediterranean which not only exist today but thrive and play a crucial role in their region’s affairs.

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New Thoughts on the Peopling of Eurasia


BOLOGNA, ITALY—According to a statement released by the University of Bologna, Leonardo Vallini, Luca Pagani, and Telmo Pievani of the University of Padova and Giulia Marciani and Stefano Benazzi of the University of Bologna compiled genetic and archaeological data to produce a picture of the movements of modern humans in East Asia and Europe. The researchers suggest that there were several waves of expansion and local extinction from a theoretical population hub where the ancestors of all Eurasians lived after migrating out of Africa some 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. In this scenario, the location of the population hub is unknown. The researchers suggest that more than 45,000 years ago, a group of modern humans, represented by remains discovered in the Czech Republic at the site of Zlatý kůň, eventually died out. This group is not related to modern Europeans or Asians.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre's ancient altar rediscovered, researchers say


Pressed against a wall in a back corridor of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a stone slab bore testimony only to the graffiti etched on it by multitudes of pilgrims through the ages.

But the 2.5 x 1.5 meter stone turned out to be far more precious when its other side was exposed during recent renovations at the church, the traditional site of Jesus's crucifixion and burial.

Researchers believe the elaborate looping ornaments they found on the long-hidden part of the slab indicate it was once the decorated front of a medieval high altar that took pride of place centuries ago in one of Christianity's holiest sites.

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Historic England strongly object to Norris Castle proposals in initial advice to council


Norris Castle is described as one of the great treasures of the Isle of Wight and Historic England say the plans entail a very high degree of harm to Norris’s significance

Historic England has submitted its initial advice to Isle of Wight council, strongly objecting to proposals which will severely impact the Norris Castle estate.

Norris Castle is of outstanding importance as a particularly beautiful and unusually well-preserved picturesque ensemble of house, landscape and ancillary buildings. The current application is to turn the estate into a resort.

Proposals would entail a very high degree of harm
This would involve major change to the castle and farm along with extensive development around these buildings and within the wider landscape.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Spot goes to Pompeii: Why a robot dog is patrolling ancient ruins

Spot can autonomously roam the site checking for safety issues that may emerge Archaeological Park of Pompeii

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot has been tasked with a new job - patrolling the ancient ruins of Pompeii. The robot will be used to inspect the site for safety issues and record structural changes over time to better manage the historic ruins.

Ever since Boston Dynamics began developing its dog-like robot over a decade ago it has been one of those innovative solutions in search of a problem. In recent years, as the company commercialized Spot, it has been given a number of jobs, from working on an oil rig to herding sheep in New Zealand.

Spot’s latest job takes it to Italy and the ancient site of Pompeii, a Roman city famous for being struck by catastrophic volcanic eruption around 2,000 years ago. Part of Spot’s work will be to autonomously roam the site with a 3D scanner tracking any small changes to structures that could signal a need for intervention.

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Bone Of Contention? Six Letters That Could Rewrite Slavic History

Alena Slamova and Jiri Machacek with the fragment of cow rib that could change a lot of what we know about the early Slavs

It had long been believed that Slavs had not adopted a writing system until the ninth century, when they started using Glagolitic script introduced by the Christian missionaries Cyril and Methodius. But that is some three centuries after the inscription on the Lany bone, which has been dated using genetic and radiocarbon methods to around 600 A.D.

An Old Debate

The idea that Slavs had learned writing earlier than the arrival of these Byzantine proselytizers during the time of the Great Moravian Empire has long been a matter of debate.

As far back as the 19th century, some prominent Slavonic scholars had posited the idea that Slavs had already achieved a level of literacy in the pre-Christian era. One of the main cornerstones of their argument had been a text by a Bulgarian monk and scholar named Chernorizets Hrabar, whose work from around 900 A.D. made reference to a system of writing using "strokes and incisions" that he said had been adopted by the early Slavs.

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Scandinavia before the Vikings

The scenic beauty of Scandinavia existed long before the Vikings made it their home

In this article, we shed-light on Pre-Viking Scandinavia, a topic which is often ignored but is equally fascinating.

Let’s begin!

The Ice Age: Landscape and the Fjords

The scenic beauty of Scandinavia existed long before the Vikings made it their home. The Norwegian Fjords, formed during the Ice age, are a world-famous tourist destination. UNESCO has declared some of them as world heritage sites, including Geirangerfjord, a 9.3-mile fjord with many waterfalls and dramatic mountain scenery.

About 2.4 million years ago, the ice started to cover mountains, and the pressure caused mountain pieces to break away, letting seawater rush into the opening. When the ice age ended, and the snow melted away, the mountain pieces that broke away formed a U-shaped wall filled with seawater. These narrow pathways of water surrounded by beautiful sceneries are truly nature’s masterpiece.

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Friday, April 01, 2022

These Scots Still Fish Like the Vikings

Legend has it that the beam is as long as a Viking's oar.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY JOHN WARWICK

WHEN ON DRY LAND, EXPERT fisherman John Warwick goes by his legal name. But when he’s standing chest-deep in the Solway Firth, negotiating the capricious tide, he’s known as Young Slogger. His father, Slogger, fished the firth before him, and the nickname identifies Warwick as part of a line of succession—not just a fisherman, but a haaf net fisherman, and therefore a guardian of tradition.

The Vikings were the first haaf netters. Many centuries ago, when they arrived in this narrow passage of the Irish Sea, the Nordic mariners developed a new method of fishing better suited to the local tides. Rather than cast lines from the comfort of a boat or shore, they stood in the water with a 16-foot-long beam affixed to a net and bisected by a 6.5-foot-tall pole. By digging the pole into the sand and holding the beam above water, haafers created a soccer goal-like structure that could trap unsuspecting salmon or trout riding the tide. The residents of Annan, a town in southwestern Scotland that hugs the Solway Firth, have been haafing ever since, braving quicksand and currents for the occasional catch and, more consistently, the camaraderie.

“I was brought up in a fishing family,” says Warwick. “My father haaf netted, and his father before him.”

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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Digging Up the Rich Viking History of Britain

A massive 1,100-year-old graveyard leads to a surprising new view of the Nordic legacy in Britain
St. Wystan’s church in Repton. In 873-874, a Viking army is believed to have entrenched in the garden. Right, Viking burial mounds in Heath Wood

Cat Jarman led me through a dense tangle of forest called Heath Wood. We were in Derbyshire, close to the very heart of England. There was no path, and the forest floor was overgrown with bracken and bush. It was easy to lose your footing and even easier to lose your way. Jarman, a fit, cheery woman in her late 30s, plunged jauntily on as I tried to keep up. “See all these lumps and bumps?” she asked as we broke into a small clearing. She pointed to an array of 59 small, rounded hillocks, many two or so feet high and four or five feet in diameter. Humans, not nature, had clearly put these things here, and they gave off a spooky, supernatural energy.

“We are literally walking across a Viking cemetery—the only known Scandinavian cremation cemetery in the whole country,” says Jarman, an archaeologist, whose new book, River Kings, takes a fresh look at who the Vikings really were and what exactly they were up to here. She flashes me a broad smile. “It’s very good, isn’t it?”

Yes, it is good—simple, powerful and mysterious. For a ceremonial burial place, the Vikings picked a surprisingly unceremonial spot. The overgrown forest shrouds these tombs in anonymity. There is no visible sign of a Viking settlement nearby, just an expanse of open fields and beyond that, a hamlet with a church, school and a few houses. The Vikings used rivers to get around, but it’s an awfully long hike from here to where the River Trent flows today. Which raises a big question, says Jarman. “Why have you got these Scandinavian cremation mounds here in the middle of nowhere?”

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Drought helped push the Vikings out of Greenland, new study finds

Newly analyzed lake sediments provided more information about the climate in the East Settlement where Vikings lived in Greenland. (Image credit: Tobias Schneider)

Scientists may have found an important factor behind why the Norse mysteriously abandoned their largest settlement on Greenland. And it wasn't cold weather, as some had long thought. 

Rather, drought might have played a major role in the abandonment of the Eastern Settlement of Vikings around 1450, new research suggests.

"We conclude that increasingly dry conditions played a more important role in undermining the viability of the Eastern Settlement than minor temperature changes," a team of scientists – many of whom are based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst – wrote in an article published online March 23 in the journal Science Advances. 

"Drier climate would have notably reduced grass production, which was essential for livestock overwintering, and this drying trend is concurrent with a Norse diet shift" toward seafood, the team wrote. 

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