Friday, April 28, 2023

Modern-day Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish people found to have Pictish ancestry

Pictish Stone in the Museum of Scotland. Credit: Johnbod/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

The Picts of Scotland who have long intrigued and have been ascribed exotic origins in fact descended from indigenous Iron Age society and were genetically most similar to people living today in Scotland, Wales, North Ireland and Northumbria. Adeline Morez of Liverpool John Moores University and Linus Girdland-Flink of the University of Aberdeen report these findings in a new study published April 27 in the journal PLOS Genetics.

The Picts, who inhabited early medieval Scotland from about 300–900 AD, formed the first documented kingdoms of eastern Scotland, but have often been a subject of mystery due to the lack of historical and archaeological evidence and due to their enigmatic symbol tradition inscribed on stone. In their new study, Morez and Girdland-Flink sampled Pictish burials to extract genomes to explore how the Picts are related to other cultural groups in Britain. They sequenced DNA from two individuals from central and northern Scotland that dated from the fifth to the seventh century AD. They compared the resulting high-quality genomes to more than 8,300 previously published ancient and modern genomes.

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Collectors guilty of illegal plot to sell historic Anglo-Saxon coins abroad

Two metal detectorists have been found guilty of hatching an illegal plot to sell Anglo-Saxon coins of “immense historical significance” abroad.

Craig Best, 46, and Roger Pilling, 75, were convicted of conspiring to sell criminal property worth £766,000, namely ninth century coins believed to have been buried by a Viking and which have never been declared as Treasure, and have not been handed to the Crown.

Following a trial at Durham Crown Court, the defendants were also convicted of separate charges of possessing the criminal property, which was thought to be part of a larger, undeclared find known as the Herefordshire Hoard.

Best, of South View, Bishop Auckland, was arrested with three coins at a Durham hotel in May 2019 in a police sting operation.

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Burnt graves full of ancient Roman artifacts uncovered during construction in Belgium

Experts said they were surprised by their findings. Gemeente Zemst

What started as a pre-construction archaeological project in Belgium has evolved into a sprawling excavation uncovering a trove of Roman-era artifacts and ruins, government officials say. Ahead of refurbishing Sportpark Hubert Van Innis, archaeologists launched an investigation into the area given its location in Elewijt — which was under Roman rule thousands of years ago. Experts expected to find remains, but the extent of their discoveries was surprising, according to an April 25 news release from the Zemst government. First, as expected, archaeologists unearthed a building and well dating to the Middle Ages, according to officials. They also discovered several burial mounds.

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Archaeologists Find Evidence of ‘Lost’ Ancient Roman Campaign in Arabia

The Romans tell that their conquest of the Nabateans was peaceful, but is that a tall tale of the victor? Or did they erase the memory of a fiasco in Arabia?

In the year 106, the Romans annexed the Nabatean kingdom and renamed it Arabia Petraea. The question is how exactly that was achieved.

Roman historians described this as a nonviolent process following the demise of the last Nabatean king, Rabbel II Soter. But now, in the barren desert of northern Arabia, archaeologists have detected what they believe were three Roman army camps. They're situated in a straight line between the Bayir oasis near the Nabatean capital of Petra and Dûmat al-Jandal in what is now northern Saudi Arabia.

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Neanderthals Built Boats And Sailed 100,000 Years Ago – Long Before Modern Humans

Jan Bartek - - Maritime history dates back thousands of years, och there is no doubt many ancient civilizations had excellent knowledge of navigation and sailing. Once ancient civilizations understood the value of trading, many maritime routes were established, and spices, gold, silk, and many other items were bought and sold. There is archaeological evidence magnificent ancient ships crossed the oceans, and curious explorers set foot on new lands

Still, modern humans were not the ones who invented the boat. According to a study, the first seafarers were the Neanderthals, who lived from about 400,000 to 40,000 years ago. On islands in the Mediterranean Sea, scientists have examined several artifacts and stone tools uniquely associated with the Neanderthals.

"Archaeological data from the southern Ionian Islands show human habitation since Middle Palaeolithic going back to 110 ka BP yet bathymetry, sea-level changes and the Late Quaternary geology, show that Kefallinia and Zakynthos were insular at that time. Hence, human presence in these islands indicates inter island-mainland seafaring. Seafaring most likely started some time between 110 and 35 ka BP and the seafarers were the Neanderthals. Seafaring was encouraged by the coastal configuration, which offered the right conditions for developing seafaring skills according to the “voyaging nurseries” and “autocatalysis” concepts," the research team writes in a paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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Archaeologists Discover Ancient Necropolis Near Parisian Train Station

Researchers uncovered 50 burials dated to roughly the second century C.E.
© Camille Colonna / INRAP

Residents of Lutetia buried their dead at Saint-Jacques between the first and fourth centuries C.E.

Little is known about the Parisii, the ancient Gallic tribe that dwelled on the banks of the Seine some 2,000 years ago. At the time, the French capital that now bears the Parisii’s name was called Lutetia.

Last week, archaeologists unearthed 50 burials that may shed light on funerary traditions in the ancient city that preceded Paris. Discovered just a few feet away from a bustling train station, the graves are believed to be part of the largest known Lutetian burial site, the Saint-Jacques necropolis.

Dominique Garcia, president of the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP), tells Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the finds open “a window into the world of Paris during antiquity.”

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Urine Wheels in Medieval Manuscripts: Discover the Curious Diagnostic Tool Used by Medieval Doctors

If you went to the doctor in late medieval Europe hoping to get a health complaint checked out, you could be sure of one thing: you’d have to hand over a urine sample. Though it dates back at least as far as the fourth millennium BC, the practice of uroscopy, as it’s called, seems to have been regarded as a near-universal diagnostic tool by the thirteenth century. At, you can read excerpts of the then-definitive text On Urines, written about that time by French royal physician Gilles de Corbeil.

When a skilled physician examines a patient’s urine, de Corbeil explains, “health or illness, strength or debility, deficiency, excess, or balance, are determined with certainty.” Urine “darkened by a black cloudiness, and muddied with sediment, if produced on a critical day of an illness, and accompanied by poor hearing and insomnia, portends a flux of blood from the nose”; depending on other factors, “the patient will die or recover.”

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Researchers discover 18th century clay tobacco pipes were used as weapons and surgical tools

The ready availability of clay pipes meant that they were sometimes used for other activities other than smoking. Ashmolean Museum, CC BY-NC

Tobacco pipes were one of the first mass-produced, disposable objects in Britain. Through contact with indigenous peoples of the Americas, tobacco pipes and tobacco were introduced to Europe as early as the 16th century, but had been used in the Americas for centuries before this.

Pipes were adapted for European tastes using European materials, and in England the most popular material for pipes between 1600 and 1900 was clay. Shapes and styles varied over the years, but the basic design remained the same: a hand-held bowl to burn tobacco in and a stem to draw the smoke the mouth of the smoker.

Pipes were lightweight, rigid and made out of inexpensive materials. They were also rather breakable. This cheapness and breakability means they show up in large number across post-medieval archaeological sites in Britain.

The usefulness of pipes as artefacts is well established. Tobacco pipes found in archaeological digs can help researchers identify the dates when a particular site may have been occupied (based on bowl or stem size) and even who may have occupied these spaces (bite marks in stems may indicate workers holding them in their mouths while working, for example). Pipes can also inform researchers about patterns of tobacco consumption over time.

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Archaeologists found a lost Roman fortlet in Scotland

An artist's impression of Watling Lodge fortlet, which also once stood along the Antonine Wall, and would have been similar to the fortlet discovered near Carleith Farm. Historic Environment Scotland

Archaeologists in western Scotland have found the foundations of a Roman fortlet dating back to the Second Century CE. According to the government-run historic preservation commission Historic Environment Scotland, this fort was one of 41 defensive structures that was built near the Antonine Wall, one of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This fortified wall made of mostly wood ran for roughly 40 miles across Scotland as part of the Roman Empire’s unsuccessful attempt to extend its control throughout Britain from roughly 410 to 43 CE. The Antonine Wall was defended as the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. Emperor Antoninus Pius ordered the building of the wall in 142 CE as a one-up to his predecessor Hadrian. The famed Hadrian’s Wall was built in the 120s CE about 100 miles south of the Antonine Wall.

The Romans called the people living in Scotland “Caledonians”, and later named them  the Picts after a Latin word meaning “painted people,” in reference to their body paintings or tattoos. The Romans retreated to the Hadrian Wall in 162 CE after 20 years of trying to hold a new northern line at the Antonine Wall.

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Monday, April 24, 2023

Vikings in Greenland Imported Wood From Europe – and Canada

Christian Krohg's painting of Viking explorer Leif Erikson discovering America.
Credit: National Gallery of Norway

The Vikings built homes and ships from wood, but Greenland has no forests to speak of. Now a new analysis sheds light on how they survived for centuries on the frigid island

Greenland is on many minds because its glaciers are melting faster than expected, and are ultimately expected to raise global sea level by over 7 meters (23 feet). But though warming, the Arctic tundra was and remains inhospitable. That explains why early migrants to the island died out, leaving no descendants. Over thousands of years, one culture succeeded another.

Among the cultures that came and ultimately died or beat a retreat were Vikings, though their communities did manage to persist for centuries. The question is exactly how they did so.

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Luck of the Vikings: Their Arrival Reversed Ireland's Decline, Say Archaeologists

Study debunks notion that Ireland had been populous when the Nordic migrants arrived in the 10th century: The island had been in decline for 200 years by then

Medieval Ireland's population had been shrinking for 300 years by the time the Vikings arrived in the 10th century C.E., a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science contends. The conclusion contradicts the widespread assumption that the island had been in a state of growing expansion and progression ahead of the Vikings' arrival.

The research, led by Rowan McLaughlin at Queen’s University Belfast, began from census records, genetic analyses of the Irish and the historic record – including the Norse settlement of the island in the 9th and 10th centuries C.E. It sought archaeological data to back the findings. To this day, as previous studies have found, the Irish have a small component of Viking ancestry.

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Roman burial site discovered on Nuneaton land set for giant new housing estate

Before and after - the land at Top Farm, left, and the masterplan for its future use - including 1,700 homes. Now works are to be undertaken to investigate areas of archaeological interest

Roman archaeology has been discovered on Nuneaton land where a giant new housing estate is set to be built. Planning permission was given the go-ahead last year for the 1,700 home development with secondary school and leisure centre land on Top Farm.

It is already known that there is an animal foot and mouth burial pit on the sprawling site and a report has also revealed that a probable Roman cremation burial area was unearthed on the site. This was during an archaeological survey undertaken last year.

Further investigation work is now set to take place. It will be ahead of the first phase of the works starting on the site, which are pencilled in to start in late summer this year.

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1,600-year-old temple to mysterious Roman god unearthed in Germany. Take a look

Lord Mayor Wolfram Leibe and Minister of the Interior Michael Ebling
at the excavations in Trier.

Torch lights flicker in the underground space, illuminating the stone statues and casting shadows on the gathering. Military men sit on brick benches and look at the stone carving. Looking back at them through the lantern light is their god — a figure simultaneously well-known and mysterious.

The cult scene feels part ominous, part reverent and entirely like part of a Netflix documentary. In reality, these shadowy gatherings took place across the ancient Roman world.

Archaeologists in Trier, Germany, recently uncovered a 1,600-year-old temple where this Roman cult gathered, according to an April 12 news release from the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage in Rhineland-Palatinate.

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Sunday, April 23, 2023

Hoard of 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed in Denmark

The silver coins were found about 5 miles from the Fyrkat Viking ringfort, near the town of Hobro. Photograph: North Jutland Museum
Hoard of 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed in Denmark
Artefacts believed to date back to 980s found by girl metal-detecting in cornfield last autumn

Nearly 300 silver coins believed to be more than 1,000 years old have been discovered near a Viking fortress site in north-west Denmark, a museum has said.

The trove – lying in two spots not far apart – was unearthed by a girl who was metal-detecting in a cornfield last autumn.

“A hoard like this is very rare,” Lars Christian Norbach, the director of the North Jutland Museum, where the artefacts will go on display, told Agence France-Presse.

The silver coins were found about 5 miles (8km) from the Fyrkat Viking ringfort, near the town of Hobro. From their inscriptions, they are believed to date back to the 980s.

The trove includes Danish, Arab and Germanic coins as well as pieces of jewellery originating from Scotland or Ireland, according to archaeologists. Norbach said the finds were from the same period as the fort, built by King Harald Bluetooth, and would offer a greater insight into the history of the Vikings.

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Who Were the Neanderthals & Why Are They Important to Modern Humans?

Since their discovery in 1856, the Neanderthals have been stereotyped as brutish characters, devoid of the complexities that make modern humans so dynamic and successful. Over the past few decades, research has completely upturned this notion.

Contrary to popular belief, they were a complex and intelligent species that made use of intricate tools and were capable of a wide range of activities that required mental powers of deduction and reasoning that until recently were thought only to reside in our own species.

To the average person, the Neanderthals that lived and died so long ago are not important enough to warrant any meaningful thought. But their relevance today is far more salient than people would expect.

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Roman Temple Uncovered in Northwestern France

(© Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap)

BRITTANY, FRANCE—Live Science reports that a structure thought to have been a temple dedicated to Mars, the Roman war god, has been uncovered in northwestern France at the site of La Chapelle-des-Fougeretz. Françoise Labaune-Jean of France’s National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) said that the large sanctuary with a view of the Roman city of Condate was probably an important one. It is thought to have been established shortly after the region was conquered by Julius Caesar in 56 B.C., and occupied into the fifth century A.D. and the collapse of the western Roman Empire. Although no inscriptions have been found to date, a bronze statuette of Mars has been found at the site, in addition to iron weapons that had been deposited in a ditch around the sanctuary. Terracotta figurines that may represent Venus and mother goddesses were also recovered from a nearby pit. To read about another Roman city in France, go to "Gaul's University Town."

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Huge Viking Treasure Hoard Found At Fyrkat Ring Castle By Metal Detectorists

Aerial view of the Fyrkat Viking ring castle ruins. Credit: Adobe Stock - Cavan

A group of metal detectorists examining a field near the Viking castle Fyrkat have discovered two remarkable treasures. The two Viking treasures were buried a few meters apart, and both contained many small silver coins and cut-up silver jewelry, which probably served as a means of payment by weight. Altogether, the two treasures include up to 300 pieces of silver, of which approximately 50 are whole coins.

Fyrkat is a former Viking ring castle in Denmark, dating from c. 980 AD.  About 1,000 years ago, legendary King Harald Bluetooth built several impressive Viking fortresses.

Finding Viking treasures in Denmark is not unusual, but finding two so close to Fyrkat is amazing. The metal detectors who are members of Nordjysk Detektorforening were lucky because due to modern ploughing, harrowing, and sowing, the hoards have been disturbed and spread over a larger area.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Evidence Norse Greenlanders Imported Timber From North America

he native trees of Greenland are unsuitable for larger construction projects or shipbuilding. Instead, the Norse colonists (AD 985–1450) relied on driftwood and imported timber. 

To study timber origins and distribution on Greenland, Lísabet Guðmundsdóttir from the University of Iceland examined the wood assemblages from five Norse sites in western Greenland, of which four were medium-sized farms and one a high-status episcopal manor.

All sites were occupied between AD 1000 and 1400 and dated by radiocarbon dating and associated artifact types.

A microscopic examination of the cellular structure of the wood previously found by archaeologists on these sites enabled the identification of tree genus or species.

The results show that just 0.27% of the wood examined were unambiguous imports, including oak, beech, hemlock, and Jack pine. Another 25% of the total wood studied could be either imported or driftwood, including larch, spruce, Scots pine and fir.

Because hemlock and Jack pine were not present in Northern Europe during the early second millennium AD, the pieces identified from the medieval contexts in Greenland must have come from North America.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Sea-level rise in Southwest Greenland as a contributor to Viking abandonment

Vikings occupied Greenland from 985 CE to the mid-15th century. Hypotheses regarding their disappearance include combinations of environmental change, social unrest, and economic disruption. Occupation coincided with a transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age and Southern Greenland Ice Sheet advance. We demonstrate using geophysical modeling that this advance would have (counterintuitively) driven local sea-level rise of ~3 m (when combined with a long-term regional trend) and inundation of 204 km2. This largely overlooked process led to the abandonment of some sites and pervasive flooding. Progressive sea-level rise impacted the entire settlement and may have acted in tandem with social and environmental factors to drive Viking abandonment of Greenland.

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Rising Sea Level Caused Vikings To Abandon Greenland – New Study

Vikings occupied Greenland from roughly 985 to 1450, farming and building communities before abandoning their settlements and mysteriously vanishing. Why they disappeared has long been a puzzle, but a new paper from the Harvard University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) determines that one factor—rising sea level—likely played a major role.

"There are many theories as to what exactly happened," to drive the Vikings from their settlements in Greenland, said Marisa J. Borreggine, lead author of the "Sea-Level Rise in Southwest Greenland as a Contributor to Viking Abandonment," which published this week [April 17] in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"There's been a shift in the narrative away from the idea that the Vikings completely failed to adapt to the environment and toward arguments that they were faced with a myriad of challenges, ranging from social unrest, economic turmoil, political issues, and environmental change," said Borreggine, a doctoral candidate in the Harvard Griffin GSAS in EPS.

"The changing landscape would've proven to be yet another factor that challenged the Viking way of life. Alongside these other challenges," said Borreggine, who works in the Mitrovica Group led by Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science Jerry X. Mitrovica. This likely led "to a tipping point before they abandoned the settlement."

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Vikings left Greenland after growing ice sheet caused sea level rise

The settlement of Qassiarsuk in Greenland was once probably the site of Brattahlid, the home of Viking Leif Erikson, whose statue watches over the area
Cindy Hopkins/Alamy

The sea level around Greenland rose more than 3.3 metres from AD 1000 to 1450, contributing to the woes of Viking settlers and to their eventual abandonment of the island, researchers have found.

In AD 985, Erik the Red established a colony in Greenland after being exiled from Iceland. At the time, the North Atlantic region was unusually warm – the so-called medieval warm period – but after a massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1257, conditions became much colder for several centuries, a period known as the little ice age.

That led to the expansion of the Greenland ice sheet, say Marisa Borreggine at Harvard University and their colleagues, causing the land adjacent to the ice sheet to subside because of the increased weight. The bigger ice sheet also had a greater mass and so exerted a stronger gravitational pull on the waters around Greenland. These two factors had roughly equal effects on sea level there.

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Norse colonists imported timber from North America to Greenland

A microscopic analysis has revealed that Norse colonists imported timber from Northern Europe and North America to Greenland.

Greenland, or Grœnland in Old Norse, was settled by Norwegian and Icelandic explorers in AD 985 or 986. The settlers established two colonies on the southwest coast: The Eastern Settlement or Eystribyggð, in what is now Qaqortoq, and the Western Settlement or Vestribygð, close to present-day Nuuk.

In a study published in the journal Antiquity, archaeologists from the University of Iceland have conducted a wood taxa analysis on pieces of timber found in 11th to 14th century AD Norse farmsteads.
The purpose of the study is to differentiate between native wood, imported wood, and driftwood, revealing that 0.27% of the wood was unambiguous imports, including oak, beech, hemlock and Jack pine. Another 25% of the total wood was either imported or driftwood, including larch, spruce, Scots pine and fir

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People were decapitated in Anglo-Saxon England crudely, study finds

If just being executed in Anglo-Saxon England was not bad enough, it seems that those unlucky victims of beheading would also have to deal with an executioner that was not very good at his job. These are some of the findings from a recent article that examined the archaeological evidence of executions in the early Middle Ages.

The study, led by Alyxandra Mattison with colleagues from the United Kingdom and South Africa, was published in Bioarchaeology of Injuries and Violence in Early Medieval Europe. It examines research on ten so-called ‘execution cemeteries’ from Anglo-Saxon England. By the seventh century there is evidence that special unconsecrated burial grounds are being used – these differ from traditional cemeteries in that the bodies are often buried in careless ways, with sometimes multiple people in a single grave or obvious signs of execution. Not all people buried there would have been executed, but these sites offer a chance to understand how executions were carried out.

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Monday, April 17, 2023

The Medieval Agricultural Revolution: New Evidence

The Medieval Agricultural Revolution: New Evidence

Lecture by Helena Hamerow

Given at Gresham College on March 23, 2023

Abstract: During the medieval ‘agricultural revolution’, new forms of cereal farming fuelled the exceptionally rapid growth of towns, markets and populations across much of Europe. The use of the mouldboard plough and systematic crop rotation were key developments and led to open-field farming, one of the transformative changes of the Middle Ages. Using new evidence from plant and animal remains from archaeological excavations in England, this lecture links these to wider developments in medieval society, notably growing social and wealth inequalities.

Helena Hamerow is Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford and an Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford.

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Lavish ancient Roman winery found at ruins of Villa of the Quintilii near Rome

View of the excavated winery from the northern dining hall of the Villa of the Quintilii outside Rome. Photograph: Stefano Castellani

Excavation shows facility included luxurious dining rooms with views of fountains that gushed with wine

Of all the Roman ruins that populate what is now a pleasant landscape of pine trees and meadows, under the distant gaze of the Alban Hills, the Villa of the Quintilii is perhaps the most impressive – almost a city in miniature, covering up to 24 hectares.

Lying on the ancient Appian Way as it runs south-east from Rome, the villa had its own theatre, an arena for chariot races and a baths complex with walls and floors lined in sumptuous marble.

But the story of the villa, whose origins lie in the second century AD, has just become even more remarkable, with the discovery of an elaborate winery unparalleled in the Roman world for lavishness.

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Archaeologists identify a Palaeolithic bone tool workshop in Spanish cave

Image Credit : Antiquity

A study of a partition made from rocks in the El Mirón Cave has led to archaeologists identifying it as a Palaeolithic bone tool workshop.

El Mirón Cave is a cave system in the upper Asón River valley, located in the Cantabria region of northern Spain.

The cave was first discovered in 1903, leading to a series of excavations over the century revealing evidence of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer activity, and the discovery of the “Red Lady of El Mirón”, a skeleton from the Upper Palaeolithic which was found coated with ochre, a red iron-based pigment.

In a paper published in the journal Antiquity, researchers from the University of New Mexico (UNM) have suggested that a partition made from rocks in the rear of the cave was actually used for bone tool manufacturing around 20,000-years-ago.

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Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings

Tree rings are now considered to be one of the most revealing of all climatic indicators.
Getty Images

History is only as good as its sources. It is limited largely to what has survived of written records, and in prehistory to random fragments unearthed by archaeologists and paleontologists. Climate history is no different. As the effects of global warming accelerate, it becomes ever more urgent to reassemble what we can of the atmospheric conditions of the past to gather evidence from wherever it may be.

Glacial ice cores are one place, with their frozen snapshots of long-ago air and traces of ash and pollen and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide or methane. Other climate proxies include the annual accretion of stalagmites, the growth of corals and the incremental layers of bone in the ears of fish. But in recent decades, tree rings have emerged as one of the most precise and revealing of all paleoclimatic indicators. 

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Viking Shieldmaidens & Berserkers: Fact vs. Fiction

Did Viking Shieldmaidens and Berserkers really exist? How accurately are they portrayed in popular media?

Viking berserkers and shieldmaidens are fascinating aspects of a conglomerated culture that gave way to myth and legend. Today, popular media have romanticized and dramatized these ancient warriors to suit the wants of modern audiences. While berserkers and shieldmaidens did assuredly exist in one form or another, it is hard to decipher the Viking sagas and poems and separate the facts from the fiction.

Berserkers: What Are the Facts?

The word ‘berserk’ is often associated with blind fury and rage. While the etymology of the anglicized term ‘berserk’ is often debated, most agree it was used to describe warriors that were more fearless and extreme than ‘regular’ Vikings. Adding confusion to the topic, the word ‘berserk’ may have variable representations. It may mean “bare-sark,” or “bare of shirt” referring to the habit of going unarmored or even unclothed into battle. The Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241) recounts of this tradition in his Ynglinga Saga: 

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Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers (Online)

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers (Online)

Wed 03 May 2023 - Fri 14 Jul 2023

Online course offered by The University of Oxford

Using a specially-designed virtual learning environment (VLE), this online course guides students through weekly pathways of directed readings and learning activities. Students interact with their tutor through tutor-guided, text-based forum discussions. There are no 'live-time' video meetings, meaning you can study flexibly whenever it suits you under the direct tuition of an expert.

Further information...

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Viking King – How Was He Elected And What Was Expected From Him?

Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok in the TV series Vikings. Credit: History Channel 
Copyright, fair use.

Ragnar Lodbrok claimed to be a direct descendant of the god Odin, but most Viking leaders were "ordinary" people, and they were viewed as exceptionally commanding men.

A man must have certain qualities and attitudes to become a great Viking leader.

It brings us to questions such as – Who could become a Viking king? Who was considered a worthy leader in the Viking society?

Kings Appeared At The End Of The Viking Age

It's important to remember that there were no Viking kings during the early Viking Age. The Viking society was divided into three social classes -  the nobles or jarls, the middle class or karls, and the slaves or thralls.

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Lost Bible Chapter Discovered Using UV Photography on 1,750-Year-Old Manuscript in Vatican Library

A 1,750-year-old translation of Matthew's Gospel has yielded a new Bible chapter thanks to medievalist Grigory Kessel's work. According to IFLScience, the mysterious chapter was discovered using ultraviolet photography on manuscripts housed in the Vatican Library.

The remarkable discovery was made as part of the Sinai Palimpsests Project, a research initiative dedicated to recovering erased and overwritten texts from the 4th to 12th centuries CE.
How Medievalists Are Restoring the Ancient Religious Text

Due to the scarcity of writing materials at the time, manuscripts were frequently repurposed, resulting in palimpsest manuscripts in which previous text was washed or scraped off before new content was added. 

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Bone fragment reveals humans wore leather clothes 39,000 years ago

This piece of bone from 39,600 years ago has multiple puncture marks on it that seem to have been made by puncturing leather

An analysis of a 39,600-year-old bone containing strange indentations claims it was used as a punch board for making holes in leather, revealing how Homo sapiens in Europe made clothes to help them survive cold climates at that time.

“We do not have much information about clothes because they’re perishable,” says Luc Doyon at the University of Bordeaux, France, who led the study. “They are an early technology we’re in the dark about.”

The bone, from the hip of a large mammal such as a horse or bison, was discovered at a site called Terrasses de la Riera dels Canyars near Barcelona, Spain. It has 28 puncture marks on its flat surface, including a linear sequence of 10 holes about 5 millimetres apart from each other, as well as other holes in more random positions.

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People were using psychedelic drugs in Bronze Age Europe, study finds

Es Càrritx is a grotto on Minorca, an island off the coast of eastern Spain, that's home to a Bronze Age burial site. (Research Group in Mediterranean Social Archaeoecology/Autonomous University of Barcelona)

3,000-year-old human hair — possibly from a shaman — contains traces of mind-altering substances

People have been using mind-altering substances for a long, long time.

While archaeologists and historians have long suspected that people in Bronze Age Europe consumed psychoactive drugs, they now have hard scientific evidence to back it up.

And it's all thanks to several tiny strands of human hair found impeccably preserved in a 3,000-year-old burial site in Spain.

Those hairs, researchers have found, contain traces of three different alkaloid substances that are known to cause altered states of consciousness.

"It was amazing," Rafael Mico, a professor of archeological pre-history at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. "It is the first direct evidence in Europe of the consumption [of psychedelic drugs]."

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Who Was Ötzi the Iceman?


Ötzi the Iceman is the oldest mummy ever found. Learn what scientists now know about the famous ancient human.

In 1991, two German tourists were hiking in the Ötztal Alps — a mountain range shared by Austria and Italy — when they stumbled upon the frozen remains of a dead man. The ice preserved the man so well that his body, clothes and tools never decomposed.

Scientists dubbed him Ötzi the Iceman and began studying the naturally-preserved mummy. They’ve determined he lived more than 5,000 years ago, which makes Ötzi the Iceman the oldest mummy ever found.

Researchers are still studying the mountain mummy, and Ötzi the Iceman continues to unlock answers about what daily life was like thousands of years ago. 

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The Antikythera Mechanism: the mysterious ancient machine that should not exist?

 The Antikythera mechanism is one of the most fascinating and enigmatic artifacts from ancient Greece.

This ancient machine, discovered in the wreckage of a Greek shipwreck, has puzzled historians, archaeologists, and scientists for over a century.

It's a device that is so advanced that it seems to belong in a much later period of human history, and its discovery has raised many questions about the sophistication of ancient Greek technology.

Here, we will explore the mysteries of the Antikythera mechanism, including its purpose, its creators, and the ways in which it has challenged our understanding of ancient technology. 

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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The Carolingian Dynasty and the Holy Roman Empire

Charlemagne receives Alcuin 780, by Jean Victor Schnetz, 19th century, via; with Photograph of Aachen Cathedral, via

The Holy Roman Empire existed in medieval and modern Western and Central Europe, founded by Charlemagne, of the Frankish Carolingian dynasty.

After the Migration Period that destroyed the Western Roman Empire, most of the newly formed Germanic states collapsed very fast. But not in France, which would become the most powerful new state of the early middle ages. The Franks, a Germanic tribe of skilled and courageous warriors led by Clovis of the Merovingian dynasty, established a state in the Roman province of Gaul and extended Frankish rule to the surrounding Germanic tribes. By accepting Christianity, Clovis became friendly with the clergy and thus laid the foundations for an alliance between Church and State. This alliance was strengthened in the second half of the 8th Century, during the reign of Pepin the Short of the Carolingian Dynasty. The alliance between the church and the Carolingians was eventually sealed in 800, when Charlemagne was proclaimed the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

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The Battle of Teutoburg Forest: Give Me Back My Legions!

During the reign of Emperor Augustus, in the deep, dark forests across the Rhine, three Roman legions marched in order, seeking to resolve the issue of pacifying the disparate but problematic Germanic tribes resisting Roman rule.

With their expertise and superior military, the Romans were confident they would achieve an easy victory, expand the Roman sphere of influence, and put an end to the rebelliousness of the Germanic tribes in the area. But the trees of the forest hid a power much greater than they had anticipated. What happened that Autumn day in 9 CE would send shockwaves all the way back to Rome. This was the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

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Viking Age ceremonial burial shields found to be combat ready

Shield 'reconstruction' cobbled together in the late 19th–early 20th century. 

Rolf Fabricius Warming from the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University in Sweden and founding director of the Society for Combat Archaeology is challenging previous interpretations of ceremonial shields found in a Viking Age longship burial mound. His research is published in the journal Arms & Armour. 

About 1,100 years ago, at Gokstad in Vestfold, Norway, an important man was laid to rest in a 78-foot-long longship. The Gokstad ship was buried along with a few luxury possessions, including gold-embroidered tapestries, a sleigh, a saddle, 12 horses, eight dogs, two peacocks, six beds and 64 round shields as well as three smaller boats on the deck. The ship and the grave goods remained undisturbed under a mound of earth until it was discovered in 1880. Warming notes that while the longship and many artifacts now rest in a museum in Norway, some of the grave goods had not been subjected to any substantial examination since their initial discovery. 

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Evidence of drug use during Bronze Age ritual ceremonies has been discovered in Europe for the first time

View of the entrance of Es Càrritx (upper left); the deposit of Chamber 5 with the tubes containing the human hair placed at the center (upper right, courtesy of Consell Insular de Menorca); plan of the cave and section of the deposit found in chamber 5 (P. Arnau, J. L. Florit, J. Márquez & M. Márquez).

The researchers believe that these substances were likely used as part of ritual ceremonies, and that they may have been ingested orally or smoked. They also suggest that the use of these drugs may have been associated with shamanism or other forms of religious or spiritual practice.

This is the first direct evidence of drug use in Europe during the Bronze Age, and it provides new insights into the beliefs and practices of people during this time period. The study also suggests that the use of psychoactive drugs may have been more widespread in Europe than previously thought.

The researchers hope that their findings will lead to further research into the use of drugs in Bronze Age Europe, and that it will help to shed light on the cultural and religious beliefs of this time period.

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The ‘Barbarians’ Who Saved & Destroyed the Late Roman Empire

A look at how the traditional enemies of the Roman Empire came to save and, ultimately, destroy it.

When one pictures the Roman Empire, it can be quite easy to conjure up images of its glorious and all-conquering heydays. Visions of Caesar’s conquests, the civil war, Augustus, or the golden age of the Antonines. Throughout these portrayals, the primary enemy of the civilized Roman was the ‘barbarian,’ usually a Gaul, Scythian, or German.

However, while these periods make for good cinema or television, there exists an era infinitely more dramatic and turbulent, just under the radar of modern media’s glare. Between the late 4th and 5th centuries, the Roman emperors were often weak and incompetent puppets. Instead, the empire’s lifespan was extended and ultimately extinguished by a succession of ‘barbarian’ generals from beyond the imperial frontiers. This article tells the tale of how these ‘barbarians’ came to rule the fate of the Late Roman Empire.

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Monday, April 03, 2023

Vikings may have made Morston fake gold Arabic dinar, says expert

A "spectacular" 9th Century fake Arabic dinar discovered by a metal detectorist could have been made by a Viking, a university professor said.

The gold coin was discovered near Morston, Norfolk, in April 2021 and has been declared treasure by a coroner.

Rory Naismith said "the Vikings had a lot of contact with the Muslim world" so it was "plausible" they could have struck imitation dinars.

"It's very unusual to find such a thing and it's completely unique," he added.

The imitation coin has a hole punched into it suggesting it was designed to be worn.

Prof Naismith, from Cambridge University, said some gold dinars from the Anglo-Saxon period have been found in England, probably arriving via Italy.

"While there are few other imitations that we know of, this one is a bit ropey," he said.

"It looks like it's made by someone who knows the generalities of what a dinar looks like, but is not handling them enough to get the Arabic right."

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