Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The Norn Language: Scotland’s mysterious Viking tongue that can be found in modern Scots

Dubbed the “sixth Scandinavian language” Norn was spoken by Scots for centuries prior to its extinction, but echoes of this past can still be heard as remnants of the Viking tongue exist in modern Scottish words.

Broadly speaking, Etymologists divide Scandinavian languages into two historical branches; Western and Eastern. Danish and Swedish account for the Eastern examples while the Western includes Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese.

Just as Iceland and the Faroe Islands were largely settled by Norwegian Vikings, regions of Scotland like the Shetland Islands also underwent this Norse invasion which led to the birth of another Western Scandinavian language; Norn.

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Monday, June 26, 2023

How to Make a Viking Warrior?

"Making a Warrior: the Social Implications of Viking Age Martial Ideologies” is the title of a new research project, which was recently granted substantial funding from Nordforsk. Partners are the Universities in Oslo, Copenhagen, Uppsala, and Reykjavik.

Archaeologist Marianne Moen, who has also recently taken over the position as Head of Department of Archaeology at the Museum of Cultural History, will be the project manager for the upcoming research project “Making a Warrior: the Social Implications of Viking Age Martial Ideologies” that is starting up in the fall of 2023.

– The Viking Age often evokes associations with violence and war, with images of tough men enacting scenarios of violence and war. At the same time, we know that the truth was much more complex. This project is based on the premise that Viking warriors were not a uniform group of people, and that warrior ideals moreover had socio-political and ritual aspects that were as important as the actual war and violence in itself, she tells us.

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Saturday, June 24, 2023

Wild Cattle in Britain – Descendants of Viking Cattle?

Also known as the Chillingham Cattle, Britain is home to four flocks of White Cattle living in the wild since the 12th century.

The fierce and shy wild cattle living in the park at Chillingham is but one flock of four roaming at Woburn, Dynevor, and Cadzow. Earlier on, such herds were a common feature in the British landscape, probably kept for their ornamental and symbolic value. Known in the 12th century as Tauri Sylvestres, they have apparently always been considered a wild sub-species. The herd at Chillingham, though, was first mentioned in 1645. Today, about 130 animals live in the 150-ha large park in Northumberland. The herd is protected from being earmarked, a true sign of their “wild” status.

These flocks of wild cattle were treated as a kind of super-deer eaten on festive occasions, such as at the Archbishop of York installation feast in 1466. At the celebrations, six wild bulls were roasted and served. It appears the white cattle survived as potent medieval status symbols alongside other wild species. Evidence from Auckland Castle indicates a herd of White Cattle was kept in the 15th-century deer park for ornamental reasons together with wild horses.

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Thursday, June 22, 2023

Viking artefact unearthed by metal detectorist to be sold at auction

The bronze artefact, called a die, would have been used to create decorative motifs to be applied to a military helmet (Jason Jones/PA)

A metal detectorist has unearthed a Viking artefact that was used to craft decorative motifs for military helmets.

Jason Jones, 44, of Norwich, made the find while searching a field near Watton in Norfolk in January this year, having previously found two medieval silver coins there.

The construction industry worker, who was with his wife Lisa, said he had forgotten to charge his main detector and was using his backup machine.

“I returned to the area where the coins were found and got a loud signal, and at a depth of just two inches found an unusual bronze object,” he said.

“Lisa came over and was speechless when she saw it.

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Viking artefact unearthed by metal detectorist in Norfolk field could fetch £24,000 at auction

Jason Jones, 44, with his wife and daughter, found a Viking artefact in a field in Norfolk.
Credit: Jason Jones / PA / Noonans auctioneers

A Viking artefact unearthed by a metal detectorist in Norfolk could fetch up £24,000 at auction.

Jason Jones, 44, of Norwich, made the find while searching a field near Watton in Norfolk in January this year, having previously found two medieval silver coins there.

The construction industry worker, who was with his wife Lisa, said he had forgotten to charge his main detector and was using his backup machine.

“I returned to the area where the coins were found and got a loud signal, and at a depth of just two inches found an unusual bronze object,” he said.

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Archaeologists unearth 4,000-year-old ‘Stonehenge of the Netherlands’

The Tiel sanctuary featured a solar calendar that was used to determine important events including festivals and harvest days, say archaeologists.
Photograph: Municipality of Tiel/Reuters

Dutch archaeologists have unearthed an approximately 4,000-year-old religious site – nicknamed the “Stonehenge of the Netherlands” – that includes a burial mound that served as a solar calendar.

The mound, which contained the remains of about 60 men, women and children, had several passages through which the sun shone directly on the longest and shortest days of the year.

The town of Tiel, where the site was discovered, said on its Facebook page: “What a spectacular archaeological discovery! Archaeologists have found a 4,000-year-old religious sanctuary on an industrial site.”

It added: “This is the first time a site like this has been discovered in the Netherlands.”

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‘It stands over us like a giant’s dining table’: on the trail of the UK’s ancient stones

One of Cornwall’s most recognisable megaliths … Lanyon Quoit. Photograph: Alamy

No longer just for solstice, a new type of tourism means these mysterious formations are being visited year round. Our writer joins a stone hunt on the Cornish moors.

Up on Cornwall’s Penwith Moors time takes a strange quality. Here the landscape is a morass of knotted bracken and bristly gorse, a soft marigold tinge signalling warmer summer days. A grey smudge of cloud sags on the horizon and the wind whirs like white noise, a low and disorientating murmur. The topography is a palimpsest, with working farms etched over ruinous mines and prehistoric settlements. And at its heart is a scattering of ancient stones, the enigmatic quoits, barrows and stone circles that have captivated and confounded societies for millennia.

It’s an enchanting place just to wander, but to help me dive deeper into the mysteries of the moors, I am meeting artists and stone enthusiasts Lally MacBeth and Matthew Shaw. Almost immediately I feel underdressed in hiking boots primed with mud and a hardy waterproof – in Cornwall, we come perpetually prepared for the threat of showers. MacBeth, on the other hand, looks the part of an antiquarian in an emerald-green blazer and matching beret finished with a swipe of ruby lipstick. The only muted part of her outfit is a monochrome badge, the size of a small pebble, that reads: “The Stone Club”.

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A Couple Renovating Their Kitchen in Denmark Found an Ancient Stone Carved With Viking Runes

An ancient stone was discovered under the kitchen floor in a home in Denmark.
Photo Lene Brandt, courtesy National Museum of Denmark.

When Lene Brandt and her husband, Anders Nielsen, were preparing to tear up the linoleum floors in the kitchen in their home in the village of Mosekær, in Denmark, they probably expected the normal things that occur in the course of such a project: cost overruns, delays, and problems with contractors.

Instead, what they found was an ancient artifact. The couple stumbled across a nearly 2,000-pound stone, measuring more than six feet long, carved with ancient runes. The couple contacted local experts at the Museum Østjylland. Staff archaeologist Benita Clemmensen is quoted by the cultural news site Skjalden saying that these stones are the sole written records of the Viking Age. 

Five runes can be found carved into the stone’s surface, reading “aft Bi,” which can be translated as “after B.” 

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Game piece with runic inscription found in Trondheim

A round soapstone game piece discovered in an archaeological survey in advance of sewer pipe repair in Trondheim, Norway, is inscribed with runes. This is only the second known game piece with a runic inscription ever discovered in Norway.

The excavation uncovered a sunken pit with archaeological layers dating to the Middle Ages. The deepest part of the pit, more than 12 feet below today’s street surface, has been dated to between 1000 and 1150 A.D. A coal layer above it was only slightly more recent, dating to 1030-1180 A.D. The soapstone game piece was found between the two layers.

Archaeologists first thought the lines incised on the round piece’s surface could be stylized floral motifs, but the geometry was also reminiscent of runic inscriptions albeit laid out in artistic fashion.

The team sent high-resolution images of the piece to runologist Karen Langsholt Holmqvist. She was so intrigued she was compelled to view the object in person. That’s when she conclusively identified the decoration as runic writing.

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“Ipswich ware” pottery made for the first time in over 1,000 years

“Ipswich ware” jars and pots, first made 1,400 years ago in the English town, are being fired again in a replica Anglo-Saxon kiln thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This new experimental archaeology project is being led by Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, to investigate how Anglo-Saxon pottery was once made in Ipswich. The new kiln has been built and fired by studying archaeological remains excavated from the Buttermarket in Ipswich, something never attempted before. Only two kilns have ever been excavated in Ipswich, the other was discovered at Stoke Quay.

Ipswich ware pottery was made in the town from c. AD 680-870. Jars, cooking pots and pitchers were the most commonly-made items, simple in design and grey in colour. They were mass-produced and distributed throughout eastern England, and were some of the first of their kind in post-Roman Britain.

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What did the Vikings eat?

Serra is a culinary archaeologist recreating long-lost Viking recipes (Credit: Maddy Savage)

While the word "Viking" is often used to describe anyone who lived during the Viking era, Serra explained that it should technically only refer to the pirates and pillagers who travelled across northern Europe between the 8th and 11th Centuries. He said that most people during this period weren't bloodthirsty invaders, but worked as farmers, fishermen, crafters or traders, and he's made it his life's mission to research and recreate the kind of dishes that dominated their everyday diets. 

"I like to eat, and I like to eat good food, so I was curious: what did [the Vikings] eat?" said Serra, who initially studied the food of ancient Rome as an archaeology student by recreating dishes from the 1st- to 5th-Century cookbook De Re Coquinaria. He then reconstructed, cooked and tasted his way from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages before focusing on the Viking era during his graduate studies. Today, having established that Vikings were much more farm-to-table locavores than meat-loving hunter gatherers, Serra is now considered one of Scandinavia's leading authorities on the culinary practices of the Vikings. 

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Stone Carved With Viking Ship May Be Oldest Picture Ever Found in Iceland

Photo: Landnámsskáli í Stöð / Facebook

Archaeologists in Iceland have found a sandstone carved with a Viking ship that may be the oldest picture ever found in the country. The stone was found at the archaeological site Stöð in East Iceland in a longhouse that is believed to predate the permanent settlement of the island. RÚV reported first.

Richest longhouse ever excavated in Iceland
The first exploratory digs at Stöð were made in 2015 and archaeologists have returned every summer since to continue excavating the site, where they first focused their efforts on a settlement-era longhouse.  “The longhouse is among the largest found in Iceland, 31.4m [103ft] long. In Scandinavia, only chieftains’ farms had longhouses larger than 28m [92ft]. It is also the richest longhouse ever excavated in Iceland. We have found 92 beads and 29 silver objects, including Roman and Middle Eastern coins,” Bjarni F. Einarsson told Iceland Review for a 2020 article on the archeological site.

Oldest building predates settlement
What makes the site still more significant is that archaeologists discovered an even older longhouse underneath the settlement-era longhouse, estimated to date back to around 800 AD, some 75 years before the permanent settlement of Iceland. The most striking feature of the older structure is the conspicuous absence of the bones of domesticated animals. “My theory is that the older longhouse was a seasonal hunting camp, operated by a Norwegian chief who outfitted voyages to Iceland to gather valuables and bring them back across the sea to Norway,” Bjarni told Iceland Review. One of these valuables may have been walrus ivory: in 2019, DNA analyses and radiocarbon dating confirmed that Iceland was previously inhabited by a North Atlantic subspecies of walrus, now extinct.

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Ipswich Anglo-Saxon pottery created in replica kiln in Tunstall, near Woodbridge

Teams in Tunstall have been recreating 1,400 year-old Anglo-Saxon pottery, known as 'Ipswich-ware'. Picture: Suffolk County Council

Cash for the project was donated by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This comes after an Anglo-Saxon kiln was uncovered under the Buttermarket shopping centre in Ipswich.

Faye Minter, from Suffolk County Council, said project such as this were important as they allow teams to test hypotheses.

She said: “They allow us to test historical methods and techniques based on evidence from excavations.

“This can give invaluable insight into our history - the lives, skills and industry of people who lived in the past.”

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Burnt Mound Complex Dated To Bronze Age - Uncovered At Suffolk Site

The site, showing the evaluation trenches and excavation areas.
Image credit: Cotswold Archaeology

In Area 1, the remains of a Bronze Age burnt mound complex were revealed. In Area 2, an enclosure system of broadly the same period was recorded, together with the remains of three Iron Age roundhouses.

Overlying these remains were field patterns of medieval and later dates.

Unfortunately the Bronze Age burnt mound in Area 1 had been largely destroyed by later ploughing. Burnt mounds are enigmatic prehistoric features known from across the British Isles. Well-preserved examples are characterised by a flattened mound formed from discarded, burnt stones.

The stones were heated and then functioned as ‘pot boilers’, heating water in nearby earth-cut, possibly timber-lined troughs.

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Northumbria University forensic scientist uncovers earliest known example of burials among human ancestors

Figure 3: Artist’s reconstruction of the burial of an adult Homo naledi found in Feature 1 from the Dinaledi Chamber. Images from Berger et al., 2023. (Image: Berger et al)

A Northumbria University forensic scientist was part of a team which has unearthed the earliest example of burials by human ancestors.

Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney is Associate Professor of Forensic Science at Northumbria and specialises in taphonomy and thanatology - the science of death and processes that affect a body from decomposition, through to skeletonisation, then recovery. In a project funded by the National Geographic Society, Dr Randolph-Quinney was one of a team of experts who unearthed new evidence in the Rising Star cave system in South Africa suggesting an extinct human cousin named Homo naledi buried their dead.

This symbolic behaviour had previously only associated with modern humans and Neanderthals. Bodies of Homo naledi adults and several children, thought to be younger than 13 were deposited in foetal positions within pits, which suggests intentional burial of the dead.

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Violent Conflict Played A Crucial Role In Early Farming Societies In Neolithic Europe – New Study

Cave painting of a battle between archers, Cueva del Roure, Morella la Vella, Castellón, Valencia, Spain. Image credit: Eduardo Hernández Pacheco -  public domain

Complexity scientist Peter Turchin and his team at CSH, working as part of an international and interdisciplinary collaboration, may have added a meaningful piece to a long-standing puzzle in archeology. Scholars have long tried to understand why Neolithic farmer populations go through boom-bust cycles, including “collapses” when whole regions are abandoned.

According to one common explanation, climate fluctuations are the main driver, but empirical tests do not fully support this claim. In a new paper, published in the latest issue of Nature Scientific Reports, Turchin and his team seem to have come up with a new piece of information.

“Our study shows that periodic outbreaks of warfare — and not climate fluctuations – can account for the observed boom-bust patterns in the data,” argues Turchin, who’s a project leader at the Complexity Science Hub (CSH).

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Trumpington burial: Teenage Anglo-Saxon girl's face revealed

Without DNA analysis, forensic artist Hew Morrison could not be sure of her precise eye and hair colour

The face of a girl who died more than 1,300 years ago has been revealed through facial reconstruction.

Her skeleton was found buried on a wooden bed, with a gold and garnet cross on her chest at Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, in 2012.

The image will go on display as part of a Cambridge University exhibition.

Anglo-Saxon specialist Dr Sam Lucy said "as an archaeologist I'm used to faceless people" so it was "really lovely" to see how she may have looked.

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First look at what the Anglo-Saxon teenager buried in Cambridge would have looked like

The face of a 16-year-old woman buried near Cambridge in the seventh century
(Image: Hew Morrison ©2023)

The face of a teenager buried near Cambridge in the seventh century has been reconstructed after analysis of her skull. Archaeologists from the University of Cambridge discovered the burial site at Trumpington Meadows in 2012.

Forensic artist Hew Morrison created the likeness using measurements of the woman's skull and tissue depth data for Caucasian females. Without DNA analysis, Mr Morrison could not be sure of her precise eye and hair colour, but the image offers a strong indication of her appearance shortly before she died. (see the reconstructed photo below).

Mr Morrison said: "It was interesting to see her face developing. Her left eye was slightly lower, about half a centimetre, than her right eye. This would have been quite noticeable in life."

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Monday, June 12, 2023

Viking Support Animals

(The Picture Art Collection/Alamy Stock Photo) Stela depicting Odin’s horse Sleipnir

The warriors of the Viking Great Army who campaigned in Britain from A.D. 865 to 878 worshipped gods often associated with animal companions, such as Odin and his eight-legged horse Sleipnir. It seems that some of the army’s leaders may have made the voyage across the North Sea from Scandinavia with their own cherished animals as comrades. A team led by University of Durham archaeologist Tessi Loeffelmann discovered evidence of these travel arrangements while analyzing isotopes of the element strontium in cremated animal bones recovered from Norse burial mounds near the site of the army’s A.D. 873–874 winter camp in Repton.

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The cruelty of the Vikings was legendary. However, the reality was different

[Photo by DAMIANUM CASTRUM from Pexels]

They were famous for their violent nature, sudden attacks and barbarism. But to what extent is the cruelty of the Vikings a fact confirmed by historians?

In June 793, Vikings invaded a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England. The center, which had existed for 150 years, was the spiritual and intellectual center of the region. However, to the pagan aggressors it was nothing more than an undefended object full of riches. Thus began in the history of Europe an era of Vikings that lasted more than 250 years, until the decisive battle of Hastings fought in 1066.

“Never before had there been such a terror in Britain as that which has now arisen through the heathen race. These barbarians poured the blood of the saints around the altar [in St. Cuthbert’s Church] and trampled on the bodies of the saints in the temple of God like dung in the streets.”

These words, still breathing terror today, were written by Alcuin of York in a letter to King Ethelred of Northumbria. This was the name of the land on the coast of which the profaned and devastated monastery and church were located.

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Unusual Discovery Of A Viking Age Phallic Stone In Tystaberga, Sweden

Ellen Lloyd - AncientPages.com - As an archaeologist, you can expect to find some surprises everywhere. That's what happened during recent excavations on a hill in Tystberga outside the city of Norrköping, Sweden, where scientists unearthed something eye-catching.

A new railroad will be constructed, so scientists excavated the site from May to June this year. It's an archaeological site where researchers have previously unearthed more than 60 Viking Age graves and a settlement from the Bronze Age.

In a recent study, scientists found a grave containing two curious stones. An examination of the stones showed one was a grave ord. These stones were common in Scandinavia from the Pre-Roman Iron Age until the Vendel era. Engraved with ornaments, grave orbs were placed on an individual's tomb.  The other stone unearthed in Tystberga was shaped like a penis.

The phallus was a powerful and important symbol throughout the ancient world, but unearthing a Viking Age Phallic stone in Sweden does not happen often.

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Scramasax with preserved wood handle found in Sweden

An archaeological excavation in Skälby on the outskirts of Västerås, southeastern Sweden, has uncovered a scramasax (short sword) with its decorated wooden handle so well-preserved it looks like new even though it’s more than 1100 years old.

About 16 inches long with its unusually decorative grip intact, the scramasax was discovered in 2021 at the bottom of a well, embedded deep in the mud and the waterlogged clay. The anaerobic environment preserved the wooden handle in pristine condition. It is turned to fit the hand and carved with a central enlaced design. Its style dates it to the Vendel Period between the 7th and 9th centuries A.D.

The Skälby site was home to several scattered farming settlements in the Iron Age. Its wells were used for different purposes in different phases, alternating between water sources, garbage pits and places for ritual deposits. Archaeologists believe the short sword was sacrificed, thrown into the well as an offering, as swords like this were extremely valuable objects and not likely to be lost by accident. In fact, they are most frequently found as grave goods, interred with the warrior who wielded it as one of his most prized possessions.

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