Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Early medieval sword fished out of Polish river is in 'near perfect' condition

Images of the early medieval sword as well as an X-ray image. (Image credit: O. Ochotny)

Workers made a surprising discovery in Poland when they pulled an early medieval sword from a muddy riverbed while dredging, and some researchers think the weapon could have a Viking connection.

The 1,000-year-old sword, which is thought to be older than Poland itself, was found cloaked in silt and in "near perfect" condition in the depths of the Vistula (also spelled Wisła) River, which runs through Włocławek, a city in northern Poland, according to Warsaw Point, a Polish magazine. 

Local authorities contacted the Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments about the unusual finding. The city’s Center for Sport and Recreation announced the discovery Jan. 12 via a Facebook post.

X-ray imaging revealed that the sword's blade contained an inscription that reads "U[V]LFBERTH," which could be read as "Ulfberht" — "a marking found on a group of 170 medieval swords found mainly in northern Europe" that may be a Frankish personal name, according to CBS News.

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Archaeology Classes on the Oxford Experience summer school 2024

Tom Quad, Christ Church, Oxford University – image David Beard

The Oxford Experience summer school is held at Christ Church, Oxford. 
Participants stay in Christ Church and eat in the famous Dining Hall, that was the model for the Hall in the Harry Potter movies.

This year there are twelve classes offered in archaeology.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Viking “Ulfberht” 9th Century Sword Recovered from Vistula River in Poland

The sword at the discovery site | photo Ośrodek Sportu i Rekreacji Włocławek

A Viking sword from the 9th to 10th centuries was accidentally discovered a few days ago at the bottom of the Vistula River in Włocławek. According to experts, this is an extraordinary find, as only thirteen weapons of this type have been found in Poland until now. The sword has been handed over for preservation to the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.

During the dredging of the harbor basin on Piwna Street in Włocławek, a sword from the 9th-10th century, likely belonging to a Viking due to the inscription ULFBERHT, was unearthed from the bottom of Poland’s longest river.

Provincial curator Sambor Gawinski stated on Wednesday in Toruń that around 170 Ulfberht swords have been found in Europe, most likely 177.

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Up Helly Aa: What happens at Shetland's Viking fire festival?

The festival reaches its climax with the burning of a Viking galley

Shetland's Up Helly Aa Viking fire festival is taking place in Lerwick - with a new prominence for women at the 143-year-old event.

The festival celebrates the Scottish islands' Norse heritage, culminating in the burning of a replica Viking galley.

The abolition of gender restrictions began last year, when women and girls first took part in the procession.

For the first time, women and girls will join the main "squad" at the head of the procession through the town.

It is an important change to the event which is incredibly important to the people of Shetland.

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Ice Age Hunters in Europe Weren't One People but Multiple Cultures, Study Discovers

The Venus of Brassempouy: One of the earliest known realistic representations of a human face. From the Gravettian, probably made 26,000 to 24,000 years ago
Credit: Jean-Gilles Berizzi

From our earliest days, humans have split off into cultures: large groups that share beliefs, customs and behaviors. Culture is a powerful social tool that can create a sense of common purpose, help us accomplish great projects, or survive in the toughest conditions. It is also a concept that can easily move us to hate and attack those we perceive as being different from us.

Just how far back in human (pre)history this fragmentation goes is now highlighted by a study that looks at cultural differences between European hunter gatherers living just before the peak of the last Ice Age.

The research, published Monday in Nature Human Behaviour, analyzed statistical differences between the ornaments used by the Gravettians, an Upper Paleolithic culture that spanned from Iberia to modern-day Russia from roughly 34,000 to 24,000 years ago.

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Excavated dolmen in Sweden one of the oldest in Scandinavia

The chamber under excavation. East side mold removed. The plastic tubes are samples for environmental DNA.
Credit: Karl-Göran Sjögren

Last summer, archaeologists from Gothenburg University and Kiel University excavated a dolmen, a stone burial chamber, in Tiarp near Falköping in Sweden. The archaeologists judge that the grave has remained untouched since the Stone Age. First analysis results now confirm that the grave in Tiarp is one of the oldest stone burial chambers in Sweden.

"It's an early grave which dates to the Early Neolithic period, about 3500 BCE," says archaeologist Karl-Göran Sjögren. However, the odd thing is that parts of the skeletons of the people buried are missing.

Enormous Storegga Tsunami Wiped Out Communities In Stone Age Britain

A research team from the University of York has discovered there was a large population decline in northern Britain at the same time when the Storegga slide occurred between 6,225 and 6,170 B.C. The Storegga Slide is the largest known exposed submarine landslide in the world, which triggered a tsunami that inundated the coasts of northern Europe. Scientists think the number of deaths was so high that it may have led to a massive dip in Stone Age Britain's population.

Northern Britain had a small population of about 1,000 people at this time. Still, according to Dr. Jon Hill, an environmental scientist at the University of York who led the research, the tsunami caused a tragedy, and the consequences were severe.

"A giant tsunami of this size would have devastated Stone Age coastal communities as it occurred in the autumn, when they would have been gathering resources for the winter. The scale of the waves coming in would have been completely different to anything experienced by the people living there—a truly terrifying experience," Dr. Hill said.

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3000-Year-Old Shipwreck Emerges From Bottom of Mediterranean Sea

Ancient shipwreck from the Mediterranean Sea.
Credit: Philippe Groscaux / Mission Adriboats / CNRS / CCJ

The Zambratija, the oldest boat in the Mediterranean built entirely by hand, is about to begin a new phase in its long history. This ancient shipwreck, lying on the Adriatic seafloor in Croatia for thousands of years, is now getting ready for a special trip to France.

There, experts will work to preserve and study it. This historic boat was found in the Bay of Zambratija close to Umag on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula.

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Monday, January 29, 2024

Medieval and Viking-Age artifacts discovered in Norway

A very rare Byzantine coin is among dozens of medieval and Viking-era objects discovered in eastern Norway last year. Officials with Innlandet County Municipality have released details of items found by metal detectorists, including buckles, seals and pieces from swords.

Around 700 coins have now been found with by metal detectors in recent months – they date from the Roman period to 1650, with the most spectacular being a gold histamenon in excellent condition. Minted during the reigns of Basil II and Constantine VIII, sometime between 977 and 1025 AD, it shows the joint Byzantine emperors on one side and Jesus holding a book on the reverse.

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‘Their heads were nailed to the trees’: what was life – and death – like for Roman legionaries?

‘It was killing fields as far as the eye can see’ … the Latin-inscribed slabs crossing the site of the battle, which features in the British Museum show Legion.
Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

‘Their heads were nailed to the trees’: what was life – and death – like for Roman legionaries?
It was the defeat that traumatised Rome, leaving 15,000 soldiers slaughtered in a German field. As a major show explores this horror and more, our writer finds traces of the fallen by a forest near the Rhine

It is one of the most chilling passages in Roman literature. Germanicus, the emperor Tiberius’s nephew, is leading reprisals in the deeply forested areas east of the Rhine, when he decides to visit the scene of the catastrophic defeat, six years before, of his fellow Roman, Quinctilius Varus. The historian Tacitus describes what Germanicus finds: the ghastly human wreckage of a supposedly unbeatable army, deep in the Teutoburg Forest. “On the open ground,” he writes, “were whitening bones of men, as they had fled, or stood their ground, strewn everywhere or piled in heaps. Near lay fragments of weapons and limbs of horses, and also human heads, prominently nailed to trunks of trees.”

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Link found between cold snaps during Roman Empire era and pandemics

Schematic drawing of the relationship between climatic change and sociological, physical, and biological factors influencing infectious disease outbreaks.
Credit: Science Advances (2024). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adk1033

A team of geoscientists, Earth scientists and environmental scientists affiliated with several institutions in Germany, the U.S. and the Netherlands has found a link between cold snaps and pandemics during the Roman Empire.

In their project, reported in the journal Science Advances, the group studied core samples taken from the seabed in the Gulf of Taranto and compared them with historical records.

Researchers learn about climatic conditions in the distant past by analyzing sediment built up from river deposits. Tiny organisms that are sensitive to temperature, for example, respond differently to warm temperatures than to cold temperatures and often wind up in such sediment. Thus, the study of organic remains in sediment layers can reveal details of temperatures over a period of time.

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Thursday, January 25, 2024

Hoard of Bronze Age jewelry discovered in Poland was part of ancient water burial ritual, study finds

A selection of Bronze Age jewelry found at a dry lake bed in Poland.
(Image credit: A. Piasecka; Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

Archaeologists in Poland have discovered a collection of more than 550 pieces of Bronze Age jewelry that were once part of an ancient burial ritual.

Known as Papowo Biskupie, the dried-out lake bed site was occupied from roughly 1200 to 450 B.C. by the Chełmno group, a community from the larger Lusatian culture that lived in northern Europe during the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, according to a study published Wednesday (Jan. 24) in the journal Antiquity.

The Lusatians are best known for their ritual depositions of metal hoards in bodies of water. However, the Chełmno group was not known for engaging in this practice.

But the new jewelry finding, made by metal detectorists in 2023, upends that perception.

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Mystery of 'unusual and largest ever' Roman hoard discovered in UK town finally solved

While the Knaresborough Hoard, as it came to be known, was found way back in 1864, never has there been a detailed analysis of the items included in it.

The people who found the hoard, in the tiny Yorkshire town, were also unsure about the story behind the hoard. All they knew was that it dated to the Roman period.

That has all changed after archaeologists at Newcastle University carried out the first comprehensive study of the collection, something that has finally 'revealed the mystery' after all this time.

Exactly 30 items make up the hoard, most of which are now on display in the Yorkshire Museum in York.

They were donated to the museum in 1864 by Thomas Gott, an ironmonger who was also a Town Councillor and lived in Knaresborough — though he was reluctant to reveal where they had been found or who owned the and from which they were pulled.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Spicy wine: New study reveals ancient Romans may have had peculiar tastes

Buried Roman fermentation jars (dolia) from Villa Regina, Boscoreale. 
Credit: E. Dodd, courtesy of the Ministero della Cultura – Parco Archaeologico di Pompei

It's no secret that the ancient Romans were lovers of wine. So gripped by the grape were they, that they even worshiped a god—Bacchus—devoted to wine and merriment.

But, little is known about what their wine actually tasted like. Was it bitter or sweet? Fruity or earthy? According to a pioneering new study, it was rather spicy and smelled like toast.

The study, published on Jan. 23 in the journal Antiquity, analyzed Roman clay jars, known as dolia, which were used to manufacture, ferment and store ancient wines.

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Skeletons found in 1,000-year-old grave with rings around neck and buckets on feet

Skeletons in the 1000-year-old grave were found with rings around their necks
(Vyacheslav Baranov)

In one image, a female skeleton can be seen laid out with rings around the neck and wrists. This could have been used to distinguish gender, researchers said.

At the time the cemetery was in use, people in Ukraine were converting to Christianity. This included Volodymyr the Great, who left behind his pagan roots and was baptized around 987.

Researchers Vsevolod Ivakin and Vyacheslav Baranov, who led the project, said: “Arms found at Ostriv are typical for Kyivan Rus’ and north-eastern Europe more broadly.

“Other elements, such as buckets from two Ostriv male graves, are also found at 11th-century Prussian cremation and Pomeranian and Masovian inhumation cemeteries of military elites.”

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Roman Villa Associated with Pliny the Elder Discovered in Naples

Researchers in Naples have discovered an ancient Roman villa on the seafront thought to be the place from where Pliny the Elder watched Mount Vesuvius erupt.

Archaeological assistance sought during an urban regeneration project in the vicinity of Punta Sarparella in Bacoli, Naples, has led to the uncovering of the remains of a monumental Roman villa, dating back to around the 1st century AD.

The Structure, built using diamond-shaped cubilia in the opus reticulata form (decorative Roman wall facing), is comprised of ten large rooms in various stages of construction, and extends all the way to the beach from the site.

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Oldest runes in Denmark discovered on 2000-year-old knife

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Denmark’s oldest runes found on knife blade

Archaeologists at the Museum Odense have identified Denmark’s oldest runes inscribed on a 1,850-year-old knife blade. The inscription consists of five runes with three depressions that runologists have interpreted as “hirila,” meaning “Little Sword.” The runic script is Proto-Norse, the oldest known runic alphabet, and the context dates the blade to around 150 A.D.

The knife was discovered by Museum Odense archaeologists in a burial ground in Tietgenbyen, east of Odense. It was one of several artifacts in an urn grave. Among the grave goods were three fibulae of a type that was only in use for a very brief period in the mid-2nd century A.D., the Early Roman Iron Age. The knife blade could then be indirectly dated to around the same time.

When the blade was first unearthed, it was coated in a layer of rust that obscured the inscription. Conservators spotted the runes after cleaning the corrosion and contacted National Museum runologist Lisbeth Imer. She examined the blade under a microscope and was able to translate the runic inscription.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Why Is The Oseberg Ship Burial A Great Viking Mystery?

The Oseberg Ship burial is one of the greatest Viking mysteries. The individuals buried together with the ship are a riddle, and the fact something very strange occurred before the burial was sealed gives scientists reason to say the ship took a mystery with it to the grave. Will we ever be able to solve the mystery of the Oseberg ship?

The Vikings traveled to distant lands in their remarkable longships. The Vikings’ ships were the greatest technical and artistic achievement of the European Dark Ages. Without these magnificent ships, the Viking Age would never have happened.

"During the Viking era, there were different classes of ships. The longships were mainly used as warships, and the ships called Knarrs (or knorrs in Old Norse) served as slower passenger and cargo ships."

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Wednesday, January 17, 2024

See the Face of Roman Britain’s Only Known Crucifixion Victim

Only one victim of crucifixion has ever been identified in Roman Britain: The man’s skeleton—with a two-inch nail driven through its heel bone—was discovered during a dig in Cambridgeshire in 2017. Now, researchers have released a facial reconstruction showing what he may have looked like 2,000 years ago.

As Joe Mullins, a forensic scientist at Virginia’s George Mason University, says in the new BBC Four documentary The Cambridgeshire Crucifixion, “I am staring at a face from thousands of years ago, and staring at this face is something I will never forget.”

Mullins’ work usually involves working with law enforcement to reconstruct the faces of modern-day crime victims, according to a statement from George Mason. As he tells BBC News’ Katy Prickett, the ancient victim possesses “by far the most interesting skull I’ve worked on in my career.”

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