Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Friday, 11 August 2017

DNA from Viking cod bones suggests 1,000-year history of European fish trade


UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE—Norway is famed for its cod. Catches from the Arctic stock that spawns each year off its northern coast are exported across Europe for staple dishes from British fish and chips to Spanish bacalao stew.

Now, a new study published today in the journal PNAS suggests that some form of this pan-European trade in Norwegian cod may have been taking place for 1,000 years.

Latest research from the universities of Cambridge and Oslo, and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, used ancient DNA extracted from the remnants of Viking-age fish suppers.

The study analysed five cod bones dating from between 800 and 1066 AD found in the mud of the former wharves of Haithabu, an early medieval trading port on the Baltic. Haithabu is now a heritage site in modern Germany, but at the time was ruled by the King of the Danes.

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'I've got some Viking': English villagers surprised by DNA test results

DNA testing of residents of ancient village of Bledington showed genetic heritage spanning 18 locations around the world. Photograph: Simon Pizzey/AncesteryDNA/PA

The residents of the Cotswold village of Bledington were entitled to see themselves as the quintessential English villagers, blessed with a village green, stream, medieval church, Kings Head pub, mention in the Domesday Book, even a Victorian maypole. However, a DNA survey, one of the most comprehensive attempts to capture an entire village, has revealed their surprisingly diverse origins.

The village was classified as white British in ethnic origin from census data, but the saliva samples contributed by almost 120 of the residents – including the pub landlord, a farmer, an artist, a marketing director and the village historian – told another story: not a single individual of those tested was 100% English.

Just 42.5% of their DNA was Anglo-Saxon in origin: other ancestry derived from Europe, from Finland to Spain, the Celtic nations, including Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Native American, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Melanesia.

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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Mittelalterliches Gehöft in Velen-Ramsdorf freigelegt


In Velen-Ramsdorf (Kreis Borken) haben Archäologen des Landschaftsverbandes Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) bei Ausgrabungen im Vorfeld von Bauarbeiten Reste von Häusern aus dem Mittelalter entdeckt. Auf einer Fläche von 1.500 Quadratmetern standen auf dem geplanten Neubaugebiet einst drei Holzbauten, die zu einem bäuerlichen Gehöft gehörten.

Nachdem der Oberboden mit einem Bagger abgetragen wurde zeichneten sich die ehemaligen Pfosten der Häuser als dunkle Verfärbungen im Boden ab. So konnten die LWL-Archäologen die Grundrisse rekonstruieren. Das größte Haus war 22,5 Meter lang.

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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Archaeology: Ancient stone baptismal vessel found at Plovdiv’s Episcopal Basilica site


A team of archaeologists coming to the close of a 10-month project at Plovdiv’s Episcopal Basilica site have found a stone baptismal vessel given to the basilica by a Bishop Makedonii, possibly dating from some time in the fifth century.
The 10-month archaeological excavations at the 2500 square metre site come to a close this week, and it is expected that early in the week beginning on July 31, the site will be visited by a commission from the Ministry of Culture.
Archaeological team leader Zheni Tankova expressed thanks to the America for Bulgaria Foundation, which together with Plovdiv municipality “gave the opportunity to reveal this truly amazing monument of architecture, culture, art and religion”.
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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Uncovering the Galloway Viking Hoard, layer by layer


Hold on to your Viking helmet; you’re about to dig, layer by layer, into one of the most extraordinary Viking hoards ever found on the British Isles – the Galloway Hoard – with Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator at National Museums Scotland

The team of metal detectorists had been working this field in Galloway for some time, but what they eventually found was way beyond their expectations.

The top layer contained eleven ingots and eleven silver arm-rings that had been flattened into bullion. They would have been made from the type of ingots they’re buried with. There’s a nice variety of decoration, with lots of punched lines and hatches. This type of arm-ring is normally found in hoards in Ireland and there are some from North Wales and from Lancashire – all around the Irish Sea, but we don’t have a lot of this particular type in Scotland. This hoard completes the circle around the Irish Sea.

They’re called a Hiberno-Scandinavian type of arm-ring and obviously the Scandinavian is the new element added to the cultural mix at the time, but they’re given that Hiberno- prefix because they’re normally found in Ireland. For me it is always the hyphen between these cultural labels where the interesting things are happening.

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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Archaeologists Return to Legendary Birthplace of King Arthur


Archaeologists have completed the first stage of a major five-year study of the archaeology of the Tintagel headland in Cornwall, in the southwest of England. In English folklore, the site is thought to be the birthplace of King Arthur.
Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English Heritage

Archaeologists are back at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.

Last summer, researchers discovered traces of early medieval life at Tintagel in Cornwall, on England's southwest coast, where the legendary British monarch was said to have been born.

Now, they've returned to the site for another round of digging, to further explore buried buildings dated from the fifth to the seventh centuries. 

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1,100-year-old coin found in royal Pictish power centre


The 1,100-year-old coin found at an archaeological dig at Burghead Fort. Picture: PA

A 1,100-year-old coin is amongst a series of discoveries made at what experts believe was a royal power centre of a northerly Pictish kingdom.

The coin was found along with the remains of a longhouse at Burghead Fort near Lossiemouth, which was thought to have been largely destroyed by the development of a new town during the 19th century.

Now archaeologists from Aberdeen University hope further significant findings will be revealed at the site – a probable seat of power of Northern Pictland between 500AD and 1000AD, given the fresh discoveries.

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Casting light on the Dark Ages: Anglo-Saxon fenland is re-imagined

What was life in the fens like in the period known as the dark ages? Archaeologist Susan Oosthuizen revisits the history of an iconic wetland in the light of fresh evidence and paints a compelling portrait of communities in tune with their changeable environment. In doing so, she makes an important contribution to a wider understanding of early medieval landscapes.


Highland Cattle grazing in the Wicken Fen [Credit: © Wicken Fen]

The East Anglian fens with their flat expanses and wide skies, a tract of some of the UK's richest farmland, are invariably described as bleak – or worse. Turn the clock back 1,000 years to a time when the silt and peat wetlands were largely undrained, and it's easy to imagine a place that defied rather than welcomed human occupation.

Historians have long argued that during the 'dark' ages (the period between the withdrawal of Roman administration in around 400 AD and the Norman Conquest in 1066) most settlements in the region were deserted, and the fens became an anarchic, sparsely inhabited, watery wilderness.

A new interdisciplinary study of the region by a leading landscape archaeologist not only rewrites its early history across those six centuries but also, for the first time anywhere in Europe, offers a detailed view of the settlement and agricultural management of early medieval wetland landscapes.

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Southampton Water fish trap dated to Saxon times

The trap was found by chance close to the Fawley oil refinery by archaeology students more than 10 years ago.

A timber fishing trap exposed on the Hampshire coast dates back to Saxon times, it has been confirmed.
The weir, built as a permanent wooden structure to catch fish as the tide ebbed, was found by chance on the shore of Southampton Water in 2005.
Radiocarbon dating has shown it was built in the 8th or 9th centuries.
Experts from Exeter University said the results were "thrilling" and provided new insights into the process of coastal erosion in the area.
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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Archaeologists discover mound next to Slough car park is 'prestigious' Anglo-Saxon monument


Archaeologists have found that a 20-foot high mound in Slough, thought to be a Norman castle motte and for centuries the centrepiece of a bizarre Eton College ceremony, is actually a rare Saxon monument, built 1,500 years ago.
University of Reading archaeologists say that Montem Mound in the Berkshire town, now surrounded by Municipal buildings and car parks, dates roughly to the same time as the famous burial mounds of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and the nearby burial  at Taplow. It is likely to mark the resting place of someone of high status and could contain artefacts.
The discovery of the 'Sutton Hoo of Slough' is a remarkable finding as only a handful of mounds from this period are known about. The findings go against the previous assumption that it was a Norman Conquest-era 'motte and bailey' castle.
Dr Jim Leary, the University of Reading archaeologist who led the investigation in December 2016, said: "Conventional wisdom placed the Montem Mound 500 years later, in the Norman period. But we have shown that it dates to between the 5th and 7th centuries, not long after the collapse of Roman Empire.
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Copper-covered baby-&-adult mummies unearthed in Russia’s Far North

A perfectly-preserved mummy of an adult bound in copper plates from head to toe has been dug up in Russia’s Far North, alongside the mummy of a “tiny” baby. The discoveries could shed unique light on medieval burial and medical practices.

The remains were found near Zeleny Yar archeological site in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, which was discovered in 1997, and has since been the source of dozens of rare finds.

The two preserved mummies were wrapped in birch bark and thick fabric. The adult, of a height of about 170cm (5ft 6in), was covered in copper plates from head to toe, while the baby, under a year old at the time of death, was “sprinkled” with small fragments of a copper cauldron, said Gusev.
The mummies have been sent to the Institute of the Development of the North, in Tyumen, 500km south from Zeleny Yar.
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Monday, 17 July 2017

Breakthrough in dating Viking fortress

In 2014 archaeologists discovered the previously unknown Viking fortress at Borgring south of Copenhagen. Since then the search has been on to uncover the life, function, destruction and, not least, the precise dating of the Viking fortress. Now a new find has produced a breakthrough in the investigation.


The carved oak timber object recently found in peat layers just outside the south gateway of the fortress. The piece has been cut and sampled for dendrochronological sampling (left). The function of the piece is unknown, but it may be a part of a door or building.

Credit: The Museum of South East Denmark / Nanna Holm

In the period 2016-18 a programme of new excavations is made possible by a grant from the A.P. Møller Foundation. The team from the Museum of South East Denmark and Aarhus University are joind by leading experts from the Environmental Archeology and Materials Research at the Danish National Museum and the National Police Department's Section for arson investigation. Prior to this year's excavations it was only known that the massive, 150m wide fortress dated to the tenth century. Experts suspected that it was built in the reign of Viking king Harold Bluetooth (c.958-c.987), but the association could not be proven.
On June 26, the archaeological team opened new trenches is the meadow next to the fortress to search for evidence of the landscape surrounding the fortress. Around 2.5 meters below the current surface of the valley was found a c. 1m long piece of carved oak wood with drilled holes and several wooden pegs in situ. The wood carries clear traces of wear, but it is not currently possible to say what function the wood piece has had.
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Sunday, 16 July 2017

One of the most important buildings in history of Christianity discovered off Scottish coast



Archaeologists have located one of the most important buildings in the history of Western European Christianity – but it’s not a vast cathedral or an impressive tomb, but merely a humble wattle and daub hut on a remote windswept island.
Using radiocarbon dating techniques and other evidence, the  scholars –  from the University of Glasgow – believe they have demonstrated that the tiny five-metre square building was almost certainly the daytime home of early medieval Scotland’s most important saint, St Columba.
Located on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, the unprepossessing hut was probably the first administrative hub of the monastic community he founded – and whose monks, over succeeding centuries, went on to establish similar monasteries in mainland Scotland, in north-east England, in Belgium, in France and in Switzerland.
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Tintagel excavations reveal refined tastes of medieval settlers

 Archaeologists conducting the first research excavations at Tintagel in decades. 
Photograph: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English He/PA

Early Cornish kings feasted on a diet of oysters, roast pork and fine wine, eating and drinking from bowls imported from Turkey and glass goblets from Spain, a new dig at Tintagel Castle has suggested.
Discoveries made by the Cornwall archaeological unit (CAU) support the view that Tintagel was a royal site during the 5th and 6th centuries, with trading links reaching as far as the eastern Mediterranean.
Perched on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, Tintagel has for centuries been associated with the legend of King Arthur. Over the past 18 months, its custodian, English Heritage, has been accused of putting too much emphasis on the stories of Arthur and Merlin, rather than focusing on the site’s true, ancient Cornish heritage. The excavations, the first at Tintagel for decades, may help redress the balance.
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Tintagel excavations reveal refined tastes of early Cornish kings

Tintagel is intricately bound up in the legend of King Arthur 
[Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English Heritage Trust]

Discoveries made by the Cornwall archaeological unit (CAU) support the view that Tintagel was a royal site during the 5th and 6th centuries, with trading links reaching as far as the eastern Mediterranean.

Perched on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, Tintagel has for centuries been associated with the legend of King Arthur. Over the past 18 months, its custodian, English Heritage, has been accused of putting too much emphasis on the stories of Arthur and Merlin, rather than focusing on the site’s true, ancient Cornish heritage. The excavations, the first at Tintagel for decades, may help redress the balance.

The excavation also uncovered stone-walled structures on the southern terrace of Tintagel’s island area, with substantial stone walls and slate floors, accessed by a flight of slate steps.

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Pearls, Viking swords, spears and shields among hundreds of items excavated in N. Iceland


THE SECOND SWORD Both swords were badly damaged by rust. 
Photo/Hildur Gestsdóttir, Twitter.

Archeologists working at Dysnes, a recently discovered Viking age burial site in Eyjafjörður fjord in North Iceland are still busy excavating invaluable treasures. Hundreds of items have been found at the site, among them two swords, three spears and three shields. 

2 out of 6 burials fully explored

A total of six Viking age graves have been found at the site, including two confirmed boat burials. Only two of the burials have been fully excavated and archeologists are currently exploring the third burial. The site is unusual for many reasons, not least that two boat burials have been discovered: Viking age boat burials are very rare in Iceland. 

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

New discovery could rewrite Viking fortresses’ history

Someone brought ceramics through the gates at the Viking ring fortress “Borgring” after it had burnt down. The discovery reveals an afterlife at the fortress that archaeologists had not previously considered. (Photo: Screenshot from video by Archaeological IT Aarhus University)

While most archaeologists and historians can agree that Denmark’s five Viking ring fortresses were most likely built by Harold Bluetooth around 980 CE, they remain divided regarding their purpose.
Was it to defend the kingdom? A demonstration of power? Or to cement the Christianisation of the Danes?
Many archaeologists think that the fortresses were built with just one goal in mind, and then disappeared more or less as fast as they had appeared in the first place.
But newly discovered pieces of ceramic pottery found in the main gates of Denmark’s fifth Viking ring fortress, “Borgring,” are now challenging this theory.
The pottery belongs to the first half of the 11th century, which puts it well after the assumed construction of the fortress. Shards of the same type of pottery were discovered in 2016 at the fortress’ eastern gate.
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One of Britain’s oldest churches discovered on Holy Island of Lindisfarne


Archaeologists have discovered one of Britain’s oldest churches.
The find – on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the Northumberland coast – is of great historical importance because the newly discovered ancient church may originally have been built in or shortly after the mid 7th century AD as part of the monastic spiritual epicentre from which much of northern and central England was eventually Christianised.
It’s also important because it is likely to have been a key site at the spiritual heart of the early 8th-century monastic community that made Britain’s most famous early medieval illuminated manuscript – the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The evidence suggesting that this could be the site of one of Holy Island’s original early Anglo-Saxon period churches – perhaps even one built by the founder of Lindisfarne, St Aidan – is complex but persuasive.
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Thursday, 29 June 2017

First new church found on Holy Island, Northumberland, in over a thousand years

The newly-excavated church on Holy Island (Photo: Handout)

For the first time in more than a thousand years, a service will be held today within the boundaries of a newly-discovered church on Holy Island in Northumberland.

The find in the dig by volunteers has been described by historic buildings expert Peter Ryder as “probably the most significant archaeology find ever on Holy Island.”

The excavations, led by Richard Carlton of The Archaeological Practice and Newcastle University, began around a fortnight ago and will finish at the end of this week.

He said: “It is a very exciting and hugely significant find.”

The community archaeology project is part of the Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership project, which is backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Monday, 26 June 2017

1,000 year old Viking toilet uncovered in Denmark

Is this Denmark’s oldest toilet? Here you can see the various preserved layers. The lowest dark layer is human waste 
[Credit: Anna S Beck]

In a Viking settlement on Stevns in Denmark, archaeologists have excavated a two metre deep hole. But it is not just any old hole. This hole, it seems, may be the oldest toilet in Denmark.

Radiocarbon dating of the faeces layer dates back to the Viking Age, making it quite possibly the oldest toilet in Denmark.

“It was a totally random find. We were looking for pit houses—semi-subterrenean workshop huts—and it really looked like that from the surface. But we soon realised that it was something totally different,” says PhD student Anna Beck from the Museum Southeast Denmark.

Apart from representing Denmark’s oldest toilet, the discovery goes against archaeologists’ theories surrounding people’s toilet habits through time, says Beck. Not least because it was discovered in an area of Viking countryside and not in a Viking city.

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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Viking shield, spear points and human bones recovered from Viking boat burial in N. Iceland

THE DYSNES SITE The exploration of the site has barely begun. Photo/Auðunn

Archeologists working at a dig in Eyjafjörður fjord in North Iceland have announced they have discovered a shield, human bones and two spear points from two of the boat burials. Previously they had uncovered the bones of what appears to be a Viking chief who was buried with his sword and dog at the site. The dig has barely started. Four of the graves have yet to be explored at all, and more could still be discovered at the site.

According to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service the artifacts found today came from two separate boat burials. The spear points were recovered from a burial which has been badly eroded by the ocean. The waves have already washed away half of the boat, and any items it might have contained.

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Sunday, 18 June 2017

Brewing Viking Beer — With Stones


When archaeologist Geir Grønnesby dug test pits at 24 different farms in central Norway, he nearly always found thick layers of fire-cracked stones dating from the Viking Age and earlier. Carbon-14 dating of this evidence tells us that ago, Norwegians brewed beer using stones.

There’s nothing archaeologists like better than piles of centuries-old rubbish. Ancient bones and stones from trash heaps can tell complex stories. And in central Norway, at least, the story seems to be that Vikings and their descendants brewed beer by tossing hot rocks into wooden kettles.

“There are a lot of these stones, and they are found at most of the farmyards on old, named farms,” says Geir Grønnesby, an archaeologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s University Museum.

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Archaeologists in N. Iceland discover Viking age chief buried in ship with his sword and dog

AT THE SITE Archaeologists at work excavating the Dysnes site. Dysnes translates as "Burial-ness". Photo/Auðunn

Yesterday archeologists, who are working at a large burial site in Eyjafjörður fjord in north Iceland, announced that they had discovered the remains of a ship burial dating back to the Viking age. A wealthy chieftain seems to have been buried in one of his boats along with some of his worldly possessions, including a sword and his dog. More unexplored burial sites are believed to be located at the site.

The grave is believed to date back to the 9th or 10th centuries. The sword, which was found close to the surface is in very poor condition. The archeologists expect to remove the sword from the ground today.
A site of regional significance during Viking Age 
The archeological dig takes place north of the town of Akureyri at a site which is believed to have been of enormous local importance during the Viking age. A few hundred meters south of the burial site is Gáseyri, which was the primary trading post in Eyjafjörður fjord during the Viking age.   
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Second Viking Age ship burial found at archaeological site in N. Iceland


Yesterday archaeologists discovered a second boat burial at an archaeological site at Dysnes ness in Eyjafjörður fjord in North Iceland. On Tuesday a burial site where a Viking age chief was buried in his boat, along with his sword and dog had been discovered. Two other graves dating to the Viking Age have been found at the site. Archaeologists working at the site are optimistic to find more, as the dig has only just started.

Undisturbed graves

Neither boat burial has been disturbed by grave robbers, as many Viking age burial sites have been. Most Viking Age burial sites seem to have been opened up relatively early, only decades after the burial, and valuables, especially swords, removed. The reasons for such grave robbing are not known.

Archaeologists working at Dysnes have now found four different Viking age graves at the site. Two were boat burials. An archaeologist working at the dig told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV that they expected to find more. "Everywhere we stick a shovel into the ground we seem to find something". 


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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Millions needed to save priceless archaeological remains from coastal erosion


WAVES The advancing seas are eroding beaches along Iceland's coasts and imperiling archeological remains that have not yet been researched. Photo/Vísir.

Archeological remains of great cultural value are in danger of being washed away by coastal erosion on many of Iceland's shores, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. An MP for the Left Green Movement warns of an impending "cultural disaster" due to a lack of financing for their preservation. Documenting and preserving the remains might cost hundreds of millions of ISK, according to an official estimate. 

Only a quarter of known remains has been documented

In a written response to questions from MPs in the Icelandic parliament, the Minister of Education, Science and Culture, said that the ministry was aware of a number of places around the country where valuable remains were in danger of being lost. However, the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland has only documented around a quarter of the remains that are protected by law due to their age.

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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

‘Agricultural Revolution’ In Anglo-Saxon England Sheds New Light On Medieval Land Use

Researchers from the University of Leicester will be shedding new light on how an ‘agricultural revolution’ in Anglo-Saxon England fueled the growth of towns and markets as part of a new project investigating medieval farming habits.


University of Leicester academics work with University of Oxford in project to examine how historical farming methods changed England’s landscape [Credit: University of Leicester]

The project, titled ‘Feeding Anglo-Saxon England (FeedSax): The Bioarchaeology of an Agricultural Revolution’, which is funded by the European Research Council, is led by the University of Oxford working with colleagues from the University of Leicester.

The period between c 800 – 1200 AD saw dramatic changes in farming practices across large parts of Europe, enabling an increase in cereal production so great that it has been described as an ‘agricultural revolution’. 

This ‘cerealisation’ allowed post-Roman populations not only to recover, but to boom, fueling the growth of towns and markets.

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Historians reveal AMAZING details about massive Viking Camp found in Lincolnshire

Torksey AD 872/873

A 1,100-year-old camp the Viking Great Army at Torksey has been brought to life in stunning virtual reality based on the latest research.

Heralded as the most realistic immersive experience ever created of the Viking world, the exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum in York runs from May 19 to November 5.

Three dimensional images and soundscape reveal what life was like in the camp of the Viking army on the banks of the River Trent at Torksey, near Gainsborough, in the winter of AD 872-873, as thousands of Vikings prepared to conquer vast swathes of England.

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Ten of the Viking treasures on show in York for Viking – Rediscover the Legend

The Ormside Bowl. Photography Anthony Chappell Ross. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust (Yorkshire Museum).

A major new exhibition by the Yorkshire Museum in partnership with the British Museum explores the world of the Vikings. Here are some of the treasures about to be revealed in Viking – Rediscover the Legend

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Viking army camp uncovered by archaeologists in England

A huge camp which was home to thousands of Vikings as they prepared to conquer England in the late ninth century has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Established in Torksey, on the banks of the River Trent in Lincolnshire, the camp was used as the Vikings' defensive and strategic position during the winter months.

The research, conducted by archaeologists at the Universities of Sheffield and York, has revealed how the camp was used by thousands of Viking warriors, women and children who lived there temporarily in tented accommodation.

They also used the site as a base to repair ships, melt down stolen loot, manufacture, trade and play games.

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Medieval People Reopened Graves To Honour Family

Cemetery next to a medieval church in Elham, Kent (England) 
[Credit: Shutterstock]

In the early Middle Ages (450 - 800 AD), dead people were often buried with valuable items such as jewellery, weapons and earthenware pots. Martine van Haperen discovered that the people who reopened the graves certainly did not take everything. They mainly took the objects with an important symbolic significance, such as swords and shields from the male graves and jewellery from female graves. These were possibly viewed as the carriers of mythical and ancestral powers.

The archaeologist from Leiden University investigated more than 1300 graves from 11 mediaeval cemeteries in the Netherlands and Belgium. More than 40 percent of the graves had been reopened. According to Van Haperen, this probably happened when the cemeteries were still in use and in half of the cases, this was even within a single generation after the funeral.


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Virtual reality brings ninth century Viking invaders' camp to life


VR exhibition is based on many finds from the Vikings’ camp.
Photograph: Dalya Alberge

Exhibition to feature scenes and artefacts from large-scale winter base where soldiers prepared to conquer Anglo-Saxons in 872

The Viking armies that invaded Britain in the ninth century were far larger than had previously been realised, according to academic research that forms the basis for a groundbreaking virtual reality project.

A major exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum, staged in partnership with the British Museum, draws on new research by the universities of York and Sheffield. According to Professor Dawn Hadley, one of the co-directors of the universities’ project at the site of a Viking winter camp, archeologists and historians had thought that the invading Viking armies numbered in the low hundreds. But archeological work at the camp on the river Trent at Torksey, Lincolnshire, suggested otherwise.

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Friday, 5 May 2017

Holy chickens: Did Medieval religious rules drive domestic chicken evolution?

A baby chick. Could Medieval religious rules have increased the demand for poultry and thereby altered chicken evolution?
Credit: © Anatolii / Fotolia

Chickens were domesticated from Asian jungle fowl around 6000 years ago. Since domestication they have acquired a number of traits that are valuable to humans, including those concerning appearance, reduced aggression and faster egg-laying, although it is not known when and why these traits evolved.

Now, an international team of scientists has combined DNA data from archaeological chicken bones with statistical modeling to pinpoint when these traits started to increase in frequency in Europe.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

Saint Edmund, the Saxon king, may be buried under town's tennis courts, experts believe


Experts are set to start digging for another missing English king.

After Richard III was found buried under a car park in Leicester, details have emerged of other unusual possible resting places famous monarchs.

Now, Bury St Edmunds believes it may have the remains of Saint Edmund, a Saxon monarch, buried beneath one of its tennis courts. 

St Edmund was a Saxon king who ruled in the ninth century. As a saint, his remains were kept in a shrine in Bury St Edmunds.

At the time of the desecration of the Benedictine Abbey, during Henry VIII's reign, the remains were lost.

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Iron-age Viking longhouses were burned and buried in funerals


From the Bronze Age until the Viking Age, burial mounds could be placed on top of the remains of three-aisled longhouses. The internal posts that served as roof-supporting beams were sometimes removed before the house was set on fire. Once the house had burned to the ground, one or more burial mounds were placed on top of its remains.
Marianne Hem Eriksen is a postdoc at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History. In an article in the European Journal of Archaeology, she investigates the causes of this practice.
'I studied seven different house burials from the Iron Age in Scandinavia, in five different locations: Högom in Sweden; Ullandhaug in Rogaland; Brista in Uppland, Sweden; Jarlsberg in Vestfold; and Engelaug in Hedmark,' Eriksen tells us.
The custom of setting houses on fire and placing burial mounds over of the house remains may be reminiscent of a cremation. Eriksen argues that the burial mounds may equally well mark the cremation and burial of a house – not necessarily a human being.
'In some cases we have been unable to find human remains, even in places where we could expect such remains to have been preserved. Nevertheless, archaeologists have more or less implicitly assumed that somewhere or other, there must be a deceased individual.'
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Friday, 7 April 2017

Why you should take your kids to Britain's smelliest attraction


Scent is the most underrated element of travel. Consider: lavender-infused Provencal fields or sulphuric water in Iceland. Each smell evokes a fundamental aspect of its place of origin. And, if you are under the age of 12, or know someone who is, consider this particular whiff: rotting flesh, with more than a hint of human excrement.

Nothing brings history alive like the scent of a turd, particularly when accompanied by a fossilised version, which you will find on display in a new case at Jorvik Viking Centre, which re-opens this weekend, 17 months after floods destroyed one of York’s most memorable attractions.

Vikings are heroes for my children’s generation thanks, in part, to How to Train Your Dragon, the historical drama Vikings and the Scandi clothing invasion, which features cheerful bearded Nordic faces on just about anything.

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Monday, 3 April 2017

Tiller the Hun? Farmers in Roman Empire converted to Hun lifestyle -- and vice versa

New archaeological analysis suggests people of Western Roman Empire switched between Hunnic nomadism and settled farming over a lifetime. Findings may be evidence of tribal encroachment that undermined Roman Empire during 5th century AD, contributing to its fall.


Example of a modified skull, a practice assumed to be Hunnic that may have been appropriated by local farmers within the bounds of the
Credit: Susanne Hakenbeck

Marauding hordes of barbarian Huns, under their ferocious leader Attila, are often credited with triggering the fall of one of history's greatest empires: Rome.

Historians believe Hunnic incursions into Roman provinces bordering the Danube during the 5th century AD opened the floodgates for nomadic tribes to encroach on the empire. This caused a destabilisation that contributed to collapse of Roman power in the West.


According to Roman accounts, the Huns brought only terror and destruction. However, research from the University of Cambridge on gravesite remains in the Roman frontier region of Pannonia (now Hungary) has revealed for the first time how ordinary people may have dealt with the arrival of the Huns.

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Medieval villagers mutilated the dead to stop them rising, study finds

The Wharram Percy excavation area as it looks today. 
Photograph: Pete Horne/Historic England/PA

A study by archaeologists has revealed certain people in medieval Yorkshire were so afraid of the dead they chopped, smashed and burned their skeletons to make sure they stayed in their graves.

The research published by Historic England and the University of Southampton may represent the first scientific evidence in England of attempts to prevent the dead from walking and harming the living – still common in folklore in many parts of the world.

The archaeologists who studied a collection of human bones – including the remains of adults, teenagers and children excavated more than half a century ago, and dated back to the period between the 11th and 14th century – rejected gruesome possibilities including cannibalism in times of famine, or the massacre of outsiders. The cut marks were in the wrong place for butchery, and isotope analysis of the teeth showed that the people came from the same area as the villagers of Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire – a once flourishing village which had been completely deserted by the early 16th century.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Fregerslev Viking From Outside Hørning


Sensational find of chamber graves from the later part of the Viking Age at Fregerslev south of Hørning in Jutland in Denmark will hopefully witness to the ethos of the Viking warriors in the 10th century.

Fregerslev is a small settlement located a few km south of Hørning in the midst of Jutland near the town of Skanderborg. It lies down to a lake at an old crossing point. At the periphery of Hørning close to the road towards Fregerslev, a Viking burial ground was discovered in 2012, consisting of two inhumation graves and a tomb with two (or maybe three) chambers. While the two inhumation graves have been excavated, the chamber graves were left in situ for later excavation. However, intensive studies carried out using metal detectors as well as electromagnetic surveying left the archaeologists with tantalising glimpses of what might be a very rich picking ground for future excavations. Also, a magnificent headgear for a horse gave an inkling of what hopefully lies beneath. During the next years funding was sought while the find was kept hidden for fear of “night-owls”. Now, However, the time has come.

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